Archives for : August1954

If the Walls Could Talk

The end of summer always brings our annual block party. It began years ago when we first moved in. A few of us grabbed our chairs together during the last weekend of the summer and sat out front all together watching the kids play. The next year, we added food. After that, it snowballed. Now we have an annual coordinator and everyone looks forward to the fun. This year, Jane Caldwell was the coordinator and a group of us planned to meet early in the week at her house for the finalization of the assignments. The guys always take care of setting up all of the sawhorses at the ends of the street as well as tables, chairs, and the obstacle course. Jane’s husband was leading the man-crew. Michael Caldwell worked in some kind of publicity job for products. Jane and Michael’s children were a few years older than mine so they didn’t play together. Their son, Ralph, was a bookishly weird boy who stayed to himself usually. I remember one time that Daisy caught him “looking” at bugs on the sidewalk through his magnifying glass on a sunny day. She said that the bugs must not have liked it because they kept rolling over and going to sleep. Probably permanently. Their daughter, Claudette, was older than Ralph, and known to be kind of a bully to the little girls, sometimes mocking their baby doll games. Michael’s job must have paid well because they were all well dressed and lived stylishly. We were going to meet at Jane’s house to talk about the final plans. I walked down with Mags and Judy Anne. We rang the doorbell and when Jane opened the door, we all stood stock still. Her living room was green. Really green. Jane invited us in and we entered while passing glances between the walls and each other. Very, very green. We joined the other guests and started to discuss the plans.

Mags, Judy Anne and I were on the food committee, so we were able to report what everyone was going to bring to the table or grill. A couple of the men always set up a small space for three grills so that the hot food could be served near the tables. There was always a big spread of salads, jello, desserts, and sides. There would be tubs of cold soda from Friel’s and gallons of lemonade. There is a healthy competition among the women on our street in the food category and everyone always put out their latest specialty. New items weren’t always a hit, and old favorites disappeared quickly. Most of the planners left at the end of the meeting, but Jane asked if Mags, Judy Anne and I wanted to stay a little longer to talk. She offered us drinks, and Mags requested that whatever Jane was making, she would “make it a double.” I could tell that the green was getting to Mags. She stays up on trends, but couldn’t quire fathom that anyone would deliberately paint their living room this color. We enjoyed the drinks and talked about mundane topics for awhile. Jane was explaining why she was never available for our invitations to cards or shopping trips, since there always did seem to have been a unavoidable other event that she had to attend. It turns out that Jane had been working, part-time, as an intern at Madame Interiors. Jane wanted to become something called an interior decorator and help people decorate their homes for money. I chuckled a little but covered it with a cough. I thought that I was the one who was supposed to decorate my home. I can’t imagine anyone else telling me what kind of furniture to buy or what color to paint a wall. What a racket! We all wished Jane well and headed back down the sidewalk quietly.

I was so tempted to ask Mags about the green walls. The little devil that likes to start things that lives inside of me was behind the question. I knew that Mags didn’t approve, and she could probably make enough sarcastic comments to keep us laughing all of the way home. But she surprised me when she commented that Jane was smart. Mags said that Jane had figured out that women don’t always have all the answers when it came to houses. Our mothers acted like they did and we were expected to be able to do everything in the house expertly, but it wasn’t always the case. It was a thoughtful comment that stopped my twisted brain from moving forward. I did have times when I felt that I didn’t know how to do somethings around the house. Maybe Jane was on to something.

Long-Tailed Hero

Stevie Jr. arrived at the breakfast table in his usual outfit of late – shorts, two-toned horizontally striped shirt, and a coon-skin cap. I don’t believe that I’ve seen the top of his head for weeks. Stevie and his pals were all wearing these furry-tailed hats everywhere. This always prompted a dilemma at the table. Steve doesn’t think that males should wear hats at the table. Previously, Stevie would always take his ball cap off and hang it on the coat hook by the door when he came in to eat. This coon hat never left his head though. I’m not against young boys playing and dressing like heroes, but I didn’t want to turn Stevie into a miscreant by allowing him to do as he pleased either.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to choose my battles. When I was younger, I was well behaved and always listened to Mother’s directions. My teachers could always count on my for knowing the right answer and I always completed my lessons. I worked during the war like most young women; I thought it was fun to get paid to hostess at a club owned by a friend of the family, and learned how to do simple accounting by keeping up with the receipts for the business before my hostessing shift. I worked hard because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought maybe that I had short-changed myself by not continuing my education since I seemed to have a natural ability to keep the numbers in the right columns. Unlike anyone else, the owner counted on me and my business ability to help him run his club. Steve didn’t mind that I worked at the club, and he sometimes bragged that his “girl” had a more glamourous job than those who ended up in manufacturing plants. After we married, I left the club and started our family. I don’t remember discussing that decision; I think that I just didn’t want to start a battle about working instead of keeping house.

That’s why it hard to decide whether to tell Junior to take off the cap at the table. He likes it, and it looks cute on him. I looked at his face as I placed his breakfast of bacon and eggs in front of him. He looked up at me and smiled. That few seconds felt longer than normal. He looks more like Steve everyday. I turned to the icebox to pour a glass of milk and heard his chair scrape against the floor. I turned to see Junior placing his cap on the coat hook by the door. I poured his milk and placed the glass down in front of him. Junior ate his breakfast and then headed toward the back door. He grabbed his coon-skin cap, turned back to look at me, smiled and thanked me for the meal. Maybe playing and dressing like a hero is good for him. Or maybe he has learned how to pick his battles.

Girdles and Panels

Although I believe that good foundation is important, I have a secret that I have to share. I hate my panty girdle. I know, I know, it helps keep all those little bumps and lumps in check and holds up my stockings. I get it. But why does it have to be so uncomfortable. I feel the same way about my brassiere. Some hot afternoons, I take it off when working around the house. My breasts feel so much better underneath a smartly tied-up shirt. How did modern women ever get into this fix where we’ve restrained our working body parts? I’ve been reaching around to my back for a couple of decades hooking and unhooking brassieres as a daily duty. I even remember asking my mother when I would be allowed to switch from undershirts to a brassiere when I was younger. I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.

After several days of late summer heat, I decided to search for some undergarments that feel better. I left the kids with Gail and drove to Howlands Department Store to check out what was available. There was a very nice elderly lady in the foundation department who offered to “measure” me before I started trying on different pieces. Miss Alice led me to a back changing room and asked me to remove my dress. When she returned, Miss Alice used a measuring tape to take down every possible measurement on my breasts, sides, waist, hips, and torso. She was surprisingly pushy for an older lady and moved my arms into the air, out to the sides, over my head, and had me bend to the sides. I really couldn’t tell what she was measuring me for at that point, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she brought out full body armor for me to try on. Miss Alice wrote down all of the measurements and studied them for a moment or two before disappearing. What was I supposed to do at this point. I had no further direction, so I stood still while I listened to her moving boxes and opening drawers outside of the room. There were some indiscernible sounds that I chose not to try to decipher. Then there was an audible “Yes” and Miss Alice’s face reappeared through the curtains. Then her hand appeared dangling a lovely pale pink brassiere shaped unlike my normal conical-shaped undies. I took the brassiere and she disappeared again. I started to try on the brassiere after examining it. It didn’t seem as sturdy or heavy as my usual choices. I slipped my arms through and reached back to hook the eye. I turned to look at myself in the mirror while continuing to listen to Miss Alice hunt for something else outside the room. My breasts appeared to fit exactly into the cups and the sides of the brassiere laid flat against the sides of my body. It seemed comfortable. And it was pretty. When did they start making these things pretty. I’m not usually a pink undies kind of girl but I could be persuaded if a little bit of color made things more comfortable. Miss Alice returned with a pale pink panty girdle too. When I tried on the girdle, it fit smoothly over my hips and thighs. The fabric around the top of the legs was softer than my usual brand. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it was something that I would wear to a picnic, but it was a nice change. I smiled when I looked at myself in the mirror and felt embarrassed for a moment when I realized that Miss Alice was watching my reaction. I asked her what the secret was but she just moved her finger across her lips in a zipper fashion. Clearly, this was a woman who could keep a secret. I asked Miss Alice if she would sell me a couple of each of the undergarments and she smiled and started to leave the room to pack them up. Before leaving, she reached over and slapped my backside and told me that I needed to come in to see her more often so that she could keep me in well-fitting undies. I felt oddly chastised, like my grandmother had just reprimanded me.

At the counter, I noticed some very sheer stockings in the glass case. Miss Alice saw me checking them out and pulled out one of the hose so that I could feel the softness of the nylon. They were beautiful. I thought that Steve might enjoy seeing me later in my new outfit in a personal fashion show and asked Miss Alice to include a pair with my purchases. I thanked Miss Alice and started to leave the lingerie department. I might need to take Miss Alice up on her direction to stop back more often.