Sunday, December 31, 2006

Miserable Tykes, UK (1920's), USA (1938)

In October our friend “Big John” from England posted a blog entitled “A not too neat and tidy trio” and he featured the picture that you see here. I found it very amusing and I especially loved the expressions on the three little tykes.

I left this comment: “It reminds me of the Staples TV commercial…that shows the Dad racing around the store gathering school supplies for his kids. He is ecstatic because school is starting and he's singing (to the Christmas tune) It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year and then the camera trains on the kids and , I swear, they have expressions on their faces just like the two older children in your photo. Priceless!”

Now, imagine my surprise when my oldest sister, Mary, (age 80) sent me this photo for Christmas. She had it framed and wrote, “Merry Christmas, Joy & Peace” across the inside ! You can see that she retains a good sense of humor. I immediately thought of John’s picture and how similar they are.

I am the youngest of 5 girls and when I asked Mary where our middle sister Nancy was she said that none of us wanted to have our picture taken that day, but only Nancy was brave enough to stamp her foot and run off. She was, and is, the rebel of the family.

I guess children have their miserable days just like we adults do… but somehow you don’t expect to see it in family photos. There is something very appealing about these two pictures, however. You can almost hear the big sighs and read their thoughts…”you can make us pose, but you can’t make us smile !”

Saturday, December 30, 2006

CHARLES DICKENS … The Crafty Entrepreneur

Most of us know that Charles Dickens was a genius and one of the most quoted writers to ever put pen to paper. But, how many of us know that he was the consummate businessman? He actually sold three copies of the same novel “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” to most of his same customers and here’s how he managed that:

In 1836 Dickens was approached by a publisher, Chapman & Hall, with the proposal that he write captions for a series of pictures by the popular artist Robert Seymour. These were cartoon-type characters. The wily Dickens, who was unknown at the time, argued that the stories should be the main focus and that he would write a novel to complement the pictures and had a scheme that would guarantee it’s success. The publishers were naturally dubious but they listened to his idea.

He proposed that they publish his novel in monthly installments, a brand new concept. Each chapter would end on a note guaranteed to make the reader anxious to buy the next copy. This worked very well. The reader didn’t mind paying a small monthly stipend and, since the novel spread out over two years, they didn’t realize that they were paying top dollar for the book.

Shortly into the project the artist Robert Seymour, who was a depressive and a heavy drinker, committed suicide. Hablot Knight Browne, nicknamed “Phiz”, was hired and he went on to illustrate Dickens’ works for the next 23 years.

The novel is a collection of the adventures of Samuel Pickwick and his friends and it proved to be a huge success. By the end of the serialization 40,000 copies were being printed. “The Pickwick Papers” had taken the world by storm and launched Dickens to celebrity status. Now all of Dickens’ readers yearned for a more substantial copy of the book. They only had the flimsy magazine pages and a leather-bound version was printed to satisfy this demand. Thus the same reader bought the same book twice.

Now is where Dickens became especially crafty. He organized a group of workers who scoured England buying up the old magazine copies for a mere pittance. Most people were happy to get rid of them and had no idea that the pages would be placed in a fancy tie-back folder and resold as, “The Original Collector’s Edition of The Pickwick Papers”.

This became a coveted item and most of the people who had bought the serialized version month after month now paid a premium price to put the “Collector’s Edition” on their bookshelf or in their safe. They felt, rightly so, that these original flimsy pages would be worth a good deal in the future.

So that’s how Charles Dickens managed to sell three copies of the same book to the same customer. Sounds like a great story line to me...something Dickensian about it !

Thursday, December 28, 2006


CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported reently that, according to recent surveys (2006), the smoking bans have had a positive impact on health. I found this interesting and uplifting. It also made me reflect on the changing attitudes toward smoking that have occurred during my lifetime.

In 1947 Capital Records had their first million-seller with this song recorded byCountry-Western entertainer Sollie “Tex” Williams, who was to die of lung cancer a few years later. It was written by Merle Travis and is a rambling song with many stanzas but the chorus is the part that most people my age remember. It goes like this:

“Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette.
Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait,
But you just gotta have another cigarette.”

I was just 14 at that time but I loved that song. I also loved the movies and couldn’t wait to emulate the sophisticated ladies with their long cigarette holders. Ah, the elegance of it all ! By 1955 I was out of college and on my own. Smoking was a “rite of passage” and I joined the crowd. I never did get the long holder but I felt very stylish as I puffed away.

In 1957 I caught the flu bug & was terribly ill for about 5 days. I remember that the first thing I did when I felt better was to light a cigarette. It immediately sent me into paroxysms of coughing and set back my recovery for about 2 more days. As a result I decided to quit smoking and I did.

It would be approximately 40 years before any real inroads were made regarding a ban on cigarettes. I particularly recall, in 1987, when I was working in our local hospital in the Emergency Department, that almost all the doctors and nurses smoked. Practically the first thing that you saw when you got to the back of the ER was the huge ashtray overflowing with smoldering butts and even a cigar if one particular doctor was on call.

It is incredulous now to think that it was actually condoned. Now the same Hospital is 100% smoke-free, thanks in large part to Dr. Collins who started his campaign as far back as 1990.

In 1989 I started going to AA meetings. They were traditionally conducted in smoke-filled rooms and I’d reek of tobacco. I am so pleased that today most of them are smoke-free. (An interesting fact is that both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the co-founders of AA, died of lung related diseases.)

Now it is 2006 and I guess the “ban smoking” controversy will go on forever, but, I, for one, can breathe easier and I hope I won’t be seeing St. Peter for a long, long time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The year: 1950 The town: Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts The place: Bendslev’s Luncheonette The Waitress: Me

This was my Senior year in High School and I’d worked at this small restaurant on weekends and after school for three years. It was a “Mom & Pop” operation owned by Mr. & Mrs. Perkins, who were also my neighbors.

Although we had a soda fountain we had no counter seats so it was more like a tearoom in atmosphere except for the clientele. The food was very good and inexpensive so the town workers and students were our best customers. We had a large share of children too since the only movie theater in town was located in the same building.

(It was seldom that I saw a movie from start to finish during this time. If we were slow in the restaurant I’d go next door and watch until I was called back. I missed a lot of finales but it was a cheap way to go to the movies.)

The Perkins’ also made their own candy. They would often leave the “upstairs” (the restaurant) to my care and they’d retire to the basement where they had a “candy” room. This was an air-cooled, enclosed area with marble counters and molds and they would pour, box and label the candy down there. Everyone in the restaurant would know when they were making a new batch because the aromas seemed to seep up through the floor and we would all groan with anticipation.

The menu never varied and I remember the daily lunch special was a “triple sandwich plate”…3 half slices of bread with three salad toppings, Egg, Ham & Chicken, served with a pickle and fruit in season. Of course we had a wide variety of sandwiches besides this but the busiest section was the soda fountain.

Frappes, Floats, Milkshakes, Malteds and all the ice cream delicacies were dispensed daily but the favorite, by far, was the “Black Cow”. This was my favorite too and I prided myself on concocting the best “Cow” in town. To make sure that the foam wouldn’t overflow the glass I would put a small amount of vanilla ice cream in the glass first, then slowly pour in the Root Beer. I would then, gently, place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It would foam up and look great but it wouldn’t make a mess.

I loved that job and Mr. & Mrs. Perkins were very good to me. When I decided to transfer to Boston University for my last two years of college I lived at home and, once again, I worked for them. This was in 1953 and ‘54 and it was the perfect job for a college student. I ate well, made a fair salary and good tips and even kept up with the movies. But, best of all, I could have a “Black Cow” whenever I felt like it !

Saturday, December 23, 2006

PRESSED-TIN Crèche Scene...Hecho en Mexico

In 2002 a friend and I went to Mexico. I became enamored with the colorful pottery and tile work but it was way too heavy to carry home. I even considered shipping some pieces to the States but the cost was prohibitive.

When I came upon this little Crèche scene I almost passed it by. It was displayed behind some large piñatas and hand-made paper flowers. The little figures, ranging in size from three quarters of an inch to two and a half inches, came packaged in a small tin box and they were nearly obscured by the other items.

Like most of the folk-art in Mexico the Crèche scene is crude & almost primitive in style. I would imagine that the pieces are cut by machine but the painting is definitely done by hand. An additional piece of metal is soldered to the back of each figure which enables them to stand on their own, much like an easel.
Although I only display the Crèche scene at Christmas I keep the little box on a shelf where I can see it year round. I love the shape of the box and the rustic design. I also love the idea that it was made by hand and is authentically Mexican.

When I think of all the work that went into making the box and the 10 little figures I can’t believe that I paid the equivalent of less than $3.00 for it.

It may be an inexpensive little memento of my trip to Mexico but it means more than that to me. There’s no price tagged on the amount of pleasure that my little Crèche scene has provided over these last few years.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Why in the world would anyone want to write about their worst Christmas? The answer is simple: I don’t want to dwell on it but I don’t ever want to forget it either. Here’s why…

I wasn’t one of those people who came alive during the Holiday Season. I liked the music and would grant you that there was a certain “expectant rush” in the air found at no other time of the year...but the whole frenzy of gifts and spending was abhorrent to me. It was a “Bah Humbug” sort of outlook but it was me and it had been me for a long time.

1988 was a particularly difficult year for us. My Mother passed away in September, my husband’s health was getting worse by the day and, in November, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The operation took place in mid December and (as you can see by the photo) I was still bed-ridden on Christmas day. I managed to get up long enough to have some pictures taken but basically it was a holiday spent in bed.

Anyone who has followed my blog will realize that Dec. of 1988 is just 6 months before my family finally decided to force me into dealing with my alcoholism. They were already contemplating an intervention although I had no idea that it was in the offing and I was in complete denial that there was a problem.

I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am now and I remember how frumpy and dispirited I felt that day. This is actually the best of the pictures that were taken then. In the others it is even more obvious that my family was “tolerating” me as opposed to enjoying having me with them. Our dog, “Jaws”, appeared to be my closest friend that day.

It’s only in retrospect that I can “see” that day for what it was. Alcohol is a devious foe. It robbed me of the ability to feel and my perceptions were completely skewed. I was barely holding on and my family was trying their best to understand why I was moving further and further away from them. There was no way that I could be part of that Christmas day because I was, in all actuality, “not there”.

This year of 2006 my outlook on the Holiday Season has changed dramatically. It will be my 17th sober Christmas and I rejoice in that knowledge. I have grandchildren (and even one great-grandchild) who have never seen me take a drink. Thanks to a family who loved me enough to risk an intervention my disease has been halted and I now live every wonderful day to the fullest.

This Christmas my children will all be with me. The days of their “just tolerating” my presence have long passed. I enjoy each and every time that we’re together and, even more important, they ENJOY BEING WITH ME ! It will truly be a Merry Christmas, filled with family and love.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The year was 1976 and our entire family gathered together to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. This was quite an undertaking since I am one of 5 girls and we were all married and living in different parts of the world.

The actual idea for the party was sparked by one of the British sailors that we had entertained during World War II. His name was Bert Entwistle and he and his wife Dora had kept up with my mother over the years. In a birthday card they had written that they would love to come from England and help her celebrate her 80th.

Some of my older sisters ran with the idea and, after a multitude of phone calls and letters, the arrangements were made. We met in June at the “Chatham Crest” on Cape Cod, Massachusetts for two days and a night of festivities. Family members came from as far as Italy, Denmark and Chile. The others came from California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. There were 29 of us in all, which included our honorary family members, Bert and Dora from England.

This is the only gathering that we ever had that included my entire family. I have very fond memories of that time. My brother-in-law from California brought one of those “test your coordination” games where you have to get all the little steel balls into the right holes. He offered a prize of $25 for the winner and our son Matthew won. It didn’t last long as he spent every last cent on art supplies on our way home.

Of course Mother received many gifts but one of the nicest ones was the Prayer Plant that our daughter Jody had raised for her. It’s leaves closed at night.

The weather was very accommodating, as I recall. Each family had a small cottage and they were grouped around an open field where games could be played and picnics enjoyed. One larger building was a type of conference center and it was there that we had our evening banquet. The walls were festooned with photo enlargements of special family events and party balloons.

It was an event to Mother’s 80th birthday. I can’t believe that, as I write this, I am less than 7 years away from that

Monday, December 18, 2006


My husband and I married in August of 1958. We looked forward to our first New Year’s eve together but Dick developed some very badly infected sores on his feet and he spent the night in bed with his legs elevated. He felt bad about this and promised that he would make it up to me in the coming years.

New Years eve of 1959 found us with a new born baby. We chose to stay home again, but Dick surprised me by starting a tradition that we kept up for quite a few years. We decided to do our celebrating on the 1st of each year instead of on the evening before and HE WOULD DO THE COOKING !

I was quite touched by this because the kitchen was definitely not his place to shine. He took it as a challenge and, after much deliberation, decided that we would have a noon-time brunch and would include new acquaintances that we had met during the year.

We were living in New York City and would often meet people who were new to the area or just passing through. This was a good “ice-breaker” for them & they were happy to be included.

That first year we had old and new friends and I believe there were 10 of us. I hadn’t asked Dick about the menu and he hadn’t seen fit to tell me, so I was a little anxious. He offered coffee and Bloody Mary’s and one of our male friends helped him do the serving.

It was an eclectic mix of people so the conversation was lively and we hardly thought about eating. Then Dick announced that he would have brunch ready in 20 minutes. He took re-orders on the drinks and then he and his friend retired to the kitchen with the door shut.

The next time they appeared they were carrying two large trays laden with hot rolls, butter and a large bowl of fruit compote. We were told to start in and find a place to sit...that they would bring the rest of the brunch to us individually. I was completely blown away when they did. Each plate that they served contained two perfectly cooked Eggs Benedict and 4 sprigs of asparagus. It was an elegant brunch and I couldn’t have done better.

This was the only cooking that Dick ever did, unless it was an emergency, but it was enough for me. I loved the fact that it was completely his idea and, despite the arrival of new children and new friends, he kept it up for years. It was a wonderful way to welcome in a New Year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

POPSY Lights it Up at BASIN STREET EAST, 1959

They called him Popsy because it was near impossible to spell, remember or pronounce his long Greek name. He had been the Band Boy for Benny Goodman, the “King Of Swing”, for all the years of the “Big Band Era.”

In the early fifties Benny broke up the band but he didn’t leave Popsy high and dry. He set him up in his own photography business in New York City. Now, Popsy would be the first to tell you that he was no artist when it came to taking pictures, but he had the basics and his studio was conveniently located near the theater district. The actors and actresses flocked to his studio because of his proximity to famous musicians and because they could get promotion pictures for their portfolios quickly and at a reasonable price.

My husband was working as a “Life” photographer in 1956 and he and Popsy became fast friends. Dick was also free-lancing and he would use the studio and the darkroom when needed. It worked out well for them both. Dick would teach Popsy the finer points of photography and, in turn, Popsy would not charge Dick for the use of his studio.

I met and married Dick in 1958 and we would often meet at Popsy’s and enjoy a take-out meal with him. Early in 1959 we received a call from Popsy. He was very agitated and he asked us to hurry over...he had something he needed to discuss.

It was at this time that Benny Goodman was touring Europe with a 10-piece ensemble. This was much smaller than his original big band but Benny was still a great box office draw and he was packing them in. The news that Popsy had was that Benny was on his way to New York. He was booked at “Basin Street East” for a 3 night gig and he was offering Popsy the chance to take all the publicity shots.

Popsy was fit to be tied. He didn’t want to let Benny down but he had no idea how to take candid shots of this sort. I knew why he had called on Dick, because this was his expertise. We told Popsy not to worry and we formulated a plan.

The opening night we arrived early and Dick set up his big strobe lights. We were seated at a large table right in front of the stage and Popsy met us there. The plan was for Dick to take the pictures but Popsy would take some too, making sure that Benny would see him. I couldn’t believe how well it worked.

When Benny came on stage with his ensemble the crowd went wild, the strobe lights went on and Dick and Popsy did their thing. When the night was over we couldn’t wait to get back to the studio and get the film developed and print the pictures. They were very good ...even some of the ones that Popsy took.

Benny was very happy with the results, Popsy was vindicated and me?...I was just thrilled to be part of it all...especially since Benny & his 10 musicians sat at our table between sets!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grandma and I rink-side at Rockefeller Center, 1957

I finally made it to the “Big Apple” in 1957. I had a job as a writer of promotional material for the ABC Radio network and I was enjoying every minute of my new life.

My Grandmother lived in Plainfield, New Jersey, and I couldn’t wait to share some of my good fortune with her. It wasn’t easy to get her into the city but one day she did come in and I’d talked her into letting me take her to lunch. It was winter-time and we decided it would be fun to “dine” in the café that overlooked the skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

Let me take a minute to describe Grandma to you. She was of Scottish descent and had lived most of her life as a wife and mother with limited means. Her husband, my beloved “Papa”, was a writer and a dreamer. He provided the necessities but not much more and I don’t ever remember Grandma doing anything that could be construed as frivolous. She was a very warm and loving person who spent her life giving and doing for others. I couldn’t wait to do something special for her.

The day that Grandma came into the city it was bright and clear. It was the perfect day to watch the skaters and, after a stroll around Rockefeller Plaza, we went to the restaurant. It was above the rink and on two tiers with huge windows, making it easy for all the patrons to watch the skaters. I seem to remember that it was called "The American Festival Café" but that may not be accurate.

I do remember the menu, however. It was quite varied and much more expensive than I’d realized. I was trying very hard not to let Grandma know of my dismay. Did I have enough money? Would they take a check? Etc., etc. (Remember, this was almost 50 years ago and it would be a long time before we relied on plastic to handle these situations!)

Then Grandma did a wonderful thing. She explained that her stomach “was a bit iffy” and that she didn’t think she could hold down anything more than a cup of soup. I expressed concern, of course, but I knew deep down that her stomach was fine... she just didn’t want to embarrass me. I told her I’d join her and when the waitress arrived we ordered two cups of soup and water. She was very understanding and I realized that this must happen more often than not.

Grandma and I took our time, thoroughly enjoying the skaters as they glided across the ice. Rolls were provided with the soup so our lunch proved to be very adequate and I even had enough money left to leave a good tip for the nice waitress.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I graduated from High School in 1950 and was more than ready to head off to college in the Fall. I had received a four year scholarship from the local Women’s Club and this enabled me to choose a school outside of my immediate area of Wellesley, Mass.

I decided to go to Upsala College in East Orange, N.J. and the scholarship paid for tuition, books and board. I appreciated this immensely but I still needed money for clothes, trips and all the extra curricular things that college entails.

I secured a part-time waitress job in the local “greasy spoon”. It was mainly frequented by students so you can imagine how sparse the tips were...but, I loved the ambience. It was a great place to meet the athletes and the upper-class guys and the music played non-stop from the Juke Box. I admit it, I was a Freshman with stars in her eyes. I could care less that I only made minimum wage...this was college and I was in the big time finally.

I was pretty frugal and I did save what little money I earned, but it was becoming apparent that I’d need another job if I ever wanted to get ahead. It was at this point that I met a wonderful “older” student who was in college with the aid of the GI Bill. He ate most of his meals where I worked and we became friends.

Larry was a fairly sloppy dresser, as most of the returning GI’s were, but he took great pride in his colorful Argyle socks. We used to kid him about them, especially when he told us that they were hand-made by his mother. But, he didn’t care. He loved them and showed them off whenever he had the chance.

Now, Larry was very popular and I noticed that a bunch of the guys were eyeing those socks and one even had the nerve to ask him if his mother would knit a pair for him. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head. I could knit those socks ! I had done a lot of knitting in High School and all I needed was the wool and the needles.

I talked it over with Larry and he was happy to be my agent. We decided on a price (which I think was $6 a pair) and before I knew it I had orders for over 10 pairs of socks. I used my meager savings to buy the materials and I was off and running.

Of course I had to keep up my studies or I would lose the scholarship so I devised a plan that worked real well. I had two classes a day that did not entail taking notes. I made sure that I chose a seat near the rear of the class and, after propping a big book up in front of me, I would knit away to my heart’s content.
Before I knew it I had the 10 pair finished and was ready to start on a new batch.

This really turned into a very lucrative little business for me and I had Larry to thank for that. We never actually dated but he did tell his mother about me and when she came to visit we all went out for dinner. She wanted to meet and exchange patterns with the girl of the “Argyle Socks Caper”, as her son had so aptly named it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My “Military” Faux Pas at the 7th Regiment Armory, 1959

The man on the phone was asking to speak to “Crash” Dean. I had no idea who he was referring to until my husband said, “That’s me...and I’ll bet it’s one of my old National Guard buddies.” Sure enough, it was an army Colonel saying he and General “Somebody” were in town for the night and would we like to join them for dinner and a polo match?

“In town” was New York City, where we lived and where Dick had grown up. I didn’t know until that day that he had been in the NY National Guard and was nicknamed “Crash”. (He was the General’s official photographer and it seems that he wrecked his car while on assignment at Camp Drum...a happening that the men in his group seemed to think was very funny ! )

The year was 1959 and the place was the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Ave in NY City. We had heard that it was impressive & we weren’t disappointed. The polo match, held in the massive drill shed, was first on the agenda and, although I knew nothing of the rules or who was playing, it was thrilling to watch. The aroma of horses was a little overpowering but I tried to ignore it, knowing that we would soon be having dinner far removed from the smell.

At the end of the game a group of about 20 of us, including the General, made our way upstairs to the very elaborate Board of Officer’s room where we were served drinks. I couldn’t believe how ornate it was…with large framed pictures of famous past Commanders on the walls. We must have been directly above the horse stalls because the smell was almost as strong in that room as it had been in the shed. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, but then they weren’t 5 months pregnant as I was !

The evening, and the drinks, continued and the General, who had been very soft-spoken, was getting more rambunctious with each round that was served. I finally nudged a girl next to me and asked if we could suggest that it was time to eat. She was shocked at the question and stated, in no uncertain terms, that when one was in the presence of a General you had to wait until he gave the “command”.

I sat back and tried to listen to the story-telling but I found myself getting really angry. After all, Dick and I weren’t in the Army...why did we have to wait for the all-mighty OK from the General. Without really thinking about it I gave Dick the eye, rose from my seat and, while patting my stomach, I said, “Thanks a lot, folks. It’s been wonderful but this little one is saying it’s time to go home.”

There was a stunned silence and then, bless his heart, Dick rose too. He gave a farewell salute to the General and we left. “We’ll never get invited again,” he said, “but it was worth it...just to see the look on the old wind-bag’s face.” Then he gave me a big hug.

“Dinner out” became two hot dogs from a street vendor and a long walk home...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

GRAVESTONE RUBBING……… an eerie hobby!

In 1971 my husband, three children and I were living in Dutchess County, NY. My mother came for a two week visit and she was excited because one of her favorite hobbies was searching out old graveyards and our area was rife with them.

Our County was established in 1786 and the older churches had gravestones dating back to even before that time, so Mother was ecstatic. We scoured the countryside and often came across “private” cemeteries. These were usually small plots with only a few headstones and often they were in disrepair. Usually they would be located on
someone’s private property and we would look but not venture in unless we had permission.

On one of our outings we came across a small graveyard, in an area known as North East, adjacent to Stanfordville. It was a square plot, perhaps 50 x 50 feet, enclosed with an iron fence & with about 12 headstones. It didn’t seem to belong to anyone so we decided to investigate.

We found, to our delight, that the engravings on the stones were just the type that would make good stone rubbings. Mother and I had done this before and we knew to use materials that would not damage the surface. We used a toothbrush to remove the moss and dirt that clung to the stone crevices and then placed our paper (white newsprint) over the image, adhering it to the back of the stone with masking tape. Using a thick wax crayon we lightly stroked the paper until the design appeared and then carefully increased the pressure until we had the desired effect.

From this small graveyard we were able to produce six rubbings worthy of being framed. We did no harm to the stones and we were very careful to leave the area as we had found it.

Unfortunately this has not been the case with many careless hobbyists...their littering & vandalism have ruined it for upcoming generations. Nowadays there are quite a few prominent sites that have been ruled off limits to rubbers and I can’t blame them. I am just sorry that so many people will miss out on the simple pleasure that was mine during those two weeks in 1971.

But, at least six people still enjoy those rubbings. They were my Christmas gifts that year!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The GYPSY…Now you see her…now you don’t (1959)

My first child was born on July 3rd, 1959, in New York City at the Lenox Hill Hospital. I tell you this because it was also the setting for one of the strangest scenarios that I’ve ever been part of.

I was having labor pains and the Dr. advised me to get to the hospital but it was no emergency. Therefore, when Dick and I got there we were told to wait in the Admissions office. We had just sat down when the doors opened and a group of at least a dozen people came in. The women and little girls were dressed in colorful long skirts and bright scarves. The men sported white shirts with ruffles, cowboy-style boots and hats with ribbons that circled the stiff brims and fell over their shoulders.

The central figure was a lovely young girl with pitch-black hair that cascaded over her ample bosom and extended belly. She was as pregnant as I, but I felt very dowdy compared to her and envied the amount of attention that was showered upon her.

It was becoming obvious that she was closer to giving birth than I was, so when the admissions gal came out of her office I told her to go ahead and admit her first. The group was effusive in their thanks and we chatted away like old friends until it was her time to go upstairs.

Now it was my turn to be admitted and I asked the clerk if she knew who they were? She gave me a condescending look and then explained that they were “gypsies”. She advised me to keep an eye on my belongings “if I insisted on communicating with them.” Her superior attitude and bias really annoyed me and made me all the more anxious to continue my friendship with them.

As luck would have it the gypsy girl was in the room next to mine and we both had uncomplicated and easy births. When her baby was less than 8 hours old she brought him to my bedside and we laughed as we patted his perfect little head covered with black hair. We were both breast feeding and the nurses would bring our babies to us about every 4 hours.

I guess it was about 8 pm when she brought the baby to my room and I fell asleep shortly after she left. When I woke I was surprised to see that all the lights were on in the hallway. There also seemed to be a buzz of activity going on and I realized that they hadn’t brought my baby to me yet. “What’s going on?” I called to one of the nurses and she stopped long enough to say, “Your “friend” and her baby are gone but don’t ask me how she managed it. They just disappeared.”

I learned later that this was par for the course with the gypsy community. I enjoyed being part of the intrigue, however, and never did tell anyone that my gold watch, which had been on my bed-side table, had mysteriously disappeared that night, too

Monday, December 04, 2006


A Spike Jones concert was loud, corny, and irreverent. It was also hysterical and gave a much needed cause for laughter in the war-torn years of the ‘40’s. His orchestra, consisting of 12 to 16 talented musicians, played practically anything that made a loud noise, including cow bells, horns and whistles. A washboard was Spike’s musical choice.

His signature recording was “Cocktails for Two”, a romantically dreamy rendition of the song until he threw in sounds of hic-cups & clinking cocktail glasses. It was very funny but not my favorite.

I loved the way he murdered the classics and, particularly, his version of “The William Tell Overture”. (Da..dadum, Da..dadum, Da..dadum, dum, dum). He turned this serious classic into a frantic and corny horse race entitled “Girdle in the Stretch” and featuring the horse, “Feitlebaum”, who, against all odds runs the entire race as a distant last and suddenly surges ahead to win!

For those who have not heard it, here is a sample of the words being called as “The William Tell Overture” plays softly in the background: “It’s a beautiful day for the race. Stu Chan is the favorite today, Assault is in there, Dog Biscuit is three to one, Safety Pin has been scratched and at twenty-to-one: Feitlebaum. THERE THEY GOOOOOOOOO!...Cabbage is second by a head, Banana is coming up thru the bunch...and Feitlebaum…..etc., etc. Around the turn, heading for home, it’s Stu Chan and Dog Biscuit & Girdle in the stretch, Mother-In-Law nagging in the rear and, OH, OH, OH, here comes Feitlebaum and it’ll either be a photo finish or an oil painting...AND … THERE GOES THE’s FEITLEBAUM !!”

My other fond remembrance was listening to the Spike Jones orchestra one night as they were playing it fairly straight. All of a sudden a telephone rang and Spike halted the music. The stage was completely silent and we all listened as Spike said. “Hello…you don’t say. (pause) Uh, huh…you don’t say. (pause) don’t say! OK, goodbye” As soon as he hung up the phone the entire orchestra rose to their feet and yelled, “Who was it?”. “He didn’t say”, said Spike and they all sat down and proceeded to finish the song as if nothing had interrupted them!

I know...they are corny and slapstick and wouldn’t have a chance on today’s stage, but they were great fun in the 40’s and I thank Alan G. for reminding me of them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

TAKING STOCK … My Blogging Journey

Well it’s been 5 months since I first dipped my toes in to the “Blogosphere” pool, and it’s been a revelation. Early on I wrote an entry entitled “Why do I blog?” I explained that I would be logging 73 years of memories (my triumphs and my downfalls) and that I would then compile these in book form for my three children.

At that time I had no idea where the journey would take me. I felt like the gal in the picture, as if I were walking a tightrope between reality and a faulty memory. So I started to research my remembrances and it amazed me that so many of my recalls were accurate. I found that the more I delved into the past the more I remembered. I felt like an onion...peeling layer upon layer away...looking for the core.

As with any endeavor, I have become more adept at blogging. I am able to add pictures and link connections. But more important is the knowledge that I have something to offer to my readers. I am a reticent New Englander and it is not easy for me to share my innermost feelings.

However, I know that my journey is one of triumph over sorrow and that I can share this hope with those who, like me, thought there was none. I am gaining confidence with each new blog and, although it is an eclectic collection of remembrances, I intend to be as honest and open as possible in my posts.

I am very thankful that we have such a wonderful (and FREE !) venue for our thoughts. It has truly re-opened a vein of creativity in me that has been closed for years and, not least of all, it has given me a whole new family of cherished friends.