Metro-East Living

Dirty socks and underwear everywhere

Rita and Kenneth Keene, of Collinsville, don’t like to air their dirty laundry in public, but that’s exactly what they did when they returned from a California trip in the 1970s.

“I was never so embarrassed in my whole life,” said Rita, 73, remembering dirty socks and underwear coming down the conveyer belt toward them at the airport. “We laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn’t so funny.”

Rita, Kenneth and their three kids, Theresa, Scott and Vicki, were on their way home from a vacation to Disneyland. They had a great time until ...

“Being short on luggage, my husband felt he could use a really old suitcase with a strap around its belly to keep it closed.”

Kenneth, now 78, was just trying to save a few bucks. “Hey, it was the only suitcase I had. I wasn’t about to buy another suitcase. The strap was a fabric-type cotton belt. It was the belt I used to tie up my laundry case in college and send it home for Mom to clean. It worked great for that, but it must have been 25 years old already when I put it on the suitcase.”

Kenneth’s luck ran out.

“It worked fine for the outbound flight,” Rita said. “The return trip was another story. While waiting for our luggage to come down the belt, we were shocked to see bunches of dirty underwear, socks and other embarrassing items that had exploded from his broken suitcase.”

They didn’t exactly spring into action.

“We were embarrassed to even say it was ours,” Rita said. “We kept our heads down. There was nothing to put it in, so we swaddled all the dirty clothes in our arms and, like hobos, wrapped some in a big shirt or towel.”

That was a long time ago, but the family legend lives.

“We bring it up now and then and we laugh about it now,” Rita said, laughing about it now.

Rita and Kenneth have gone on other trips together since, including several to Las Vegas, their favorite destination.

But only after Kenneth sprang for new luggage.

— Patrick Kuhl