Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fine, thank you.

Don't think I've ever let a week go by without a single post, but no, I'm just fine, thanks for asking.  I'll be back with more scintillating missives -- just not today.  Don't touch that dial!  Meanwhile, just so this wasn't a total waste of your time -- here's one of my favorite pictures:  two of my granddaughters and their cousin a few years ago, in London's Hyde Park.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

For My Granddaughters

ASTP emblem
That bottom drawer again – turned up a column I wrote in 1945 for the SU Daily Orange.  I had come to the University in the middle of World War II, when it was pretty much just a girl’s school, fraternity houses closed up, no sports, all the boys our age overseas.  And then with the war just ended, I was already nostalgic, writing to tell younger students what the wartime campus had been like when it was used for training courses by the Armed Forces.   
…when a entering freshman felt as if she were moving in on an army post, and dates – honest, no kidding – were a dime a dozen.  Many a new frosh woke up those first few days in total darkness, terrified, as she heard coming out of nowhere loud whistles and yells of “Come on, now!  Everybody out in formation.!”  As soon as we learned to sleep through this 5:30 a. m. routine, the army men got wind of it and varied the program by yelling in cadence as they passed our windows at 6.
This formation business was diabolic.  Starting across the Old Oval after first looking carefully in all directions, you'd reach the lamp-post in the center only to find six groups bearing down like menacing freight trains.  It cannot be denied that upon occasion the squadron leader even changed his commands so as to run down some poor coed, and ended the routine with an embarrassing “eyes right!’.
How quickly we learned to tell the Navy’s V-12s and the Air Corps’ men from the Army Service Training Program’s…The ASTP men who were learning Russian were impressive as they marched through the street singing Red Army songs [remember we were allies with Russia?]  If two were on the sidewalk conversing they’d switch to Russian as we passed.  It was awesome.  Air Corps men, though, had a nasty habit of changing from their very interesting songs to “Little Orphan Annie” as soon as a coed got within hearing distance.
They used to tell us, “It’s easy to tell the freshmen from upper-classmen; the freshmen smile back.”  It’s true, we were very friendly in those younger days.  Then the  Women’s Student Senate ruled that “Hello” and “Thank You” were all coeds should say to busy servicemen during the day.  We immediately rushed out and said “Hello, thank you!” to every man we passed.
Our dorms and “cottages” ran parlor open houses, usually on Sunday afternoons, and when word got around that the University didn’t provide those poor girls with Sunday night suppers, the whole house was usually taken care of for supper dates.  Six-thirty to 8 were the magic hours when the men were free and we hadn’t been [literally] locked in for the night yet. Coke dates were about all we could manage.  And almost every evening, Syracuse winters being what they were, we’d engage the servicemen in snowball fights.  Someone would plug a phonograph out on the porch – the tunes were “Sunday, Monday and Always”, “Boogie Woogie” and “Paper Doll.”  And oh! those graduation formals!  Colonel Reis El-Bara headed the receiving line and led the first waltz, and you felt like something out of the Court of St. James at the very least.
This newspaper carried military news [I notice in the article next to mine a reference to "the Nips"] and had no sports page.  We watched evening retreats in Walnut park, and on Saturday afternoons the reviews would completely fill the Oval or Hendricks Field. 
So all that’s left are some wonderful memories, a few real romances, and the double-deck bunks in some cottages that are stenciled  “AAF, 65th CTD.”  But the Sandwichman’s*  ring, every night at ten o’clock, will never sound as nice as “Taps” used to, ringing across the snow-covered campus.   
The Sandwichman sold his snacks (two slices white bread, mayo, one slice cheese) in the front hall.  If he had arrived before 8 p. m.,  he could have come in as far as the downstairs parlor (where the rule was "both feet on the floor")  In those pre-pill days, they must have been frantically worried about one of us getting pregnant.  And when one girl married her fiancĂ© just before he was sent overseas, she was not allowed to return to her room in the dorm.   Might have contaminated the virgins, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not Quite Alzheimers

An unexpected development as I grow older – it's surprising how little meat seems like enough. Yesterday I realized I haven’t had a steak in a couple of years.  And of course cooking for one requires new techniques.  So I went out and bought a steak, a lamb tenderloin, and a package of drumsticks. 
Came home and cut up minimal portions -- two or three ounces of meat, sealed in a sandwich bag, ready for the freezer. Feeling pretty efficient, I decided the drumsticks could be cooked before freezing, even more efficient.  Floated a sheet of foil over them, stuck them in a 350 oven.

Fast forward to 4 a. m., when I woke with a start and heard a voice – it must have been my own – saying “drumsticks!”  Out to the kitchen, turned off the oven.
Mummified, that’s mostly what they look like.  Might as well throw out the pan too. 

But I tell you -- the house does smell wonderful.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Can You Believe?

Can You Believe?     I’d like to think we didn’t really drive with the baby – our precious first, over-protected baby – stuck up in the station wagon’s jammed-full back seat that way.  But when we were three adults in the front seat – that useful bench seat with the shiny plastic slipcover – maybe we did.  I do know that a few years later we’d pack suitcases on the floor of the back seat so that on long drives our three little kids would have a nice level area to tumble around and play in.
 But anyhow -- you'll be happy to hear they all made it through okay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hospital List

Still unearthing stuff from that bottom drawer, and found a page from the notebook I used -- writing upside-down in pencil -- the year I lay flat on a board in the hospital.  So my memory is right – I did read a book a day.  These must have been brought to me by the Grey Lady, the Red Cross volunteer who came around with the library cart. 

Looks like a perfect selection for a 14-year-old.  The triumphant boast about the first one, that I could read it in French, isn’t really all that impressive – I’d already read the book, as “Nobody’s Boy”, in English.  The Daddy Long Legs I own today, picked up a second-hand copy years later.  Lord knows how Josephus got in there but I do like my patronizing judgment that Leon Feuchtwanger was a good writer.   Don’t remember the Mary Roberts Rinehart --  she was a best-seller in those days.  No recollection of the Africa thing, but the last two -- the Robert Nathan and the Margery Sharp -- are still exactly the novels I’d take to a housebound friend.
Later in college I wanted to repay the debt, volunteered as a hospital Grey Lady, went through training, bought the grey seersucker dress, and then discovered I couldn’t complete a shift pushing the library cart – done in by the same back that had me immobilized in the first place.  Early end to my Red Cross career. 
 Great book list anyhow.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Wrap a Kuchen

Viewer asks how was that kuchen
wrapped, tucked into the laundry case among the clean clothes and mailed back to the dorm?  You're right, it certainly wasn't in a plastic bag.  Nor was there aluminum foil -- I don't remember ever seeing that before The War except on chocolate bars. Neither aluminum nor the more familiar tinfoil would have been available in the kitchen anyhow, when all metals were needed for the frantic manufacturing push to defeat Germany.  In those days if you dropped a single bobby pin or hairpin you spent however long it took to find it.

Saran wrap hadn't been invented yet  (years later you will recall Benjamin Braddock being advised that the coming thing was Plastics.)  Cellophane was still so new that Cole Porter cited it along with the Eiffel Tower as wonders that were The Tops!-- and anyhow, it was available only for commercial products.

Mother wrapped the kuchen in waxed paper, a/k/a wax paper.  She didn't need to put it in a box.  That sturdy laundry case was perfectly designed to take the slings and arrows of the postal service -- which, wartime labor shortage notwithstanding, still gave us two mail deliveries a day.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Of Course the Laundry Case

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, writing -- if memory serves -- about a business model, I found a writer sneering about how inefficient it was for his uncle to send his dirty laundry home from college.
Not so, my young friend!  What else was Uncle supposed to do with his laundry – those white shirts with starched collars and cuffs -- with perma-press still decades in the future? Sending out to a professional laundry would break the student’s Depression-era budget.  Uncle could hardly expect to manage those shirts in the soapstone tubs in the dorm basement.  The Bendix, the pioneering automatic washer, wouldn’t hit town till manufacturers got hold of materials after the War --  and if WW II was still on, btw, why wasn’t Uncle overseas altogether?
Of course the dirty laundry went home to Mother, in a special laundry case, at low postage rates.  And when it came back, there was probably a fresh-baked kuchen tucked in the middle.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nomination for Most Useless

 From one of those catalogs that preys on the worries of Old Folks, here’s today’s nomination for the item I, for one, have never in 88 years thought about buying.  Still, they do manufacture it, so someone must need it. ("Avoid hefty repair bills...")   But can it really pay them to use the space in a general-interest -- to the old folks -- catalog?
Cute mouse, anyhow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Suggestions Welcomed

Ever since 1976, I've prided myself on answering every letter (email, comment, posting) that comes in from a reader of the real estate column.  Received this one a few minutes ago, just have to share it with someone so you're it.  I'll appreciate any suggestions on how to respond.
Edith, In my dad’s will my brother had 1 yr. to buy the property or put up for sale.  The sale price was 60,000.  My sister was the executor but she took for payment an antique car.  She now says she wants nothing more to do w/caring about anything. It has been well over 2 yrs . Now, my other brother says he's giving the brother who wants to buy his money of the sale.  That leaves 2 sisters and 1 brother (plus buyer brother) to divide 60,000.  Buyer says he only has to pay us each 10,000. I don't understand how he could keep 20,000 from sister and brother.  The buyer brother has a business on the property and added quite an addition to it. My dad always paid the taxes and bills for everything.  Two sisters went to the house and took what they wanted (and their kids) and its almost empty. I was under the impression no one touches anything until the estate was settled.  The buyer brother wants to rent out the house also.  There is now arguing with the sister and brother.  Dad did have a lawyer but he will only talk to big sister who has pretty much washed her hands of all. --A. R.
                               I don't blame her.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today's Column

I suspect the copy editors down at the newspaper have no sense of humor.  Some of the most cheerful bits in my real estate column never make it to print.  But this morning's edition had a pleasant surprise -- they left in that second reader question, which I just couldn't resist.  (Friend tells me the Syracuse paper cut it out.)
       In case you're reading this on one of those tiny screens --
the first item is a standard real estate question: when to put the house on the market?  The third one is also routine: could I please explain title, deed, and abstract?  But the one in between clearly came to me by mistake:
    Dear Edith:  As a wedding gift in 1953 we received  a set of 12 Princeton University Wedgewood Collectors Plates.
    At our age with no one to pass them on to we are desirous of selling them.  Therefore, can you please advise possible value and marketability.  Self-addressed stamped envelope is enclosed.  Thank you. -- C. W.
   Answer:  It looks like you sent your question to the wrong newspaper columnist -- that does happen.  But I was intrigued anyhow, so I took a look on the auction site eBay, where it appears that plates like yours sell for about $25 each, sometimes a bit more.
   You're welcome.  
I'll let you know if I hear any comments.  There'll be plenty of socializing over the next few days as I have two more funerals to attend.  Senior living includes the occupational hazard of senior dying.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tuesday Adventure

Sitting at the computer early this morning I glanced at the calendar and realized I had just time to get dressed and make my Wednesday haircut appointment.  We’re in a thaw so I took out the little yellow Smart --smallest car sold in the U. S.  Got halfway to the hairdresser when it occurred to me this just might be Tuesday.  Tried to remember what happened yesterday, couldn’t.
Pulled in to McDonald’s, asked the girl at the drive-in window what day it was.
She looked only mildly startled, said it was Tuesday and she liked my car.  So I had a fine bacon egg and cheese biscuit and a watery reconstituted orange juice.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Write a Letter

The clipping is not from a neighborhood advertising flyer.  I found it this morning in what used to be a large daily newspaper-- well, it's still daily but these days it weighs about four ounces.  The article gives detailed instructions about how to have a quaint antique experience:
                                                        How to Write a Letter.
Start, it advises, by visiting a stationary store [are there still such things?].  “If you are putting forth the effort to create a beautiful, handwritten letter, you can add to the experience by selecting a fine paper on which to write.  There are many different types of paper…”
and if you’re lucky you may even find some with flower petals embedded.
Seven more steps are listed, including
*practice penmanship before sitting down to write your letter,
*jot down ideas on a piece of scrap paper,
*be sure to proofread it for misspellings and grammatical errors,
working up to
“Write your final copy of the letter on the good paper.  Make sure it is neat and legible.”
And finally
“…wait a day or two before sending the letter to be sure [it is] truly what you want to say.  If so, mail…”
All this,  I remind you, in a major daily newspaper. Someone was paid to write that.  It's even more disheartening to realize there are probably grown persons who will need that guidance – if they ever do sit down to write a letter.

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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Big Brother is Watching

If you've been here awhile, you may remember the audiologist who put my hearing aids into her computer and said "Well, I can't scold you for not wearing them.  You've been using them about 10 hours a day."  I was shocked.  Shocked.  My own little hearing aids are spying on me!  For all we know, they've been relaying my conversations to the FBI.
    And then I received a routine email from the University's research department, with the usual list of studies that are looking for subjects.  It's an interesting way to feel one is doing something useful.  Norm and I helped develop the shingles vaccine some years ago, I've taken part is several other studies, and I'm in one that, as it happens, gives me yearly reassurance that I'm still passing the tests so I don't have Alzheimers.  Blunders or no blunders.  (No, I did not have that eye exam today, and I don't want to talk about it.)
    So when I saw a request for subjects to explore a new treatment for arthritis of the hip, I thought it sounded perfect.  Now pay attention closely.  On the Internet, I was asked five questions:  my name, age, phone number, did I have arthritis in my hip, and had I seen a doctor about it?  THAT WAS ALL.   The screen said someone would call to discuss whether I was eligible for the study, and indeed, a cordial young woman phoned me within a half hour.  She thanked me for volunteering and said unfortunately I don't qualify because I am taking Plavix. 
      Okay, now to today's mail.  A retirement community wishes me a happy birthday, and invites me and a companion to their February birthday luncheon.  With entertainment. 

 It's scary.  Buy hey, who says there's no free lunch? 
      I'll let you know if they serve birthday cake.