Fuller brushes remain Carrie Wallace's legacy in York

adys@heraldonline.comFebruary 5, 2009 

Carrie Wallace

YORK -- There was only one woman in York driving a green Cadillac as long as a battleship, packing a pistol, a boxer dog perched in the back seat.

White hair barely above the steering wheel, the back seat slap full of so many brushes and sweepers the stack would shift as the car took turns.

The smell of cleaning supplies would waft through the open car windows or from her house on Smith Street and cover up downtown.

Carrie Wallace -- the Fuller Brush Lady of York.

"Everybody knew her from those Fuller brushes," said her sister-in-law, Joyce Wallace.

Wallace died Saturday at the ripe old age of 99. But this was a lady who came from a time in America when the door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman was a part of the culture. There was a famous movie about Fuller brushes in 1950.

Billy Graham sold Fuller brushes before he evangelized to the world.

So did Wallace. She never married, had no children. Fuller brushes are her legacy.

"I can remember as a teenager, I would ride with her all around western York County, and we always stayed awhile on her sales calls, and she would talk and we would eat a piece of cake," said Connie Adams, Wallace's niece, 56. "She liked the fellowship, the visiting. I got to write up the sales tickets."

Sometimes, if the sales call was nearby, Wallace would walk, bow-legged, known to all, Adams recollected.

Edna Clark of York, 87, said she and others who knew Wallace from Central Baptist Church bought "quite a few things" from Wallace over the years.

"I remember all those years ago, the church had a nursery, and they had this carpet sweeper Carrie sold them that did such a good job," Clark said. "So I bought one for myself. It cost about $29, and I still have it -- I used it just this weekend."

"I have one of those sweepers at home, too, used it this morning," said Adams, the niece.

Carrie Wallace was an icon in York even before she became "the brush lady." She ran the long-gone White Rose Cafe on Congress Street, where the cops would come for the coffee cup that never emptied.

"They would tip me a nickel when I filled up the coffee," Adams said.

York's young people were known to get a paper sack filed with "Miss Carrie's Famous French Fries," then carry that bag across the street to the Sylvia Theater to watch movies.

"Never been french fries as good since," said York's Linda Lowman, who has lived in the city for 49 years. "Those french fries don't exist anymore -- and those days don't exist anymore."

After the restaurant, the Fuller brushes were Wallace's identity. She won plaques and awards for her sales, although Adams said Wallace sure never got rich from it.

"I still have some stemware to this day she won for selling those products," Adams said.

People who remember the Fuller Brush Lady of York will gather at 3 p.m. Saturday at Central Baptist Church for a memorial service. The carpet will be cleaned using a sweeper sold to the church by the Fuller Brush Lady of York so many years ago.

Wallace lived the past decade at a nursing home, White Oak Manor. Adams recalled how hard it was for Wallace to go there, but she didn't go empty-handed.

"She had a few mopheads she had left, maybe three, and I do believe she sold them right there at the nursing home," Adams said. "She could sell a Fuller Brush product."

Andrew Dys | 803-329-4065 | adys@heraldonline.com

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