Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Remember when permanents were....PERMANENT?

Home permanents had come a long way by the 50's. But not quite far enough!
This ad promotion from the 50's featured identical twins, with identical looking hair styles. One was done professionally, the other was done at home.

In his role as radio announcer for the long-running mystery series, Casey, Crime Photographer, sponsored by Toni, Bill Cullen would often deliver the commercial as if he was a character in the program. He would ask his radio audience..

"...which girl has the Toni?"


From my one experience as a child, I don't think either one of them did!

But before I take you back to the first time I saw my father cry— lets go back to 1909 and the day Karl Nessler's wife Katharine Laible had her very first home permanent. Her husband Karl had been working several years perfecting a method to curl hair using chemical treatments, electrical heating devices and brass rollers each weighing about two pounds. It was a complex system, using countering weights suspended from an overhead chandelier and mounted on a stand to prevent the hot rollers from touching the scalp. The process took at least six hours. History records him using a mixture of cow urine and water.
(urban legend? Perhaps!)
Now it's hard for me to imagine Katharine willingly subjecting herself to this process. But it is even more unbelievable that she allowed her husband to give her a
second permanent after the first one completely burned her hair off, scalding her scalp.
.....He didn't quite have it down the second time either–she lost all of her hair again.


He did eventually perfect the method and his electric permanent wave machine was patented in London in 1909 and went into widespread use.

Unlike Karl Nessler's wife, I had only one permanent as a young girl.
By the time it was my turn, Toni had produced a product that women could use at home for $2 (compared to $15 if done professionally at a hair salon)
The cow urine was gone-but it had its own distinct smell—not a big improvement.


In April of 1957 my mother was in the hospital after delivering her seventh child, my brother Chris—son #6. At that time mothers were kept in the hospital for at least a week following the delivery of a baby. A live-in baby sitter was hired to help take care of the other six children at home. My Dad thought it would be nice to surprise my mom on Easter Sunday morning with a visit from all of her children. We were not allowed in the hospital, but we could stand outside on the lawn and wave up to her at her window.

The babysitter, a very capable elderly woman, thought it would be nice to surprise my dad and give his little girl her very first home permanent. Wouldn't she look nice waving up at the window with all those curls?
The picture was not quite as dreamy as she envisioned. When the curlers were removed my head was covered with a mass of frizz and gnarled, kinky curls. When my dad arrived home he took one look at me, covered my head with a towel and escorted me next door. Mrs. McGrady was a nurse and she could fix just about anything.

"Marge! Can you do something?!

"I'll try Wally! I'll try!"



She did try. I remember standing in front of her full length mirror and watching her brush, and brush, and brush— and watching those PERMANENT curls pop right back up to where they were, springing about six inches off the top of my head.

My dad waited outside the door. But sorry to say I looked exactly the same when I walked out.

(ok...it's not an actual photo. There were no pictures taken of me that day)
I'm sure I'm not the only 50's Baby Boomer who had a bad perm experience!
We learned to do one thing when we caught a whiff of that pungent Toni solution—

.....RUN!

Update:  May 21, 2013
I have never seen this photo before today.  It is a photo from that day.  I think that my Easter hat is covering the rest of the FRIZZ!




Monday, September 3, 2018

The Original Amateur Hour—American Idol of the 60's





--> Maybe it was our age, thirteen at the time—perhaps it was the transformation that had taken place in our young impressionable psyches that Sunday night in February as we sat glued to our television sets—totally enraptured by a new group from Liverpool that Ed Sullivan had on his show—or just an overwhelming delusion; but for whatever reason, my young friends and I (along with thousands of other baby boomers at that time) had dreams of stardom.
Let’s face it, we were dreamers!

One hot summer day my friend Leslie sat reading one of her hundreds of comic books and came across an ad in the back for a Record Making Machine. The pages in the back of comic books in the 60's were filled with amazing products. (—that is, until they actually arrived in your mail box) But this ad was so convincing and just what we needed for our group at the brink of stardom!
(..well that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is, we had made one public appearance— we sang at our graduation from elementary school to Jr.High.)
Our group was made up of four girls; Leslie and I and two friends from school, Ingrid and Judy. Ingrid and I played piano and we all sang.


We decided to send for the “machine.” When we emptied our pockets and put our money together we came up short; so we did just what we always did when we were short of cash—loaded up a wagon with empty soda bottles and headed up the street to the small mom and pop store on the corner.
The store sold a little bit of everything; fresh fruit and vegetables, cold cuts, canned goods and of course—soda. We walked home with just enough change to make up the difference.
We were set—only weeks away from being able to record our songs! We mailed in the money with the order form—now all we had to do was wait….and wait.

We had never seen a UPS truck—overnight delivery was something you might see on the Jetsons—fiction. We relied totally on the US Mail and if the ad said 4-6 weeks for delivery, it meant just that. That gave us a lot of time to imagine just how wonderful this product was going to be!

If this isn't the ad, it was one very much like it...looks amazing doesn't it?
Thanks Erik!

“A name! We need a name for our group to put on the record label!”
So we did what we always did when we needed information—opened the encyclopedia!

(Original artwork-all rights reserved)

This was equivalent in the 60’s to an Image search today.





Encyclopedia G—gems.
There were two full pages of beautiful colored gems, listed alphabetically. We looked over both pages.
"There's already a famous group named the Saphires and the Rubies—we’ll have to pick another gem. Hey—The Peridots!” (excuse me while I laugh out loud…)
A record making machine—perfect! We could just envision the label—The Peridots!

After watching The Original Amateur Hour one Saturday before our package arrived, Leslie and I came to the realization that our group could win the competition—at least we could get on the show.
“If that man could get on the show for playing his comb—and a girl for ringing cow bells—we could win for sure!”
Most contestants left the show just as they came, as amateurs; but stars were discovered. Ventriloquist Paul Winchell and pop singers Teresa Brewer, Gladys Knight, and Pat Boone were all discovered on the Ted Mack show.


I sat down at my dad’s typewriter and typed a letter to Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour requesting an audition and within two weeks—to my utter shock— received a response. We were given a date to appear in the studio at New York’s Radio City.
We had three weeks to prepare.

“Cool! We’re going to audition for Ted Mack’s! We’ve got to start practicing—every day after school!" And we did—working on the same two songs every rehearsal.
The first song was the one we sang at our graduation called “Turn Around.” It was a song originally used in a Kodak commercial in the 60's and we fell in love with it.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Where are you going, my baby my own?
Turn around and your two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young girl
going out of the door.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Little dirnd'ls and petticoats,
Where have you gone?
Turn around and you're tiny
Turn around and you're grown
Turn around and you're a young wife
with babes of your own.
The second song we practiced was an original written by me. It was called Togetherness and I will spare you the words—but it was a song about falling in love...of course.

Two weeks before the date of the audition we realized—“We need matching outfits!
All the groups on the show wear matching outfits!"
We decided on collarless navy blue shirts with white trim—a surfer style in the 60’s. With our white pleated skirts and white tennis shoes—we must have looked like... the surfing cheerleaders!

And one final detail—“We need a ride to New York City!”

That’s where my dad came in. He was great—if this was something we wanted to do and felt we could compete, he would be happy to get us there.
(Oh...another minor detail...my dad had never heard us sing)

-->
We headed for New York City on a Friday. New York was about a forty minute ride from where we lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Four thirteen year old girls in a VW with my dad—on their way to a rehearsal for a television show.
God bless him!

We arrived with just enough time to go to the ladies room and get ready. We opened the door in time to catch the tail end of a practice by a group of young girls auditioning before us. They were dancing and singing dressed in these flashy sequined, amazing matching outfits.
There was nothing amateur about them—they were fantastic!
And here we were dressed like— the surfing cheerleaders.

-->
We decided to save our best song for last hoping we’d sing two songs—B-A-D decision.
The judges called us in. Ingrid played piano and Leslie, Judy and I sang Turn Around.
We were just preparing to sing our best song when…
OK girlsthank you for coming
If we decide to have you on the show you will receive a letter within a week or so!
….NEXT!

Well.. the letter never did arrive , but we did get a package in the mail the following week. It wasn’t a big package. Certainly not big enough to contain a machine!
But it was—our Record Making Machine. It consisted of a small attachment that hooked onto the arm of a record player. There were some blanks that looked like records and a small megaphone. After trying it once—following the two lines of instructions, realizing we'd been had— we dumped it in the garbage; concluding that we wouldn’t be needing a Record Making Machine after all.
We couldn’t even pass for amateurs!

A few days later....
"Hey, take a look at this neat little typewriter! We could send for it and type our stories on it and...."
(.....Our other dream was to become authors)

And as all Baby boomer know—sometimes dreams really do come true!


*As I think back now about this silly, embarrassing memory I realize again that ours was a gentler, kinder world. The "contestant humiliation element," was non existent as it is on the newer talent search shows.

....Can you just imagine what Simon would have thought of the Peridots?!We didn't make it to Ted Mack's but at least I got an A- on the story!

~Mamie






Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Family Camping-Are We Having Fun yet?


Family Camping....what a romantic idea! Bonding—building teamwork-facing challenges together–getting close to God's creation....economical... well...

Preparations for our first camping trip as a family in 1964— destination Lake George, N.Y.— were almost as exciting as the actual trip. Very characteristic of my dad, (Mr.Sawdust) we were going to do this right! One Saturday he escorted my six brothers and me to a large Army-Navy surplus store in Manhattan, a forty minute drive from our home in Upper Montclair, NJ. These stores were equivalent in the 60's to the sports outfitters of today. Each of us was fully equipped with a comfy flannel lined sleeping bag, a denim duffel bag, a compass, a whistle and a flashlight. Every purchase was multiplied nine times-the clerk was loving it! We filed out of the store wearing matching tee shirts and white sailor caps. ...Now if that wasn't a classic scene for the makings of a great family musical!
We had collapsible canvas water buckets, even a portable toilet with a curtain for the utmost privacy. All we had to do was dig the hole.
After careful consideration, figuring how much room the nine of us (..and the dog) would need for sleeping, Dad purchased a tent that would house a circus. Tents back then were not made of lightweight nylon. They were made of heavy canvas so this tent was not only huge but weighed a ton! I remember the center pole was about nine feet tall when the two hardwood poles were assembled. But not to worry—dad and the boys had built a car top carrier that was so big it would easily transport all we had purchased that day...and much more. It extended the entire length of the top of the Dodge wagon. My dad's excitement was contagious! By the time we returned home that night I felt like I had already been on vacation.
The actual camping trip turned out to be much more exciting than that trip to the city for supplies; in fact, it was far more exciting than Dad could have possibly anticipated. That "great family musical" was about to become a hair raising drama.
Dad was always proud to have the family together, crowded into the big Dodge station wagon, along with the family dog. Our basset hound, Boots accompanied us on this trip, claiming his spot behind the driver’s seat. He’d position his stubby hind legs on the edge of the back seat and drop a paw over Dad’s shoulder. Hanging his head out the window, he’d let his long, pendulous ears flap in the breeze. He would rest his head on Dad’s shoulder when the ride became wearisome.
“How many kids have you got there?” attendants would inquire curiously as we stopped for gas. “Seven! Six boys and one girl!” he’d reply. “She must be treated like a queen,” they’d inevitably respond.
It is remarkable how many times I heard that growing up. I guess it was, in fact, true. Taking my place in the middle of six boys, with the understanding that any mistreatment of the one daughter would result in an unhappy situation, made me feel like somewhat of a princess in a strong fortress. I’m sure my “special” position was resented at times, especially on nights when Dad found an interesting movie on television. I would sit up on his lap eating popcorn, slide down from time to time and run up the stairs. “Now, you boys go to bed! We’re downstairs eating popcorn.” I’d skip eagerly back down the stairs.
They loved that, I’m sure.
Yes, we were well equipped, no doubt, but totally unprepared for the violent storm that blew up and threatened to relocate our enormous tent in the middle of the night. I can still see my Dad leaning the weight of his entire body against the massive wooden center pole, in an attempt to keep it standing. The large canvas tarp that had been attached to the pole at the peak of the tent was being hoisted by the winds. Lightning flashes revealed our frightened faces as we sat clutching pots and pans to catch the dripping water.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night, we left the soggy camp site for a site-seeing drive the following morning. The day was damp and chilly and it actually felt good to be back in the crowded station wagon—dog and all. Dad still had his sailor’s cap on, pipe in his mouth, clenched securely between his teeth. He was no doubt a bit shaken by the storm, but didn’t show it. He was still ….on vacation! We drove until lunchtime. “Well, what do you say we head back to….wait a minute—I know where we are! We’ve got to stop up ahead. We’re at the Ausable Chasm!” There was that whisper of suspense in his voice.

Note: See the USA the Easy Way put out by Reader’s Digest describes the Ausable Chasm as follows:

“Here sheer walls of rock rise some 200 feet above the rushing waters of the Ausable River. A tour of the chasm includes a 3/4 mile hike on dangling suspension bridges and winding walkways, past plunging waterfalls and raging rapids, culminating in a boat ride through the swirling waters.


We received a few instructions. I was to keep the dog on his leash, Mom had my youngest brother Chris close by her side. Bruce, Jeff, little Wally and Carl were to follow Dad. We climbed carefully down some boulders, wet and slick with moss, not an easy feat for a basset hound. We could hear the deafening roar of the mighty rapids, rushing furiously due to last nights storm. Soon we could see for ourselves why Dad had made the stop.
It was breathtaking!

This great photo of the Ausable Chasm
by Bryce Koechlin, (AddVision Studios) is as I remember it!

As we stood together looking warily down into the chasm, I recall my Dad’s words, “I seriously doubt a man could fall in there and come out alive. Let’s head back.” With that, he turned to leave. Seconds later, my brother Bruce, who had been mesmerized by the water, was falling headlong down into the rapids. It was one of those moments in time when you are awakened with a jolt from a terrible dream, so relieved—but this was not a dream.
“BRUCE FELL IN!!” I screamed, straining to be heard above the water.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Dad made his way to the edge and jumped in. I could see Bruce’s arms flailing out of the water as he was tossed around and pulled under by the rapids. Within seconds, my mother made her way to the edge, jumped in and was pulled down the river as well. I grabbed as many little hands as I could and walked along the chasm, hoping to see all three, remembering all too well my Dad’s ominous words. Would they come out alive?
What a wonderful sight it was to see my Dad, sailor cap still on his head, and—I kid you not—pipe in his mouth, standing beyond the rapids in an alcove of rocks, embracing Bruce and Mom.
It was a very tearful, thankful, crowded ride back in the station wagon. Bruce cried the loudest however. Thankful, yes, he had not lost his life, but a comparable tragedy to him — he had lost his harmonica.
We sat quietly at the picnic table in the stillness of evening, humbled by the day. “Do you see this frail little mantle in this lantern?” Dad asked. We gazed in to see the delicate mantle providing the only light in the campsite. “That is how frail our life is. In one second, it can be taken away!”
We were dirty. We were tired. We were sick of being on vacation. But the following morning we filed into the nearest church we could find, just to say, “thank you” that we would all be heading home.



This picture of Boots and me was taken while swimming
in lake George-the day before the incident at the Ausable chasm.
*No wonder my teacher thought I was telling tales when I returned in the fall and turned in my “What I Did on My summer Vacation” essay....and hard to believe there would be a second family camping adventure.