It qualifies on so many levels. It is rugged, wonderfully handy, has true Rockland provenance and passes for an heirloom in the Billington family. It is Grammy Karl’s very own step stool.

It is a Costco step stool in antique white, with two steps that fold out. Starting in 1941, the Columbus Specialty Company (hence Costco) in Indiana began making metal step stools for kitchens across America. The original model was the Styleaire Step Stool. It came with or without a back in white, red or yellow.

I remember the step stool from visits to my grandmother’s house on Granite Street at age 5 or 6. On Friday nights Grammy would cook dinner in her wonderfully warm kitchen. She was always put together in a homemade dress from a mail order pattern, with matching necklace and earrings. She wore a clear plastic apron which covered her front completely.

Gladys Karl on the step stool. Photo courtesy of Glenn Billinton

As I grew older, I became interested in the cooking process. I asked to help do the dishes (something not allowed at home). Grammy smiled and said of course you can. That was when she slid the step stool over for me to climb up. There at the big steel and porcelain sink, I could look out the window and see one bird feeder in the back yard and another mounted right on the windowsill.

I became a dishwasher.

I later found out Grammy would have to wash some of my dishes over again. Not that she would give it a second thought.  For years that was my stairway to satisfaction. I got the feeling of helping and doing my part, with the great view out the window.

Ever notice how almost every kitchen sink has a window over it?

Time passed and my grandmother moved into the new Methodist Conference Home on Summer Street. The step stool went along to her cozy place on the 4th floor. I have a picture of her in high heels, perched on the fold-out steps to reach a cupboard.

After years in a garage, I brought the step stool to our old house and stored it in the basement. I took it apart and repainted it a creamy off-white with a vintage look. It still has one of the original black rubber treads with the Costco logo. The other matches so well you must look really closely to tell the difference. Our top shelves are 7 feet 10 inches, so the stool comes in handy. Often it is an extra seat at the kitchen table.

I still enjoy washing dishes. In time, there will be another little boy who needs the step stool to wash dishes and look out the window.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Grammy Karl’s step stool. Photo by Glenn Billington

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