Thursday, August 31, 2006

1945 ... “Vacation From Marriage”, aka “Perfect Strangers”

I have tried everything, over the years, to recall the title of a wonderful World War II movie set in London. It wasn’t until I read about a similar situation at Alan G’s excellent blog, Some Final Thoughts, that I was able to track it down.

I, too, went to TCM, registered and posted my question. Within 24 hours a nice lady named Annie had the answer for me. Isn’t this computer age a wondrous thing? And, to go back even further…it was due to something that Terri wrote on her blog, Island Writer, that prompted Alan to pursue his quest! It’s just one big line of communications.

Now, to the movie. It features Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a young married couple in London. Their marriage has become a dull routine. I remember the husband, Robert, as a lackluster accountant and his wife, Catherine, as a slovenly housekeeper with a constant cold. They have been married for 5 years and, with the advent of World War II, he is drafted into the Navy. Rather than stay at home she decides to serve also and they spend the next 3 years apart.

The rest of the movie chronicles those years. Robert is wounded and falls in love with his nurse and Catherine (who no longer suffers from a cold) has become very attractive and is being pursued by an admirer. After three years of writing the couple finally get a leave at the same time and prepare to reunite. They both have it in their minds to dissolve the marriage and, although they are surprised and pleased with the changes that they see in each other, it comes very close to that.

Robert and Catherine argue violently and he storms off. She proceeds on to their old flat and finds that a bomb has taken out one wall. Robert enters at this point...expecting to pick up a few things…and sees Catherine. She is gazing through the open wall at the devastated city and they talk of the rebuilding that it will take to bring London back to where it was before the war. It becomes a metaphor for their own lives and they agree to try anew.

OK, so it’s a “Chick-flick”...but it’s a very good one. It was produced and directed by Alexander Korda and written by Clemence Dane, who’s original story won an Academy Award.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

“KNOW YOUR MESS” …..1983

My son, Mark, at age 24, wrote this ode to his Dad,
entitled “Know Your Mess”.

“My father’s workshop…a busy space,
But so many tools out of place.

Tools smeared by oil, others by grease,
Some should be labeled ‘rest in peace’.

Hammers hang longing to drive the spikes.
He leaves us room for broken bikes.

Slew of tiny screws, stack of wood,
Things he might use, things he never would.

My mother, his love, can’t understand
All of these things without a plan.

She brings ‘it’ up and he says “yes”,
But never has time to plan the mess.

He asks for a wrench, I hear of cost,
He always knows when they are lost.

Then he asks me for the pliers,
I think I saw them by the tires.

But he knows just where they are,
He had to look some, none too far.

It takes a man years to know his mess,
Where all his tools lie, more or less.

My father’s work shop, lots of space,
And every tool, he knows it’s place.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I was three years out of college in 1957 and my feet were itching to get where the action was…and in those days it was New York City. I already had three jobs under my belt (a short stint with an Ad Agency in Boston, 6 months at WWNY radio station in Watertown, NY and over a year at KEYT TV in Santa Barbara, Ca.) and felt I was ready to compete.

I found an affordable room at the Ferguson (a hotel for women only) on the upper East side and started my search for a job. I had good references and within a week I was working for WABC radio.

This was a very shaky time for that industry. The stations were losing audiences by the droves, as TV was just cresting on the horizon, and WABC was making a last ditch stand with their promotion, “Live and Lively Radio”. My job was to write promotional material aimed at selling time on the live shows. We had “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club”, out of Chicago and the NY based “Jim Reeves Show” and “The Merv Griffin Show”.

Our studios were on West 86th St. and we were in a constant state of turmoil. We were either writing a proposal, presenting one or re-doing it. This was where I learned that it is possible to manipulate facts and figures to say what you want (inferences, leaving things out, etc.) and I’ve never trusted advertising since then!

I found a great way to save money during that time. Our bosses (all men, by the way) had expense accounts and they would gladly include me in their “business” lunches. I would eat to my heart’s content and not worry about food for the rest of the day…great on the pocketbook and the waistline.

A lot happened during my 3 years at WABC. I moved to Tudor City, near the UN, met my husband and married in 1958 and finally left the job when our first child was born in 1959. (That’s a pregnant me in the picture above). Live radio shows were destined to fail, especially when NBC TV came out with color, but at least I had my small bite of the Big Apple while it was still ripe and juicy.

Monday, August 28, 2006

COLLEGE BREAK, 1952...First trip to California

When I was between my Sophomore and Junior years in college I spent the summer break in California. A classmate and I traveled there from Massachusetts by Greyhound and I will never forget that long, l-o-o-o-ng bus trip. There were many stops but only two of them gave us enough time to shower and wash our hair.. Gayle and I decided we’d “beat the system” and save 25c in the bargain. . We crowded together in one booth…vying with each other for every drop of precious water. The only problem was that the booth had a door that reached only half-way to the floor & the attendant saw our four legs. We ended up paying the full price after all!

The trip took 5 days and by the time we landed in Los Angeles our ankles had swollen to twice their size and we could hardly walk. We were met by my beautiful slim sister and her handsome Danish husband. They looked like an advertisement for the good life in California, as compared to us, the pasty complexioned and fat relatives from the East.

An active day or two got us back to our normal selves, however, and we did manage to get jobs as waitresses in the historic Pierpont Inn, in Ventura, overlooking the ocean. (In the photo that’s Gayle (on the left) and me in our waitress garb.) It was hard work. We were taught to carry the big trays, loaded with food, balanced on our shoulder. By the end of the summer my right arm was actually larger than the left. But, the ambience and the clientele were delightful and the tips were plentiful…enough to enable us to fly home!.

A memorable Pierpont moment was the night that I had Rory Calhoun as a customer. The Pierpont was often visited by celebrities but it was seldom that I had a chance to wait on them…they were usually assigned to the older waitresses. Rory was dressed in his usual outfit…white cowboy boots, white pants & fancy white shirt. I emphasize the “white” because it was hardly that after I spilled chilled gazpacho on it. I tripped and upset a whole tray of the tomato-based soup into his lap. What a gentleman he proved to be. He insisted that I remain as his waitress and left me a huge tip!

That was truly a magical summer…hard work, sun, sand, ocean and my first chance to explore this amazing country of ours.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


In 1950 the Jergens Co. chose neighbors of my grandparents in Brattleboro, Vt. to be the poster family for one of their magazine advertising series. It was entitled “Four Youngsters to Feed, Daily Housework & Chores on her Vermont Farm”, and depicted the faithful and ever dutiful-wife Bertha, husband Herman and four children.

I don’t have the pictures but I do have the script and it is incredible to see how we were back then. To illustrate:

Ad #1. (Bertha gazing dreamily into camera). “My secret for pleasing Herman is always to be cheerful and prettied-up when the day is done. I take a shower, put on an attractive dress, fresh makeup and, of course, Jergens lotion in case we might hold hands across the table.”

Ad #2. (Bertha with daughter) “Mary and I love to wax & polish and it doesn’t bother my hands at all because Jergens lotion keeps them so smooth & soft. Herman says they look as if I were a lady of leisure”.

Ad #3. (Berth washing dishes) “Those hungry wolves of mine make every meal a production, but I don’t mind the dishes. Jergens lotion gives my hands a ‘never put them in water’ look. I keep a bottle in the kitchen”.

Ad #4. (Whole family seated for dinner. Bertha & Herman holding hands across the table and gazing into each other’s eyes.) Herman beams at Bertha and gives her Jergens-soft hand an extra squeeze that seems to say, “We’re just about the happiest couple in the world, aren’t we?”

The 1950’s…….a wondrous time…when a bottle of Jergens’ lotion, and lots of hard work and blind devotion on the wife’s part, could solve all our problems ! And guess what? I bought into it…lock, stock & LOTION.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Wondrous Read……..”The Kite Runner”

I am an eclectic reader. I have never relied much on “best seller” lists and, because I buy most of my books from the thrift shops or yard sales, I am usually a year or two behind the current trend. This doesn’t bother me as I get a kick out of buying a hard cover book for 50 cents instead of the original $24.00. (Remember, I am a New Englander by birth...not cheap, just thrifty!)

I have just finished “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. It was published in 2003 and the story is eerily current with today’s headlines. The story teller is an Afghan named Amir and he traces his life from his boyhood in a peaceful Kabul to his present life in America.

My immersion into Amir’s life was total. I could hardly put the book down. It is a haunting novel, written so poignantly, and I ran the full gamut of emotions while reading his words. I don’t want to ruin it for the next reader, so I won’t give the whole plot; but, basically “The Kite Runner” takes us from 1975 to the present day, describing the tensions and age-old battles between the warring factions of the mid-east. I came away with a much better understanding of the futility and hopes of the region and of the people who struggle there every day...their loves, their joys and their desperation.

In the last chapter Hosseini writes; “When spring comes it melts the snow, one flake at a time and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.” I will remember those words and the rest of the story for a long, long time.

Friday, August 25, 2006

My Alaska trip....….a hodgepodge of memories

The long layover in Chicago passed very quickly after I struck up a conversation with 2 young gals from Oklahoma, Hippie-Chick and Tater. They were fun-loving, free souls on vacation from their jobs on the magazine “Planet Biker”. They couldn’t have been nicer and I loved sharing their escapades and plans for the future.

I was visiting my niece Paula and her family in Alaska. Her mom (my sister) Peg and husband Clif were there too so it was a type of family reunion. The second night I was there we all attended a “goodbye gig” at the "Organic Oasis" in Anchorage. Their son Matt’s 7-member band, The Emeralds, was breaking up after 9 years...all of the members heading off to College with the exception of Matt who has one more year to go in High School. They are an amazingly talented group and have become quite well known in Alaska, even producing 2 CD’s. It was a thrill to be present for their big farewell. Matt is an outstanding fiddle player, as is his brother Jamie and it was fun to listen to them improvise at home with their dad.

Peg, Clif and I did an overnight in Seward. We took a 6 hour boat tour of Resurrection Bay and marveled at the wildlife… Otters, whales, seals, puffins and eagles. The highlight came when we drew within yards of the Holgate glacier, listening to the loud “Cr-r-r-ack” deep within the glacier and the resulting break-off of ice. We returned to shore just in time to watch the weighing-in of the day’s catch. One halibut was almost 300 lbs.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center brought us eye-to-eye with black and brown bears, Grizzly‘s, Wood Bison, caribou, moose, musk oxen and lynx. The Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum were fonts of information about the culture, traditions and history of the Alaskans present and past.

A random drive around Anchorage led us to an imaginative garden that a lady had designed using discarded autos and all sorts of “junk”. It was right in the heart of the city, next to a dumping area. I couldn’t resist having my picture taken there.

We lucked in to 3 balmy days of the 5 that I was there and the hospitality was outstanding. Thank you Paula, Peter, Matt & Jamie.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Robinson Jeffers' TOR HOUSE & HAWK TOWER, Carmel, CA.

I’ve just finished reading the fascinating autobiography of Ansel Adams, the famous photographer of the early twentieth century. Among his many eccentric friends was the poet Robinson Jeffers. Adams considered him a genius who “produced much of America’s greatest poetry.” It was fortuitous that they both lived out their final years in Carmel, California.

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) and his beloved wife Una (1884-1950) fell in love with the unspoiled beauty of the Carmel,Big-Sur coast south of California’s Monterey Peninsula and it was there that he built Tor House and Hawk Tower. It became the refuge of the couple and their twin boys and was where he wrote his most memorable poetry.

In January of 2001 I was visiting friends in San Carlos, Ca. and we made reservations to tour the Jefferson home. (They open two or three time a week for very small tour parties.)

We actually had a hard time finding the property. I knew that it had been built on a barren and windswept promontory, overlooking the ocean …so it was a shock to find that the property has been practically over-run by multimillion dollar estates. But it was still very impressive, as you can see by my photographs.

Jeffers had the help of a contractor to build his cottage “Tor House” modeled after a Tudor barn in England; but, “Hawk Tower”, he built himself. On both of these he used sea-worn granite boulders that he pushed up from the beach. He also placed pieces of rock and stonework, collected by friends from around the world, into the foundation.

The house has been maintained exactly as it was and still contains the Steinway piano that Ansel Adams refers to in his book. Jeffers was a recluse and it was up to his wife Una to “screen” the visitors until she felt they passed muster. It wasn’t until Adams played some pieces by Bach that Jeffers thawed and a friendship ensued. They became fast friends and it was Ansel Adams who initiated the Robinson Jeffers Foundation, which oversees the property to this day.

The 40-foot tower was a delight. He built this as a hide-away...a study on the ground floor where he did most of his writing and a room above for Una to enjoy the view of the ocean. A “secret” staircase connects the two rooms. It is so narrow that I had to put my left shoulder ahead of me and “slink” up the steps. It was a tight fit but I made it. My friends preferred the staircase that curved around the outer walls ...but we all ended up at the same place. The view from the top of the tower was exquisite...and, as I sat on the stone ledge, I thought of the man who had built this tower as a gift for his wife.

“I built it with my hands. I hung stones in the sky.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dueling Ducks.............1964

In 1964 my husband and I and our three children were living in New York City. We would take regular trips to the country and on one of these jaunts we fell in love with a lakefront property with a large home and boathouse.
We loved the city but felt that the children would be better served in the country, so we bought that property and made the transition to "small town, USA".
It was a culture shock, to say the least, but we loved the sounds and sights of the lake. In many ways it was actually noisier than the city. The night critters kept up a constant hum and during the day we would watch all sorts of water fowl and other wildlife.
We thought we were attuned to these sounds until one Spring morning when we were awakened before dawn by a strange, loud noise. It was difficult to place where it came from. It sounded very much like the rustling of many newspapers.
As the dawn brightened we were able to discern three ducks in the water very close to shore. Two of the ducks were fighting...the thrashing of their wings and their bodies colliding were producing the strange rustling sounds. The other duck was at a discreet distance...aloof to the whole sordid affair and we finally deduced what was happening. Obviously these were two male ducks fighting for the attention of the fair, feathery maiden. We watched in amazement as the battle played out and finally one of the ducks gave up and skulked off. The duck-duel was over and the winner could claim his prize.
I don't know what we expected at this point...perhaps a tender touching of bills or a graceful encircling of two ducks in ecstasy. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The male duck swam behind the female and proceeded to prod and nudge her on her feathered rump. He was anything but gentle as he proceeded to push her along toward the middle of the lake for one and all to see. "After all", he seemed to be saying, "I am the conqueror and to the conqueror go the spoils........"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Kid in Upper 4

In my July 27th Blog I wrote of the strange meeting that I had with an old friend and co-worker of my fathers. He had actually been at the hospital when I was born and was the inspiration behind the World War II advertisement for the New Haven Railroad called "The Kid in Upper 4". (I mistakenly called it "The Kid in the Upper Bunk" in my blog.)
I have since found a picture of it and will show it here along with the text.
"The Kid in Upper 4"

"It is 3:42 a.m. on a troop train.
Men wrapped in blankets are breathing heavily.
Two in every lower berth. One in every upper.
This is no ordinary trip. It may be their last in the U.S.A. till the end of the war. Tomorrow they will be on the high seas.
One is wide awake ... listening ... staring into the blackness.
It is the kid in Upper 4.

Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things - and big ones.
The taste of hamburgers and pop ... the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway ... a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.
The pretty girl who writes so often ... that gray-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station ... the mother who knit the socks he'll wear soon.
Tonight he's thinking them over.
There's a lump in his throat. And maybe - a tear fills his eye. It doesn't matter, Kid. Nobody will see ... it's too dark.

A couple of thousand miles away, where he's going, they don't know him very well.
But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.
And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.
With new hope, peace and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.

Next time you are on the train, remember the kid in Upper 4.
If you have to stand enroute - it is so he may have a seat.
If there is no berth for you - it is so that he may sleep.
If you have to wait for a seat in the diner - it is so he ... and thousands like him ... may have a meal they won't forget in the days to come.
For to treat him as our most honored guest is the least we can do to pay a mighty debt of gratitude.
The New Haven R.R."


The classic Grant Wood painting “The American Gothic” was exhibited for the first time in 1930 at The Art Institute of Chicago. It was awarded a prize of $300 and brought the artist instant fame.

The painting depicts a stoic Iowan farmer gazing unflinchingly at the viewer. His daughter, eyes averted, appears to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. It was painted during the Depression and many believe that the painting illustrates the strength and resolve that was needed at that time to simply survive. Others believe that Wood was satirizing the culture of the mid-west, an accusation that he denied.

“The American Gothic” has become a part of our popular culture and the couple has been the subject of many parodies…ranging from Mad magazine, Disney characters and even a picture of Paul Newman and his daughter (advertising their food stuffs).

My family became part of this dubious group when we enacted our spoof in 1972. Granted (no pun, intended) we added three children to the scene but the basic idea was the same. The pitchfork, by the way, was for real!

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Peanut Necklace from the 1939 World’s Fair

Every time I hear the resonant tones of “Finlandia”, by Sibelius, I am transported back to the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, NY. I was only 6 at the time and I don‘t remember how we got there or what we ate or even much of what we saw. But certain memories have stayed with me over the years

I recall standing in a long line in front of the Planter‘s Peanut exhibition. They were giving away necklaces with a little peanut attached (see the picture above) and I made everyone wait until I had mine. I have never seen another like it and wonder if this was the original Planter’s trademark before the little peanut guy of today with the cane and top hat.

"Progress" was the theme of the Fair which depicted futuristic techniques such as television and the interstate highway system. It introduced new materials, new ideas and a new spirit. It also displayed the crafts and products of the day. It was a “vision of tomorrow” which sadly came to an end when it was announced over the loudspeaker that we had declared war on Germany and the Fair was closed down.

The most indelible memory for me was the Pool of Industry. This was the famous musical fountains display. It contained 1,400 water nozzles, 400 gas jets with a mechanism that caused the flames to change color and fireworks that were shot from over 150 launchers. Music was played live by the fair’s band and broadcast by large speakers.

Each night, as the sun went down, the crowds would gather at the pool. This was the finale of the day. I remember being hypnotized by the haunting strains of “Finlandia” as the enormous jets of water sprayed rainbow colors higher and higher into the sky. This was all topped off by a barrage of fireworks. A nighttime spectacle almost too grand for one little girl to absorb.

Friday, August 11, 2006

FLIGHT UPDATE...........

Hello everybody....I flew out of Alaska late Wed. evening and arrived in Chicago at 9am Thursday...only to find the airport in a very tight security lock-down. It was quite scary, but fascinating to be so close to it all.
I did have toothpaste and hand lotion in my large carry-on purse but, by the time I hit Chicago they were banning any substance such as that except in the luggage that was checked. I heard many people talk of throwing that stuff out...rather than trying to pack it.
I had a 3 hour wait until my connecting flight to Albany, NY. Listening to the chatter and watching the increased precautions and hearing them over the loud speakers...really made me aware of how the rest of the world lives daily. It is certaily a wake-up call.
The rest of my trip will be by car and I should be back home in North Carolina by the
I've enjoyed checking the BLOGS whenever I got the chance...WE'RE EVERYWHERE !!
PS: The picture is an old postcard of Bangall...a little town next to where my daughter and son-in-law have their antique shop. The shop is called "Bowen Barn" and is on Rt 82 in Stanfordville, NY...if you ever get to that area.