Last Day of Being 57!
Here is a fine photo of me, enjoying the last day of my year long celebration! I'm wearing my childhood skate key on a cord around my neck, along with a cozy Grinnell College sweatshirt!
I was just a baby in 1957, when my family moved to Grinnell. I was too young to skate. It was probably around 1962 when I first tested my metal skates, on the walk in front of my house. I got a lot of skinned knees from those sidewalks, buckled from Elm tree roots!
Please don't look too carefully, or you'll see I'm only wearing one skate. I recently bought the rusty thing for $1.75, at an antique store. The skate had no strap, so I created my own. I would have looked the part better, had I worn Keds or saddle shoes. But I did find moccasins in my closet. I used my key to tighten the skate onto the soft leather.
As for skating? I wish I could say it all came back, like riding a bike. But with only one skate, it was more like a scooter. Buckled sidewalks? Nope, just a lot of oak blossoms from the Live Oaks... ready to cushion my fall!
Wood Rackets and Broken Strings!
I was dressed as a tennis fan, not a player when I arrived at the neighborhood courts yesterday. I went to watch my old team, that I played with for at least 10 years. I was laughing with Beth and Susan about these old rackets that I'd been toting in my car in hopes of a good opportunity.
They were game, so after the courts cleared, I dragged out the rackets and we had some fun. No serious tennis was played, but I had a good time swinging that heavy old thing and running around in my deck shoes!
Thanks Beth and Susan!
Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Alexander Calder...?
In recent months I've visited a few museums, but found no work from the fifties. Yesterday I arrived at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts knowing I would finally get to spend some time with some of the colorful artists who were at work the year I was born!
It was fun to wander the museum before closing and have the place to myself. I chatted with the guard about how the Calder mobile seemed sort of hypnotic as it slowly twirled above us. I stared at the Pollock's splattered paint and tried not to have annoying thoughts about how "I could have done that!" Then I was drawn to a piece across the room with bright smudged colors. It was painted by Hans Hofmann in the year of my birth! And the title made me smile. Sparks!
I could have had the bored guard snap my photo, but I did something no museum guest did in the fifties. I snapped a selfie. I can be easily creeped out by selfies of myself, so I tried to make it Picasso-style.
Something Else Here
Okay, I'm cheating and adding to this blog entry with another photo from 2 days after my birthday. I made a little visit to Fort Worth's THE MODERN and had a giddy encounter with many more pieces of art from my special decade.
Here I am with a 1957 Rothko. I'm doing a rather lame "presentation pose" in honor of Vanna White, who also was born in 1957! I wonder if she celebrated her Birth Year Birthday!
Writing to Friends
There was a lot more letter writing going on mid century. I obviously didn't start writing letters in the fifties, but I did receive some baby mail when I was 1 and 2! By the 1970's I was in the peak of my letter writing days, after a few childhood moves. To celebrate the grand old days of the personal letter, I decided to write one of those friends I corresponded with in my teens.
First I tried an old typewriter. No good. The tape was dried out. Then I wrote on stationary and found my old sealing wax stamp. Knowing that clumpy things on envelopes probably are against mail regulations, I took the letter to the 48 year old Post Office in Richmond, TX where Jesse "El Cowboy" still hand cancels mail. He wasn't there, so I left my letter with an attached note. The counter was cluttered with boxes and envelopes and lots of notes like mine. Who knows if my friend will ever get her letter, or if it will still have sealing wax. Let me know, Dear Friend!
Love a Clothesline!
Now and then I do actually wash something by hand. And every once in a blue moon, I get out the iron. Today I did both which is a record for me. To make the whole thing more exciting, I took the clothes outside to dry! I had some fun tying up a clothesline using heavy duty yarn.
Then I hung up those drippy clothes, using good old wooden clothespins! Maybe it was just the fact that the sun came out and there was a nice breeze, but there was something incredibly therapeutic about this whole ritual! I should do this more often!
A Good Combination
Once again I dragged my daughter into a little silly celebrating. Even Jamie, Heidi's beau, got in on the fun. Beau? Is that fifties talk?
I knew the comic books would be a hit. The 10-cent books were actually from the fifties, which meant their ads were goofy and fun! If only we could still buy 204 Revolutionary War Toy Soldiers for $1.98! Or a Daisy Model 26 BB gun for $17.98!
I thought adding some real bubble gum to the experience would make it all complete. But I had forgotten what real SUGAR bubble gum is like. It took forever to soften the gritty stuff enough for bubbles. Then we tried to coordinate so that we all had a bubble at the same time and that just caused a lot of laughing. It was a lot of work and I must say, it took away from the enjoyment of the literature!
I've never paid much attention to what I drive. I just don't care much about cars today. But I do love vintage cars and I had hoped that somewhere in this year long celebration I could ride in a 1950's convertible. .. preferably down the Pacific Coast Highway!
So when I saw this one parked in the grocery store parking lot, I thought maybe I should just wait for the owner and ask for a ride. But who does that? Probably the same kind of person who keeps a chiffon scarf and some cat-eye sunglasses in her Honda Element... just in case the opportunity arises! But I was in a hurry and had a husband waiting. "It will only take a second!" I assured Don as I whipped on my scarf and glasses and handed him the camera. I dashed to the other side of the shiny red car so it looked like I was in the car. Don didn't even roll his eyes. He's used to this nonsense.
Luckily I have a good imagination. I jumped back into the car feeling windblown and giddy after my "ride". "Thanks, Don!" I exclaimed as we drove off. "That was fun!"
I Love Swings
This whole "celebrating the fifties" list has inspired me to do things I might not do otherwise. But I hardly needed the list as motivation for swinging. Rarely do I pass up a swing without stopping for a little fun. All 3 of these swings were surprises in the last 6 months. The tire swing was along the banks of Cypress Creek in Comfort, Texas. The white swing was at a pier side restaurant in Aruba. The red swing was hanging from the most lovely tree near the Menil Art Museum in Houston.
I have a feeling there were more swings in the 1950's than there are today. More playgrounds had them and people had more time to use them. When I run across a swing today, it always feels like I'm stepping back in time.
Sheet Music From the Fifties
I snatched this piece of sheet music for a buck at an antique store. I don't recognize "Melody of Love" but it was written in the fifties.
The only thing that I loved when I was living the fifties, was Mommy and Daddy and my thumb. But it must have been a pretty good decade to fall in love. In the 1950's, people still gathered around the piano at parties or sat side by side on the piano bench and crooned out some good ones.
So I after purchasing, I took this old piece of music and allowed myself to sit down at my neglected piano. Not only did this silly blog list motivate me to return to an instrument that I really do love. I took it a step further and I sang along. Corny? Yes. Comical? Very.
A Little Time with Old Albums and a 1950's Viewmaster!
Obviously there were no digital options in the fifties, so that makes these old black and whites, more precious. When groups gathered to smile for a camera, there was usually just one click. And when you finally used up a roll of film and had it developed, you were surprised to find photos taken over a year's time.
The photos were then put in shoeboxes or albums, using those dandy black triangles! And sadly, the photos were often blurry and un-cropped. But I enjoyed every minute as I looked over the torn pages of these old family albums. There are memories connected to some old photos, but mostly the images invite you to imagine the stories!
The old Viewmaster was a hoot! But I can only look at 3-D pics of the White House and Capital for so long. Give me a photo album with people any day!
I talked Don into driving 45 minutes to go to a drive-in, to see Disney's Cinderella! What husband of 35 years does that? Thanks, Don!
The last time we went to a drive in, it was a Disney movie and we had a station wagon with kids! So glad we had no kiddos this time since the woman who sold us tickets was rude and foul mouthed. I will save my rant for Trip Advisor and keep it positive here.
Pre-Movie People Watching
Luckily I was able to growl, then laugh and then absorb the totally delightful evening. The weather was heavenly and the whole scene was a hoot. The grassy playground was scattered with puddles and giddy kids. There were families gathering with lawn chairs and blankets. There were chatty dog walkers, sloppy ball tossers, and a generous windshield washer, eager to share his Windex. We chatted with the family in the van next to ours. "Grandma" remembered when admission was a dollar. "Mom" laughed and asked if we could help keep an eye on her teen daughter, who had brought her boyfriend for the first time!
And the sun finally set! We tuned in the radio, started in on the popcorn, then pulled out a couple glasses of wine. (Gee, I have no idea where those came from!) And hey, the movie wasn't bad. You have to love those costumes... and mice!
Staying awake through the movie was no problem, since we had occasional horns and car lights surprising the crowds. No this was not an attempt to keep the young teens from getting frisky. Today's cars just get a little confused when radios are left on. We found the whole thing pretty amusing and luckily the car did start up when it was time to leave!
Dressing for The Theatre... Back in the Day
What a nice surprise when my friend Margit, invited Sigi and me on a spur of the moment Ballet Outing! It's ridiculous that I haven't gone in years, since I adore any kind of dance!
When I dashed to get dressed last night, I didn't have time to fuss over an outfit. But I did pause to imagine the crowds who would have attended the ballet in the fifties. The lady patrons seated in velvet theatre seats, would have been covered in furs and white gloves and topped with plenty of hats and hairdos. I had no time for such elegance, but I snatched a strand of pearls and tossed them awkwardly over my corduroy collar and then I remembered the vintage "pocketbook" that sits on some old luggage in my guest room. I tossed my keys and cell phone into the dandy purse and gave it a snap! I had 2 intermissions to strut my stuff, with that silly alligator purse dangling on my arm!
Hey, the purse was fun. I've never thought to use it. But the ballet was a total delight! I was mesmerized by one contemporary piece and I smiled and sighed over the traditional pirouettes and tutus.
What a treat, Margit! Can't thank you enough!
A Morning with Friends
I love the idea of inviting friends over for coffee, but who does that anymore? Lucy never had to invite Ethel, she just showed up. But I tried to keep it just that simple. I served coffee cake and we sipped our coffee out of cups with saucers.
Since these "ladies" happen to be my book club friends, I decided it was a fine idea to pull out some reading material...vintage magazines! Our group is used to laughing into the wee hours as we discuss books. Instead of wine, we sipped coffee and laughed over bathing suit ads and creepy looking recipes.
Easter is coming and I must get a hat!
A woman should never need an excuse to go out and buy a hat! But I recall at least one episode when Lucy needed a little "pick me up" and hat shopping with Ethel was the answer.
When I was small, hats were required in church. "Why?" I grumbled to my dad and he said something about modesty and keeping the men's eyes off the ladies' hair. Dad also chuckled about how the ladies got it figured out and their hats got so outlandish, that no one could keep their eyes off the ladies in church.
Well, I don't know about any of that, but I know those women in mid-century movies and TV, got a big kick out of hat shopping. So, I gave it a try (at an antique store) and I did have a heck of a good time. I'm sure a few of the pillbox and veiled hats I tried on were from the fifties. But there were so many doozies from different eras, I just had to try them all!
I heard that the hat market slowed down towards the end of the fifties. Women started spending more time at the hair salon and didn't want to hide or mess their fancy hair-do! But Easter is still a pretty powerful motivation for buying a hat. I didn't find the perfect one yesterday... but I still have a month!!
Is this photo creepy?
At 57 I am wearing a ponytail and playing with dolls! That's like a Hitchcock movie. However, it's not quite as creepy as the time I watched a man, stop in the plaza in front of The Alamo and pull a Barbie out of a briefcase. He seemed dead serious as he photographed her in front of the Texas landmark.
But I have a good excuse. I'm trying to reach my goal of celebrating the 1950's in 57 ways... before April 9! And Barbie was born in 1959, so why not have a little fun. Actually my ponytailed Barbie disappeared over the years, but I was able to find the old suitcase holding my (less glam) Midge Doll. She doesn't have Barbie's sexy pout, but she fits Barbie's swimsuit just fine. I'm glad to say I am also the keeper of my sister's Ken Doll. He may be losing his felt hair, but he still looks fine in his red trunks, terrycloth coverup and green swim flippers!
Mom, thanks for never throwing anything away. I had a mighty fun time!
Chinese New Year
I love celebrating Chinese New Year's in Houston, because there are so many authentic options for food! Our "Asia Town" as many call it, covers 6 square miles and offers every kind of Asian market, restaurant and business you could imagine.
However, I was really in the mood for a NYC Chinatown, back in the 1950's. Our Asia Town is fairly young, so there are no family run Chop Suey Houses, lingering from long ago. It's hard to find Chow Mein on a menu or carryouts that aren't served in Styrofoam.
After a search, Don and I found Chang's Chinese, which offered the safe and boring dishes that our families would have ordered 50+ years ago. We called in a carry out order of Chicken Chow Mein, Shrimp Chop Suey, Pork Lo Mein and Egg Drop Soup. We enjoyed our own tea and tried to ignore the lottery numbers that are now included on fortune cookies. After our meal we sat back and watched a YouTube clip of Rogers and Hammerstein's musical, Flower Drum Song. Holy cow. The song and dance number titled "Chop Suey" is a pretty whacky (and rather unrealistic) peek into the world of San Francisco's Chinatown in the fifites!
CHOP SUEY SONG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPwiqmv6Xeo
The Movies and The Awards!
I love Oscar Night, even when I'm not celebrating the fifties! But for today, I tried to celebrate the art and glamour of 1950's movies, all day! In the afternoon I attempted to watch the Oscar winning movie filmed during my birth year, that earned Best Picture at the 30th annual Academy Awards. I tried. I really did. But I have never been to sit through Bridge On the River Kwai. I love the whistling and I love the jungle, but I was restless and gave up. Instead, I just waited for evening and put on some 1950's costume bling and white gloves and enjoyed popcorn with the Awards.
BTW, wearing white gloves is a very good diet technique. It's such a lot of trouble removing your gloves to nibble, so you are inclined to eat less. Of course I solved the problem by removing the gloves for good... and stuffing myself silly..
And an Old Fashioned Pastime
I just started a jigsaw puzzle. That's probably something that families did more often in the 1950's, than today. I'm also studying the formal gowns, designed by Charles James, in the 1950's.
Decades may pass, by the time I finish this puzzle. (with my short attention span) These gowns may be back in style, when I'm done! At the very least, my slow progress should give me lots of time to absorb and appreciate the glamorous hair and gown styles of the 1950's.
Taking the Time
I recently watched Roman Holiday and was intrigued to see how Audrey Hepburn brushed her hair at bedtime.
I remember watching my grandmother, "Daw" as she brushed her hair at the dressing table before bed.
Since Daw's bedroom furniture and brush set now sit in my guest room, I decided I would take some time to do a little old fashioned grooming. I filed and buffed my nails and then settled down to brush my hair 100 strokes. It felt odd and silly at first. Daw's brush is soft and it smells old. But it felt nice after a while and it made me slow down and think about how much I miss my grandmother.
I'm not really sure about hair health, but I have a feeling the old hair-brushing routine could lead to more restful sleep! It's at least a lot more calming than checking emails at bedtime!
Celebrating the Holiday with My Birth Year President
When I was born in 1957, Eisenhower was president and there was no such thing as President's Day. When I was in grade school in the 1960's, we had Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday... until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act invited us to celebrate all presidents on one day.
So, for my own celebration today, I will focus on President Eisenhower. He is not my favorite president, but I did get to see him once. He came to Grinnell, Iowa in 1965.
I missed half a day of second grade when my mom entered the classroom and whisked me away to Grinnell College, where he was speaking. I remember so few details of this president or his speech that I am forced to use the internet today and learn about the man.
In my search for entertaining facts, I found a curious write-up, which I have shared below. Now I have much to ponder about my Birth Year Prez, who was raised by parents who were originally Mennonites... who almost had his leg amputated as a teen and who was pretty devastated when he didn't make the West Point baseball team.
HAPPY PRESIDENT'S DAY!
For dinner on Valentine's Day, Don and I had a little fun creating the romantic mood of a 1950's Italian restaurant. While Puccini played in the background we set the table with a checkered cloth and a stuck a candle in the Chianti bottle.
We whipped up some spaghetti, salad and bread and pondered over which movie to watch. We agreed on the 1953's "Roman Holiday". Watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, whip around Rome on a Vespa gave me a new idea for celebrating the fifties. If only I knew someone who owned one!
Doilies, Pipe Cleaners and Construction Paper!
Yesterday I decided to make a Valentine's Day card just like kids did in the 1950's. They might have used paste instead of Elmer's and they could have used real lace instead of doilies... but I'm sure they used metal scissors and construction paper!
I had a good time making a mess and by the time I finished decorating the front, inside and the back with about a pound of glitter, it was a hefty little thing! Then I had to decide who would get the card.
Since I was "Sweetheartless" on every single Valentine's Day... until I met my husband, I decided I would just pick a random person (out in the world) to receive my gift. It is February 13, so we shall see!
On MLK Day
There's something about sewing by hand, that makes me feel in touch with the past. So on Monday evening, I sat down to watch a documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. In my lap, I worked on a project I've been at for a couple years.
The quilt I'm piecing together is made up of fabric squares, decorated by adults and children I've volunteered with, while on travels around the country. The red square in the middle was personalized by Mary Ann from Gee's Bend, Alabama.
As I stitched, I absorbed details about Dr. King and his early involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's. I was reminded of Rosa Parks and her brave refusal to give up her bus seat... and Dr. King's involvement with the bus boycott. And when I saw the red square I was reminded of the poor community of Gee's Bend, which is made up of descendants of slaves who worked the plantation. Mary Ann's written words reminded me of her amazing quilting skills as well as her story of Dr. King coming to speak at their small Baptist Church.
Quilting and thinking. A different kind of celebration of the 1950's.
Signs of the Old Santa
This year, my stocking showed signs of the Old Santa, who filled stockings in the 1950's and before. I don't remember the last time I actually had nuts and fruit in my stocking. Okay, I will admit, this is not all that was found in the family stocking as our house this year. My kids may be grown, but there would have been a lot of eye rolling if this was all they'd found.
For me, the best part of my Christmas stocking was just picturing my mom, knitting it. 57 years ago, when I was a baby!
Deck Them Halls!
Nothing like a little tinsel on the tree! I don't think I've done this since I was a kid. The 4 kids in my house growing up, were always too impatient to drape the strands gracefully. Poor Mom, had to follow us to repair our sloppy jobs.
My kids showed only a slight bit more patience, when they gave the retro tradition a try. We also added a little string of popcorn and cranberries... another tradition that also seems to have gotten lost, in hurried Christmas celebrations.
Cheers to a 1950's Christmas!
57 Celebrations of the Fifties!
April 9, 2014
I don't remember the 1950's, since they ended when I was 2. But since I turned 57 today and this is my BYB (Birth Year Birthday) I'm going to just appreciate the flavor of 1957! My goal is to celebrate in at least 57 simple ways throughout the year! I will dabble in the fashion, the foods, the music and the culture of those times...just for the fun of it!