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Cindy Lange-Kubick: Friends solve Seward woman's mangle tangle
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Cindy Lange-Kubick: Friends solve Seward woman's mangle tangle

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Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

SEWARD — Clark Kolterman joined the mangle search back in February.

So did Gary Rolf.

So did Steve and Sharon Hambek and Becky Vahle from the bank and a host of fellow fans of a good woman with a whole lot of bed sheets to press.

“I had all of eastern Nebraska looking for a mangle,” Pat Coldiron said Monday. “I was desperate.”

Coldiron has owned the Liberty House Bed and Breakfast on North Fifth Street in Seward for more than 19 years. She bought the 130-year-old red brick mansion while she was still director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce, a short, chatty woman with a passion for making her small town sing.

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And a fondness for crisp cotton sheets.

“She’s the Mangle Madam or the Mangle Mama or whatever you want to call her,” Kolterman said. “She just had to have a mangle.”

Liberty House

Pat Coldiron, owner of Liberty House in Seward, in one of the bed and breakfast's bedrooms.

A mangle is a contraption that works like an iron but looks like a giant wringer. The electric-powered machine with its heated 2-foot roller was popular in the ’50s, a newfangled way to make short work of taking the wrinkles out of bedding.

It worked for blouses, too, and for tablecloths and nearly everything else in the days before permanent press and fluff cycles.

“And now nobody irons anything,” Coldiron said. “Isn’t it true?”

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Coldiron had a mangle of her own for 18 years. She bought it at a rummage sale for a dollar, her brother-in-law replaced the plug and off she went.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “It saved me so much time.”

And then it went kaput.

And there she was with lodgers in her smartly decorated guest rooms — oak bureaus and ornately carved antique bed frames piled high with layers of white bedding — and no mangle.

“I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t live without a mangle.’”

And she set out in search of a replacement.

“There was this whole network in on it.”

She called her neighbor Gary Rolf.

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“She was whining about her mangle dying and I thought, ‘Oh, geez, what’s a mangle?’” Rolf says.

She gave him a history lesson and he set out to help.

She called her fellow bed and breakfast owners who all said the same thing: A what?

“They’re so much younger than me,” Coldiron said. “They don’t know what a mangle is.”

She had her friends Steve and Sharon Hambek in on the hunt. Sharon knew Coldiron from community organizing projects and Steve was a handy guy, happy to fix a screen door, move furniture or repair a primitive in Pat’s antique shop on the first floor of the B&B.

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“I looked on eBay and Facebook Marketplace,” he said. “Mangles are not something you find on every street corner.”

Coldiron put Clark Kolterman, retired social studies teacher and civic-minded soulmate, on alert, too.

“My mom had a mangle and so did my grandma,” Kolterman said. “She would let me mangle handkerchiefs and tea towels and doilies.”

He was happy to help in the quest for a mangle, although by the time he got the word, Coldiron had grown desperate.

She’d located a mangle in a sweet old lady's basement in Grand Island and hauled it home, but it quit working after three weeks of bed and breakfast bedding.

Then she discovered a company in Germany that still manufactured mangles, selling them for a pretty penny in the Williams Sonoma catalog.

Coldiron was about to get out her Visa card. But $2,400 to speed-iron sheets?

Kolterman scolded her. “I said, Pat, how many beds would you have to make to make back that kind of money?”

The search continued.

It widened.

Then on April 1, Rolf spotted a mangle for sale in Kansas City. His wife, Erika, had a trip planned to Columbia, Missouri, and she offered to grab it on the way home.

They’d surprise Coldiron, the friend they describe as independent and creative and high energy and community minded.

“She just really loves this town,” Rolf said. “She’s always thinking of ways to make it better.”

They wanted to make her life better, too, but the Kansas City mangle was too heavy and bulky to fit in the trunk of a car.

So Rolf decided to hop in his pickup.

Vahle from the bank and her husband, Van, threw in some gas money.

The Hambeks were waiting at the Liberty House the next morning to help haul the mangle and its sturdy metal stand to the basement.

“She hates surprises and she hates people doing stuff for her,” Rolf said. “But she loves it, she just loves it.”

On Tuesday, Coldiron proudly showed off her mangling skills in her basement laundry room — while Sharon Hambek took her place tending the antique store upstairs.

Liberty House

Pat Coldiron, owner of Liberty House in Seward, puts a pillowcase through her mangle, an ironing machine, in the B&B's laundry room on Tuesday.

Coldiron demonstrated the mangle’s magic, feeding a long strip of twice-folded bed sheet — sprinkled with water — through the wringer, pushing on a lever with her knees to make it run.

“I can iron four sets of sheets and 10 pillowcases and maybe a blouse and some blue jeans in 45 minutes,” she says. “It’s pretty slick.”

She even has a mangle to spare, tracked down in Hastings by her sister and brother-in-law.

The Mangle Madam feels a little bit guilty.

And a little bit gleeful.

“Aren’t I so lucky to have such family and friends who put in all that effort?” she says. “It about made me cry.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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