Friday, February 28, 2014

Downright Scary

You may remember the scary invitation to a February birthday luncheon from a retirement residence I'd never heard of?  Then yesterday I logged on to my checking account to find a cordial Happy Birthday greeting from J. P. Morgan Chase.  The answering machine holds best wishes from the guy who sold me a new car last week (smallest four-door I could find and it comes in yellow.) 
And I finally decided to complain to you when I pulled up my email to face the lovely cake shown below with greetings from "your Allstate agent."
I suppose, come to think of it, this has probably happened to all of you.  Though when I took the income tax stuff to the CPA, he bragged that clients complain they can't even find him on the Internet, and he intends to keep it that way.  Quite an achievement! If true.
Anyhow, I stole these from dozens of warnings available on Google:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tickling the Ivories

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out why a friend was wishing me a Happy Piano Birthday.
Think about it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Golden Age of Higher Education

From that bottom drawer again – yellowed copies of the Syracuse Daily Orange, the paper on which we honed our professional skills at one of the country’s top journalism schools.  Three headlines in the picture I just snapped, no by-lines--if the editor awarded you a cherished by-line in those days, you felt you were half-way to a Pulitzer.

     Anyhow –left-hand article is a report that the University just enrolled a record number of freshmen – pretty good in the middle of a war with ten million college-age men overseas.  The headline on the other side lists the faculty members recently appointed to the University’s War Records Committee. 
     And the larger headline,  in between, says that “Coeds will be told “Your Appearance Counts!” [note the exclamation point] by Miss Gladys Bliss in a lecture tonight at 7:30 in 104 Slocum.  All interested students are urged to attend the lecture tonight…The importance of good grooming to economic welfare, to home and social life, and to morale will be stressed by the speaker."
     We had no powerpoint in those days – were there even overhead projectors yet? But we were assured that “Illustrating her lecture will be charts displaying a range of subjects from facial contours to actual textile fabrics…the lecture will stress the care of the skin, the art of proper make-up, hand care, personal care, hairstying to facial contours, and the selection and use of perfumeMiss Bliss was invited to the University as part of the course in personality development and euthenics classes in the College of Home Economics.”
     Sorry, you were just born too late.  Today I suspect you’d search in vain for a university-level credit course in personality development, never mind euthenics. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Don't you know there's a war on?

That was the standard retort to most any complaint in the early 1940s .  It's true the continental U.S. wasn't attacked, but just the same, we had a pretty total war here on the Home Front.  As it happens, I've never found a novel or a movie that talks about that aspect of World War II -- wartime life at home.  But for instance -- last week before I eighty-sixed my '44 Syracuse yearbook, I tore out a page showing some of the University's freshman class. 
               If you look closely, you can find one guy. 
                      Don't you know there's a war on?
 I'm the one with the high and lopsided example of the hairstyle we called the pompadour.  As I recall, I gave it up right after I saw this picture.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Remains of the Night

Grandson up from Manhattan insisted that snow was no excuse for omitting the after-dinner fireworks last night.  Great view through the livingroom windows.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

For those of you who have been in suspense since I received that mysterious invitation to a February birthday luncheon at a retirement community out in Penfield -- yes, they did serve cake.  The entertainment was terrific and a good time was had by all.  The woman in charge was intrigued by my wondering how they knew about me, never mind when my birthday was, and took the trouble to look it up and send me an email.  She got the information from the Town of Webster Seniors Database.  As it happens, I've never had anything to do with the Town of Webster Seniors, or for that matter with the Town of Webster at all.  Big Brother is certainly out there watching us these days.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shirley Memories

In the 1930s, Shirley Temple was probably the most famous person in the world.  Depression or not, whenever a new Shirley Temple picture opened – and they’d have her making two or three per year -- my mother took me and my little sister in to Town on the Elevated.  ( Boston, built on a swamp, didn’t fool around with subways.)
     Shirley Temple pictures were shown at The Metropolitan, a huge midtown movie palace full of lofty halls, archways, wide impressive staircases, and lots of gilding and red velvet.  In the various rooms and corridors, as we made our way to the auditorium, I once counted five grand pianos. The show, which always started with a newsreel, included a stage show –  dancers down there doing boring formations on the brightly-lit stage.
    But the movies!  Never, as I remember, was there any double feature with Shirley Temple, no additional B movie needed to bring us in.  She was a fine actress, and they started mining standard children’s books for stories.  I was only two years older than she was, completely spellbound by the plots, which like most good children’s classics more or less eliminated the parents.  There was often a gruff old curmudgeon, the child’s grandfather or a wealthy neighbor, to be won over by adorable little girl --which she was -- in time for the happy ending.
By the time I was 10, though, I began to resent the way screenwriters mangled the classics. “Heidi” wasn’t all that bad, but Kipling’s “Wee Willie Winkie” was supposed to be a BOY, for Pete’s sake.   And how did that tap-dancing, and the wheelchair-bound Queen Victoria, get into “The Little Princess”?  And where was the original title, “Sara Crewe”?
I remember only a single birthday party during the 1930s.  My folks had other things to worry about, and I had little chance to make friends:  I went to kindergarten in Lowell, first grade in Buffalo, skipped (they did that in those days) second grade, third grade in Lynn, fourth grade in Malden, eighth grade in Everett, ninth grade in Penn Yan, tenth grade in Rochester, don’t ask!

That party was in Malden, for my tenth birthday,
and the gifts were just what I’d hoped for -- a  box of Pick-Up Sticks (they cost 10 cents) and not one but two books of Shirley Temple paper dolls!  It took days to cut out the dolls and the dresses with those tricky little folding tabs.
I still remember one dress with a wide full skirt because I had a copy of that dress and so did my little sister – the only time we ever wore sister dresses.
My cousin in Maine had a blue glass Shirley Temple mug, which came as a premium inside a box of Wheaties.  Only the one rich cousin in Buffalo, though, ever had a Shirley Temple doll.
The 30’s were a great time for little girls – we had not only Shirley Temple to obsess about, but also the Little Princesses in England, and in Canada, the Dionne Quintuplets.  Without any resort to Google, I can still tell you their names – the strong ones were Yvonne and Annette, who were identical;  Cecile was sort of in the middle; Marie and Emilie were the frailer ones (and, years later, the first to die.)
My friend Dottie’s family drove, one summer during the 1930s, up to Callendar, Ontario.  The Province had taken the quints away from their French Canadian family and set up a playground hedge through which tourists could view the tots at play 
Dottie said they were really cute.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


                                 I feel like Mother Hubbard.

Friday, February 7, 2014


In case you haven't been with us long enough to catch this one -- today we have a reprise:

Never mind all the portentous music, and the big explosions as a car races through city streets.  If you really want your stomach to start churning,
try these stills from the movies,
What’s going on in all these pictures?  These cars are moving.  These people are all driving. They’re having dramatic conversations with their passengers, making eye contact for ten seconds or more.  Don't you just want to yell? --   For God’s sake,
                              KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Alarm Adventure

These were loud pings, enough to wake me up, and I cowered in bed in the dark, finally timing them – one every two minutes.  And occasionally what sounded like a voice.  Finally got enough courage to get out of bed, turn on a lot of lights,  and investigate the cell phone, the landline phones, the oven timer, dryer, livingroom tv, front door, kitchen tv, computer – you wouldn’t believe how many things in a house can ping.  Ended up watching the smoke alarm – sure enough, not only did it ping every two minutes, every now and then a woman’s voice said – I finally put in my hearing aids to get it right – “low battery.”

Next visit from a grandson is not slated for several weeks, so I figured I’d have to hire a man to reach up there. First, though, it would be efficient to make sure I had the right batteries on hand.  So the next day I called the fire department.  “Probably nine-volt,” said a pleasant woman on the other end.  “But why don’t I just send someone over to do it?  Are you going to be home for the next hour?”

I post this as a useful tip for other old folks – though it seems there aren’t too many octogenarians reading blogs.  I suspect most of you can change your own smoke-alarm batteries.