Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Fur Flyers, New York city, 1963


This is about my friend Jimmi G.She was one of those who loved life and who grumbled about it constantly. She could swear like a sailor and often did so. To listen to one of her harangues was akin to being caught in a revolving could see the other side but it was almost impossible to get there ! Needless to say, she was an imposing character.

I met Jimmi just shortly after I met my husband. We were all living in NY City. She was dabbling in antiques and had been able to accrue a small nest egg. However, she was forever looking for new outlets for her creativity and in the early ’60’s she hit on an idea that took off like wildfire.

Jimmi took her accumulated cash and traveled through New England and the East Coast buying up vintage fur hats and coats. Many of them were missing buttons and some had even come apart at the seams. None of this discouraged her. She had an idea and to watch it come to fruition was exciting.

She came back to New York driving her old wooden-sided station wagon packed to the brim with fur items. She was a savvy buyer and had paid little to nothing for her purchases. Most people were happy to get rid of their musty, old outer wear and were thrilled to have made a dollar or two on the exchange.

The next thing on Jimmi’s agenda was a store front and she found the perfect thing on 8th St, near Greenwich Village. She named her store “Fur Flyers” and opened for business on a windy, Fall day. A good friend of ours was a writer for “The Village Voice” and he gave her a great send-off. Within days it was apparent that Jimmi’s store was the “talk of the town” and it became the “in” thing to be seen in a vintage item from “Fur Flyers”.

As I recall, Jimmi made 2 more trips out of town to gather merchandise, but, by Christmas time most of the inventory had been sold. In little more than 4 months she had made a small fortune and it was time to move on to new adventures.

Friday, April 22, 2022

An amusing Christmas gift ... 2006


This is a photo taken in 1936 of me (bottom left) and three of my four sisters. Only our middle sister Nancy, always the rebel of the family, was brave enough to actually refuse to be part of the photo.

You can tell that none of us wanted to have our picture taken and can almost hear the big sighs and read our secret thoughts … "you can make us pose but you can't make us smile."  

Fast forward to Christmas time 2006.  I had received a package from my oldest sister Mary (top right), now in her 80's.  I couldn't wait to open it because one thing you could count on with Mary was that her gifts would always be "one of a kind".  

It wasn't Christmas day yet but I couldn't wait.  The package held a nicely wrapped small box and I couldn't imagine what it could be. I tore off the paper and found a framed copy of the picture you see above. She'd had it beautifully framed and it came complete with a lovely card that read "Merry Christmas, Joy & Peace"

It's evident that old age had not robbed her of a good sense of humor and it still remains one of my favorite gifts.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

More memories ...

 The power of SMELL ... my first memory.

I have tried very hard to recall my early days but I honestly don’t know what I actually can remember as opposed to those things that were retold so many times in my family that they seem to be MY memories.

I am not able to go back much further than when I was 6 or 7 years old. The years before that seem to be lost to me….except for this amazing experience. I have heard that the primary sense is smell…and I can attest to that. When I was very young the whole gang of us went to Brattleboro, Vt. to visit my mother’s family. I know this is true because we have pictures to prove it and it is also recorded in my Aunt Emma’s diaries. I must have been 3 or 4 at the time and I have no conscious memory of that visit.

HOWEVER….many years later I became aware of a very strange smell…it seemed to be a combination of three odors…the pungent smell of new sawn lumber, the slightly gamey smell of lamb being roasted in the oven and the almost sickly sweet smell of maple syrup bubbling on the stove. I was immediately transported to the kitchen of my grandparents in Brattleboro. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch them...and I actually remembered being there. It was a swift but powerful memory and then it receded almost as quickly as it came..

The interesting thing is that Grandpa was a carpenter and had a shop and wood lathe in a large room off of the kitchen. They also had a “sugaring-off” business and would tap the maple trees and boil the sap into syrup on the wood stove in the kitchen.. The smell of lamb being roasted?? Perhaps that was the special meal being prepared for our visit.

Whatever it was, I have only smelled that combination three times in my 89 years and each time it has pulled me back to that warm and loving kitchen of my childhood.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Music Room


When I was ten years old our family lived in a 13 room, 3 story Victorian house in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The home was nowhere near as elaborate as it sounds. Seven of us lived there…my four older sisters and my parents, and we actually rented out two rooms (made into a very small apartment) to a local schoolteacher to make ends meet. It was a very “lived-in” abode with hand-me-down furniture and an air of hectic fun and chaos. This was true of all the rooms with the exception of one. We called it the “Music Room” and it was my favorite, especially in the wintertime, when the doors were closed tight (to save on heating) and the room became my private, if somewhat chilly, land of make believe. 

I used to sneak into the shivery half-darkness…a braided and scrubbed ten-year old hugging my arms tightly around me. I never turned on the lights. no matter how dark the winter’s day, and I would always sit in the same place…perched high in the exact middle of an austere Victorian loveseat.  Like the afternoon shadows my eyes sought out the objects in the room. The piano dominated the room, covering half the wall and wide enough to carry a Tiffany lamp, 3 stacks of sheet music, a violin and a clarinet atop it’s paisley shawl. It was the most ornate piano I have ever seen, each piece of wood carved and set into the gigantic black body. Even the legs were knobbed and curled into immense pedestals sturdy enough to carry the weight.

The rest of the objects in the room vied with the piano…the marble table tops turning pink from the reflection of the peach colored wallpaper, the leather book covers, the frosted light globe hanging by a “gold” chain and, best of all…two Victorian side chairs, my little “fat ladies” stuffed into flowered brocade, the dark scrolled wood curving into shoulders, short arms jutting at either side and the legs planted firmly apart on the floor.

When I was in the “Music Room” the everyday hustle and bustle of the rest of the house disappeared. I was a grand lady, a princess, at peace in my serene and elegant world. I would give a slight nod to the piano….the recital was about to begin !

Thursday, April 07, 2022

PTSD 1944

PTSD did not officially become a diagnosis until 1980 but I will never forget how it affected our lives one lovely spring evening in 1944.

This grainy picture is me, age 11, and Ron, one of the many British sailors that our family hosted during World War II. "Our boys" usually came in pairs but a few of them, like Ron, practically lived at our house and they would often come out alone ... hopping on the train just as soon as they had leave. This day he had arrived from Boston's naval yard where his ship was docked and I was the lucky greeter

Ours was a big family. 5 girls, my parents and many friends ...not to mention the sailors. On the night that I recall we were all gathered in the living room.  It was a hot night and we'd opened the window that looked out on the screened in porch in order to circulate the air.

Ron was the center of attention, sitting on the floor near the window and entertaining us with his news. All of a sudden a car backfired in front of our house. It was a very loud bang and we all flinched and covered our ears. Then, as we all came back to our senses, we realized that Ron was no longer with us. Where was he? What had happened?

My mother was the first to act and she rushed to the porch to find Ron crouched on the other side of the window, shivering and covering his head with his arms. He had instinctively jumped through the window to find safety and it had been so quick that we literally didn’t see it. When we realized what had happened our dad held us back and told us to stay where we were.

It was an hour before Ron and mother came back in and we tried our best to act normal and put him at ease. It was our first lesson in the horrendous unseen wounds of war but it would not be our last … and mother was always there to comfort the boys that we came to love.

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Aunt Emma ...

I have mentioned my Aunt Emma often over the years. She was from Brattleboro, Vt. and still alive when I was born in 1933. However the few times that I met her I found her to be uncommunicative and severe. After she died I was given 12 of her diaries and I couldn’t wait to read what she’d written. Maybe I would finally get to know my mysterious great aunt.

I knew that she was a spinster and a very frugal one at that; but I had no idea that her life was so devoid of enchantment or just plain fun. Page after page recorded nothing but the weather conditions for the day and the exact price of everything she bought but not much else of interest until … imagine my surprise when I read, in her diary of 1912: “I stood on my front porch and waved to President Taft as he rode by on the trolley.”

I couldn’t wait to research this and, sure enough, here is a picture of the trolly tracks and a caption that reads: “In the early years of the 20th century, the town built a trolly which traveled the length of Main Street and out Western Avenue to West Brattleboro.”

And here’s the big man himself speaking at a town just North of West Brattleboro. 

So I guess Aunt Emma had a special treat that day ... even if her New England stoicism made it hard for her to express it!