Offering household advice for 50 years
Inside her home in San Antonio, Texas, the woman who writes Hints From Heloise pours a cup of baking soda into the drain of her kitchen sink to demonstrate one of her most-requested household hints.
“Here comes the fun part,” says Heloise, 60, adding two cups of vinegar.
As she watches the mixture bubble and foam to eliminate unwanted odors, she laughs. “I love to do this!” she exclaims.
And she’s not kidding. Heloise’s genuine enjoyment for researching and sharing household advice—from how to freshen foul-smelling drains to removing stubborn stains—have made Hints From Heloise one of America’s most widely read newspaper columns.
Marking 50 years in syndication this month, the daily column started by Heloise’s mother has evolved into a multimedia enterprise celebrating household ingenuity, organization, efficiency and thriftiness—all with a down-home, no-nonsense brand of Texas charm and humor that are the hallmarks of the savvy businesswoman who inherited the column in 1977.
“Readers love Heloise because her column offers the kind of information you just don’t get anywhere else,” says T.R. “Rocky” Shepard III, president of King Features, which began syndicating the column in 1961. “She’s dedicated to learning, and is the hardest-working creator in our stable.”
A half-century of hints
Heloise’s work ethic and love for household problem-solving comes naturally. Her mother worked around-the-clock for 18 years to churn out the column.
“She was up at 5 a.m. and would write until 10 p.m.,” Heloise recalls. “She was always thinking about her readers.”
Eloise Bowles Cruse started the column in 1959 while her husband, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was stationed in Hawaii. Living far from her extended family, the business school graduate sought a way to learn more about running a household and to share those tips with other women. She walked into the Honolulu Advertiser, asked to speak with an editor, and pitched the idea of a household advice column. The newspaper signed on when she offered to deliver the column, initially called Readers Exchange, for free for the first 30 days.
Written with a second-hand typewriter on a card table in her bedroom, the column garnered such a devoted following that, within two years, King Features came calling to syndicate the column which, drawing on her name Eloise, was renamed Hints From Heloise. Three years later, the column was published in nearly 600 newspapers.
Living in a household laboratory, Heloise found her mother’s quest for common-sense knowledge embarrassing at times.
“We had a plumber over to make a repair one day, and my mother had her head under the sink right along with him, asking him for a step-by-step explanation of everything he was doing,” she recalls. “I felt bad for him.”
The family eventually settled in San Antonio, where Heloise’s parents later divorced. Her mother worked in an office apartment beside their home apartment and cut a door in the wall to make working long hours easier.
“She was a pioneer when it came to working from home,” says Tina Potter-Cullum, a friend of the younger Heloise since their high school days in San Antonio.
“She was so sharp. And [her daughter] is just like her.”
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