Here, There and Everywhere

When someone you love becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure!

My Father is in the Hereafter. But it’s Father’s Day and a day to think about him and all the kindnesses he did over the course of his lifetime. Dad’s my Daddy no matter where he is!

My earliest memories of him are somewhat foggy. They’re a combination of photographs I’ve seen, stories I’ve heard, and the actual happening of things. I recall being held by him, being encouraged to eat while in a high chair, sitting in a little (flimsy) car seat between he and my mother, and being carried upstairs to bed.

Now, whether my recollection is that of a five-year-old watching him lovingly care for my little sister doesn’t negate the fact that he did the same for me.

When I saw Mary Martin fly in the air on NBC’s 1954/55 TV production of Peter Pan, Dad began ‘flying me’ into bed. Soon after, he brought home the 33 RPM record, and my love of musicals began. Our entire family enjoyed them, and I think my aunt and cousins did as well because I’ve heard them recite, “Major-General” from Penzance, too. We’d spend hours learning the lyrics that Dad would find and print out for us.

Dad’s Sleeping Beauties

After I got too big for such shenanigans, it was fun to see him fly Andrea, five years my junior and a little lighter, down the hallway. He helped me to understand that it was important to be the big sister, and that new adventures awaited me. I didn’t appreciate his patience when it was shown toward me as a child, but as the years went by and I had sons of my own, I realized what an exceptional man he really was.

Mom and Dad took us everywhere – and made anything an ‘event.’ We brought easels to Washington’s Crossing, made up songs on long car rides, brought picnic baskets to museum grounds where we ‘climbed the rocks,’ sat on the lap of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park, pretended to lift huge anchors in Mystic Seaport, brought identification books to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Tuxedo Park, and little Kodak box cameras to the Bronx Zoo.

The Dr. Bronson Rose
My Dad’s name was Bron and his mother’s name was Rose

He was always there to record the times of our lives with his own Argus 35mm camera: ballet recitals, school concerts and plays, and of course holidays and birthdays. Dad taught us about perspective as he posed us to ‘hold’ one another or a building in the palm of our hand, and composition as we framed photos in the viewfinder without pressing the button (in the days of pricey rolls of film and before digital cameras).

Argus Rangefinder 35mm Camera
“The Brick”

I searched the Internet for the camera Dad owned in the 1950s. I picked it out immediately; I remember it so well. All the little gears, the self-timer lever there on the left side, the heavy substantial feel of it, and the range finder dial.

As I looked at the picture on-line, I could almost see it both in my Dad’s big hands, as well as in my own little ones. I see it on a tripod with the single flashbulb attachment and the little light meter hanging off the case. I hear the sound of the timer and the pop of the bulb which he sometimes had to rub on his sleeve to warm it up first.

And then I remember the magic. Dad turned the bathroom into a dark room and let me watch as he developed the film, enlarged the image and printed the picture. I watched with fascination as moments, frozen in time, appeared before my eyes when he sloshed the paper in the pan. Photos hung to dry on my mother’s clothesline that was stretched across the tub, and an eerie red light bulb made it all seem ‘otherworldly.’ I can still smell the chemicals when I think of it, and have never lost my love of black and white photography because of those days with Dad.

I took this one of Dad and Andrea, My Aunt Helen with Grandma and Grandpa

He enjoyed inventing and building things – stereos and models and cabinets and furniture and items to make my mother’s life easier. He built the most amazing headboard for me that was like a dollhouse, which kept me quiet while my baby sister slept and gave my mother a little break.

Andrea can attest to the fact that our Dad was the ultimate father (perhaps a penultimate) – one of the last of a generation that truly taught by example. He didn’t rely on teachers or television to instruct his girls; he took the time to explain, or show, or explore with us. He may have shown my sister how to use hand tools, but he taught me how to do paste-ups and mechanical art which helped to land my first real job as a desktop publisher.

1968

Today, June 2oth, is also my mother’s birthday, and so I must make mention of her amazing influence on my life as well. Mom and Dad were a team. Growing up with them was an adventure. Lest I paint an unrealistically rosy picture of my life, I will add that it had it’s ups and downs. But one thing I know with every fiber of my being is that my parents loved me just as much – if not more – than I loved them.

Oh, the memories are surfacing fast and furiously this morning, bringing a little tear of joy that, although Dad passed in 1986, I can still conjure up his voice, his image, and his love by spending a quiet moment and asking to be with him…

Peter where do you live?
PETER PAN: It’s a secret place.
Please, tell me!
PETER PAN: Would you believe me if I told you?
I promise.
PETER PAN: For sure?
For sure!
PETER PAN: Then I’ll tell you.
***
I have a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
It’s not on any chart,
You must find it with your heart.
Never Never Land.

It might be miles beyond the moon,
Or right there where you stand.
Just keep an open mind,
And then suddenly you’ll find
Never Never Land.

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that’s my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that’s my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.

Pick your battles

I wrote this blog a few years ago during the last election when my mother was still alive. I’m reblogging it from my other site because it fits in perfectly with the ‘Growing up in the 1950s’ series I’ve begun here, as well as what I feel about our current media and it’s effect on our society and our personal harmony.

The Caregiver’s Corner

I was talking to my sister Andrea yesterday about the election and what’s going on in the world. She’s been fortunate enough to live in a number of enviable places, including Europe, on a boat in the Caribbean, and now in an RV in the Pacific Northwest. Each of these locations limited her access to a lot of the TV shows and news reports (with the exception, perhaps, of the PBS News Hour), but she’s somehow always managed to keep on top of the important stuff.

Even though I’ve been firmly rooted in Central New Jersey, surrounded by hundreds of TV stations and unlimited access to the internet, I, too, have always tried to be really selective about what what I put into my head. I prefer not to hear about murders and mayhem, so I get my information from PBS, NPR, and W-QXR, our classical music radio station that broadcasts from New York (but with an app, can be heard from anywhere). I figure that if it’s important enough for them to report on a topic, it merits some attention. Then I go to other sources to educate myself further.

Neither of us can just passively swallow the news, no matter where it comes from.

PD_0001

Dad & Me

Perhaps it all stems from the fact that our Dad was in advertising, and was very aware of the subliminal messages that were coming across the airwaves in the 1950’s. He made this little box with a wire to the TV, and whenever a commercial came on, we’d push a button to mute the sound, or ‘blab-off,’ which was what we called the gizmo. I can’t remember many of the jingles from that time frame because I just never heard them.

PD_0002

Dad & Andrea 1956

Once in a while Andrea and I would sneak and listen to an advert, and it was as if we were doing something deliciously naughty. That’s the only reason I’m able to sing the Alka-Seltzer or Winston jingles, two products that were ‘verboten’ in our household. Doublemint, Chevrolet, and Brylcreem (‘a little dab’ll do ya’) were OK. We were safe with those products and wouldn’t be tempted buy them because we had a Mercury, Dad used Vitalis (no greasy kid-stuff for him!), and ladies didn’t chew gum in public.

Do people today realize that even if they are not actively listening to advertisements when the TV is only on ‘in the background,’ that the messages are invading their subconscious?  I am disgusted by all the pharmaceutical commercials that accompany evening television – advertisements that claim to ward off some of the ‘so-called’ unavoidable pitfalls of aging. My sister was lucky that she never really had to listen to all this!

We are bombarded with the promise of cures, tonics and creams for maladies ranging from wrinkles and osteoporosis to low-T and leaky bladder. We are exposed to topics that would never be discussed at the dinner table, and which are invited into our living rooms and given the best seat in the house! OB, ED, COPD, DM, AD, GAD, GERD, IBS, UTI – Do you understand these acronyms because I’m not going to spell them out for you. Depends won’t show, take the red pill, the little purple pill – but not together. And don’t call in the morning, unless the drug you took for anxiety makes you more anxious and maybe even suicidal, and one of the side effects might even be death and remember…we warned you about all this in that sweet-sounding voice when we showed you the couple watching the beautiful sunset with the lovely music in the background.  Sure, it sometimes made you laugh, but that was the whole purpose.

I can actually remember the day that we got our first television. It was delivered and promptly set up in the center of the living room, although there wasn’t much to watch in the afternoon. Turn the dial and almost every channel had a pattern with an awful sound accompanying it. I think I was mesmerized by Crusader Rabbit. The 17” portable Philco TV was a ‘freebie’ when you purchased a freezer. I recognized it from the ad on the Internet; it had that foldaway antennae. $599 seems a pretty steep price for 1956, especially when you consider that you can buy a comparable freezer today at Costco for about $179, and an even larger TV for less than the $159.95 shown here (and in color, too).

My grandparents probably had the very first TV in the neighborhood, and everyone came to their house on Friday nights to watch the wrestling matches from Madison Square Garden. The kids in the family (there were so many of us) got to munch on pretzels and drink orange or grape ‘pop,’ but the coke and ginger ale was for the grownups so they could add stuff to it. Funny how you don’t remember things, but then you see photos, and it all comes back to you. ‘Gorgeous George’ was the big thing (wrestler) back then, and I actually do remember seeing his blonde curly hair being shaved off on March 12, 1959 after he lost a match. I was about eight.

I digress. I was going to start talking about Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob and Clarabell and Shari Lewis – but I’ll save that for another time and another conversation. (Reminiscing about the past is such fun!)

The point that I’m trying to make is that we need to keep vigil over what we allow into our heads, our hearts, and our bodies.

Yes, we can get upset about terrorism and the Middle East, refugees and illegal aliens, the disparity between the rich and the poor, what’s in our water supply, how the food is tainted with chemicals and that the local Board of Education wants to spend almost $20 million to upgrade the air conditioning and heating systems in seven schools. (Is that even possible?) Or, we can realize that some issues will never be solved by us and are better left to people who are more equipped to handle them than we are.

We should use our energy and emotions to try to change things that legitimately bother us and personally touch us, rather than allow the ‘discord’ of the world to invade our personal peace (space), and possibly destroy our health. We can educate ourselves about candidates and vote our conscience. We can choose to buy local and organic produce and fight for GMO labeling laws. We can be charitable to those less fortunate than ourselves. We can sign petitions that we believe are worthwhile and call our senators to take action on our behalf. And we can use the mute button on the remote.

As Mandy Hale says, “Pick your battles. You don’t have to show up for every argument you’re invited to.”

(Yay!  When I read this to Mom, she remembered some of it!!!)

A new kind of caring

I was reading a blog earlier today by Jeff Goins.  He told how his daughter started making a fort at the playground, which inspired others to join her. At first, it was a single fort, but then the children branched out and made their own versions of what they thought one should look like. There was a little tussling, but they all got along well. 

“… I can’t help but wonder if what our world needs more of right now is a little less consumption or contention and a little more creativity.”

Jeff Goins

There was no date on his blog, but I suspect it was before social distancing began and the fear of COVID-19 invaded all we do. To say that 2020 has ushered in an era of separation would be an understatement. How long will we have to ‘self-isolate’ before we can return to some semblance of ‘normalcy?’  I feel privileged to have known the world differently than today’s children and young people, and that I lived through the years before computers and television and travel to the moon.

I believe that play is not something that we are born knowing how to do; others need to show us how to free up our imaginations and prime the pump of creativity. Give a child a lump of clay and he or she will roll endless worms and round shapes, but show them what can be done, and they will spend a whole day happily creating animals and things that were always in their mind’s eye waiting to be rediscovered. 

Jeff’s blog made me remember the first day of school vacation some time in the 1950s. I don’t know the exact year, but I was probably nine or ten. The long, hot summer stretched out in front of us, and we were excited to be allowed to stay out until dark. 

We already knew how to play hopscotch, tag and jump rope, but that night, my Dad became the Pied Piper of 41st Street by teaching us ‘city kids how to play.’ Dad grew up in Brooklyn in the 1920s, when many ‘stoop games’ were invented and improvised upon. There were no fishing holes to swim in, no squirrels to shoot, no trees to climb. Counting cars on street corners was the most exciting thing to do!

He showed us Statues/Red-Light-Green-Light, Box Ball, Red-Rover (Let me come over), (I declare) War, and a game similar to Twister, but played on the large squares marked off on concrete sidewalks. Every few evenings, he taught us a new card game and things to do with bottle caps, popsicle sticks, Yo-Yo’s and handballs. I looked forward to his homecoming, and so did the other children in our little corner of the world. He was my hero. 

Few people had air conditioning in the 1950s, at least not in our neighborhood of Sunnyside, New York. Adults would bring kitchen or folding chairs outside to escape heat trapped apartments and to sit in the small slices of shade created by tall buildings. 

My mother was a champion paddleball player.  We would have competitions to see who could hit the ball the longest, and she usually won. (She also excelled at Jacks and Pickup Sticks, board games like Checkers and my favorite, Fox & Hounds.) Tables were set up and young and old would play together.

Neighbors took turns bringing ice water to share. One might treat us to a plate of homemade cookies or a bottle of soda pop. Another might bring the day’s newspaper and section it out, or put a radio near an open window. 

I don’t remember anyone smoking cigarettes or drinking beer or wine or even coffee, but that is not to say they didn’t. No one swore, but I recall sometimes hearing a woman say, “not in front of the children!”  Decorum was strict. 

It was a local, American version of a practice that has taken place in small towns and large city squares for hundreds of years when people of many generations come together for companionship and sociability. In warmer climates, walking after supper, sitting in parks, on the steps of buildings and around fountains was an everyday occurrence, and an extension of the Living Room. 

The point was that the little babies, school children, young and old married couples, the singles, and the elderly formed a community of caring

Of course, there was always the corner pub where a man could have a pint and talk about the old days with his friends. Women might sit together and catch up on local happenings while watching the children at play in the park. Church events required people to work together on planning, organizing, decorating and cooking. People with similar interests could usually find others to spend time with enjoying hobbies ranging from stamp collecting to armchair travel and bird watching. These things could be done alone, but it was much more fun in the company of others.

It seems to me that we have been practicing seclusion for a very long time — even before our lock downs began. Our singular lives have deprived us of a rich heritage which has nothing to do with being in a family or a circle of friends. We sit in front of screens, talk to them, play with them, write letters and exchange pictures with them, give virtual hugs and emoticon kisses. 

So now, before the curve is flattened, while the numbers climb and our freedom is curtailed, we should consider how we’d like things to be when we emerge from our ‘caves.’  We’ve been discovering since March what’s really important to us, and learned new skills that we might not have tried if we didn’t face long stretches of time. 

Some of the last children conceived before COVID-19 are being born now. What kind of world will they find? The Great Generation is thinning out and although Boomers are still here, our memories of how the world was before technology will fade and one day be lost, too. 

Jeff Goins said in his blog that he “can’t help but wonder if what our world needs now is a little less consumption or contention and a little more creativity.”

We all need to think more creatively and come up with fresh, novel ways to ‘build our fort.’



This is the first blog of a series entitled, Growing Up in the 1950s.
I welcome your comments and memories as I try to weave the past and the present to come up with ideas for a future we can all be proud of!