Friday, September 24, 2010

1957.………THE “BIG APPLE”

In 1957 I finally made it to 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 KEY-T 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. My resume and some good references opened the right doors 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.

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 and I’ve never trusted advertising since then!

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, September 20, 2010

WELLESLEY … High School, not College

1950 was the year that I (and my sister Peg) graduated from Wellesley High School. It was also the year that 13 of our classmates joined us for a weekend at the Chatham Crest on Cape Cod. It was our final fling !

The picture that you see was actually taken by a “Life” magazine photographer and used in an article on graduates living it up at the beach. The only thing was they got it wrong. They thought we were Wellesley COLLEGE students !

My friend Gayle (smack in the center of the picture with the Wellesley sweatshirt) sent this to me recently and I have to admit that I barely remember being there. But pictures don’t lie and I’m the 4th from the left on the couch and my sister Peg is the one on the other couch who is lying down and has a big grin on her face.

I guess we were a tame group compared to today’s youth but we managed to have just as much fun … and we always did it en masse !

Thursday, September 16, 2010

19th Century Greeting Cards

I don’t have a story to go along with these vintage cards but I found them in a drawer that I was cleaning out and thought you might enjoy them as much as I do.

They are all from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and date back to the 19th century. They were part of a collection entitled “Images from the Good Old Days”.

Each card is like a small work of art and although they make reproductions similar to these today they never seem to get the same unique coloration that was used back then. It (and the quality and weight of the paper used) is what makes these cards authentic and delightful.

It reminds me of my Dad who was a great romantic. He would often send cards like these to the love of his life ... my Mother ... and he never apologized for his sentimental devotion. To me that’s the definition of a “real man”.

Monday, September 13, 2010

“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” … to hate

In 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein produced a musical called “South Pacific”, starring Mary Martin. It became a hit but received much scrutiny for its commentary regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups. Some legislators actually implied that interracial marriage was an implicit threat to the “American way of life.”

I would like to believe that things have changed since 1949 but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Hatred and prejudice (lightly veiled under the guise of religion) are rampant and escalating in these United States of ours. A look at that idiot “minister” from Gainseville tells it all. (Not to mention what is being espoused by the right wing politicos.)

In the musical the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” is preceded by the lyric saying “racism in not born in you! It happens after you’re born”. I still get chills when I hear this sung ...

“You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Was I ever this young????

The year was 1956. I was 23 and just two years out of BU with a Bachelors in Journalism. I had worked for a short while in an Advertising Agency and a year as a promotional writer for WWNY Radio in Watertown, NY, but I was getting itchy feet and decided to head to California.

Coming from the East Coast was a huge plus back then and I’m sure it played a large part in my getting an interview at KEY-T television station in Santa Barbara and then actually landing the job. The picture above accompanied the press release which read:

Colin M. Selph, President & General Mangager of KEY-T has appointed Virginia Lee as Advertising & Promotion Manager of the station. Miss Lee, formerly with Shattuck, Clifford & McMillen Advertising in Boston and WWNY in Watertown, NY will head up KEY-T’s trade press advertising and publicity, sales promotion and agency contacts.

When I read that in the paper I realized I was in way over my head but, with the hubris of youth, I figured I could fake it. Actually these were the very early days of TV and the station was just getting off the ground so in a way we were all undergoing a learning experience.

In the long run it didn’t make much difference since Mr. Selph got an “offer he couldn’t refuse” and he sold the station within the first year that I was there. The new owners brought all their own people so that left a bunch of us without jobs ... but the time spent there was definitely not a loss.

That short stint at KEY-T really beefed up my resume and helped to pave the way for my next BIG stop ... New York City !

Sunday, September 05, 2010

ARTHUR FIEDLER & the POPS…1950 & 1964

I was twice privileged to see Arthur Fiedler conduct the famous Boston “Pops”.

The first time was at Boston’s Symphony Hall in 1950. In those days the Hall had two faces. During the Symphony Season it would be very conventional but as soon as that was over the seats and risers were removed and small tables and chairs, reminiscent of the type that you might see at a curbside Bistro, were packed in.

I was 17, on a first date with a College man (sigh) and attending the opening concert of the 65th season of the Boston Pops. Who could ask for anything more?

As soon as Arthur Fiedler came to the podium a roar of approval erupted from the audience. He gave a low bow of thanks and then took up his baton. The lights were lowered, the talking ceased and the concert began. It was a typical “Pops” evening filled with semi-classical music and a few lighter pieces.

What really impressed me was that, at the end of each number, instead of going offstage, Arthur Fiedler took a seat up front on the stage and beamed at us, while waitresses collected orders for wine, or lemonade. Then he would stand up...our signal to stop talking...and the next segment would begin.

My second “Fiedler adventure” was again in Boston and this time at the famous Hatch Shell. This is an outdoor concert venue adjacent to the Charles River. The performances are free and there is no formal seating...just a large expanse of grass where the audience spreads blankets and sets up portable chairs.

This time it was 1964 and my husband, some friends and I had spent the day sight-seeing in Boston. We were thrilled to have chosen a day when the Boston Pops would be performing. Once again I was able to listen to and watch the amazing performance of Arthur Fiedler and his beloved “Pops”.

In 1991 the Shell underwent a final significant renovation. It is a “must-see” on any Boston trip and is the site of a memorial to Arthur Fiedler...a fitting tribute to the first permanent conductor of the Pops.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The joy of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

I started attending AA meetings in June of 1989. I was the embodiment of the newcomer … angry, confused and not at all happy to be there. But I DID stay sober and little by little I started to thaw. I opened my mind. I learned the art of listening and I came to love the meetings.

A phrase that you hear very often in AA from newcomers is “how long will I have to go to these darn meetings?” and the stock answer is “only until you enjoy them!”

And now it is 21 years later and I am still enjoying them. We are a group of men and women who would probably not mix otherwise but staying sober is our only goal and that is what binds us.

Today’s meeting was especially good. It was led by a woman in her sixties who has just passed the one year mark in AA. She spoke of the many changes in her life and how her husband is so supportive and loves the “new” person that she’s become. They’ve been married for many years but he says it’s like getting his bride back!

He also told her to be sure and read her Horoscope for that day. She liked it so much that she brought a copy to share with us. It reads: “You think you have changed your life but life has changed you. You are proud of your accomplishments but your accomplishments have made you who you are today.”

I love that … and was pleased to learn that it was the Horoscope for Aquarius, since that’s my sign too !