For sixty years her name has been a household word. More precisely, a household hints word.
You know her as “Heloise,” writer of the syndicated newspaper column “Hints From Heloise.”
But she was born “Eloise Bowles” in Fort Worth in 1919, an identical twin of sister Louise.
In 1921 the twins celebrated their second birthday.
In 1930 the family lived on Ramsey Avenue in Morningside.
By 1936 the family lived in this house on Hampshire Boulevard south of East Lancaster.
The twins graduated from Poly High School in 1937.
In 1937 the twins began college.
In 1946 Eloise married Army Air Forces Captain Marshal Holman Cruse. In the late 1950s Cruse was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. There Eloise lived the June Cleaver life of a typical homemaker: She cleaned house, volunteered at the hospital, baked cookies, sewed Halloween costumes, entertained friends, packed school lunches for her children, and had dinner on the table at 6:30 each night for her family.
But this June Cleaver was interested in more than recipes and recitals. She was a problem-solver. During coffee klatches Eloise and other housewives exchanged tips on making housekeeping easier.
At an officers’ party Eloise told a colonel with two journalism degrees that she’d like to write a column for housewives.
The colonel laughed and bet Eloise ten dollars that she couldn’t get a newspaper job. He then uttered the ultimate challenge to Eloise: “You’re nothing but a housewife.”
This “nothing but a housewife” approached the editor of the Honolulu Advertiser. She told the Advertiser editor that she’d write her column for a month for no money.
Her column, “Readers’ Exchange,” began in the Advertiser on February 18, 1959. She wrote at a second-hand typewriter on a card table in her bedroom.
Early on the Honolulu newspaper ran a “Best Hint” contest in the column, offering steamship tickets to the mainland as a prize. More than 100,000 letters, the largest delivery to an individual in Hawaii at that time, arrived at the Cruse home.
Eloise’s daughter Kiah Marchelle (born in Waco) recalled: “There was a mail truck out front and these huge gray duffle bags. And the living room furniture had all been pushed aside and moved around. The dining room table was there, and she brought in all the neighbors and they were all opening and stuffing.”
That, Kiah Marchelle recalled, “is when I realized this was kind of different. Other mommies don’t do this.”
In 1960 Eloise sold the column to the Dallas Morning News and to newspapers in Houston and Oklahoma City.
In 1960 also Eloise changed the name of the column to “Hints From Heloise.” She liked the alliteration so much that she changed her name legally to “Heloise.”
In 1961 King Features syndicated her column. In 1962 “Hints From Heloise” appeared in the Dallas Morning News—on a comics page underneath a dinosaur and Dennis the Menace!
In 1963 her book Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints was one of the ten best-selling hardcover books. The book later was the fastest-selling paperback in the history of publisher Pocket Books. In Fort Worth the book was available at Leonard’s Department Store.
Two years later Heloise, by then living in Arlington, Virginia, visited her hometown.
Also in 1965 “Hints From Heloise” ditched Dennis the Menace and moved from the comics section to the news section in the Dallas Morning News.
Heloise’s column consisted of her own household tips, of course:
From convenience food costs to marble stains, from how to patch a radio to how to serve weiners, Heloise was the answer woman.
But Heloise also printed tips from readers. In fact, in keeping with the original intent of the column as an exchange, in many columns readers, not Heloise, supplied most of the household hints.
As for herself, housekeeper Heloise particularly extolled the versatility of nylon net:
The Dallas Morning News later wrote of Heloise: “She made nylon net as popular as potato chips by whipping it into hats she wore (‘For $1.60 each, they’re exact copies of Neiman Marcus originals,’ she said), and urging readers to use it for Easter baskets, Christmas bows, denture cleaners, and ‘to make car headlights gleam like Aladdin’s lamp.’”
In turn, Heloise’s readers wrote in to suggest their own uses for nylon net.
The versatility of nylon net led one reader to this conclusion.
In 1966 Heloise, now divorced, and daughter Kiah Marchelle moved to San Antonio. Kiah Marchelle, known as “Ponce” (pronounced pawn-see), helped her mother in the office but gradually began suggesting hints of her own for the column based on the needs of a younger generation. Heloise let Ponce contribute to the column under the pen name “Heloise II.”
Heloise I had begun to dream of a mother-daughter dynasty.
In fact, Ponce, at her mother’s urging, legally changed her name to “Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse.”
On December 28, 1977 Heloise I died in San Antonio after a brief illness. She was fifty-eight years old.
At the time of her death “Hints From Heloise” was one of the three most popular syndicated columns in the country, printed in nearly six hundred newspapers. Readers appreciated her practical tips and folksy delivery.
Allan Priaulx, executive editor of King Features Syndicate, said, “Millions of readers turned to ‘Hints From Heloise’ before looking at anything else in their papers. Not only was she helpful and informative, she was a symbol of friendship and neighborliness.”
On December 30, 1977 the obituary and last column of Heloise I were published in the Dallas Morning News.
By then Heloise II (Ponce) had become a familiar name to readers, and she made the decision that her mother had feared she would not: Ponce took over authorship of the column her mother had begun in 1959. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
In 1989 Heloise II, on the thirtieth anniversary of Heloise I’s first column, wrote, “I hope Mother is smiling down on us from heaven because I think angel wings are made of nylon net.”
Photo from Find A Grave.
(Thanks to Bud Kennedy for the tip and to Heloise II for her help.)