Saturday, March 26, 2016

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.

('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—


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!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The 60's Paper Dress

“Created to make you the conversation piece at parties. Smashingly different at dances or perfectly packaged at picnics. Wear it anytime...anywhere. Won't last forever...who cares? Wear it for kicks—then give it the air.” - Scott Paper Co. advertisement, 1966

Who could resist?
Send $1 to the Scott company and they would send you a paper dress and coupons for some of their products. I couldn't anyway! Here was a dress that you could hem with a pair of scissors-wash a few times (if it held up that long) and toss in the trash when it finally tore.
The style was nothing fancy or shapely-a simple shift or tent shape. The Scott company was not prepared for the widespread acceptance of their product-

I once went swimming in my paper dress- or should I say, I went swimming in my paper dress--ONCE.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The 1950's—When Coffee Was "Coffee-er"

(Original artwork-all rights reserved)

...she's guilty. I didn't have a chance!

It's 8 am and I just watched half of my six brothers get on the school bus at the end of our driveway.
There she sits, sipping her coffee looking at her Family Circle magazine.

"Can I have a sip?" "OK, but just one..."

She lifts me up onto her lap and puts the teaspoon to my mouth. To this day I can remember how great it tasted!

Now that was a great cup of coffee—I couldn't wait until I was old enough to drink a whole cup.

What was it about the coffee back then that made it coffee—er? The commercials we grew up watching sure made it appealing..
...Take this Maxwell House Commercial for example!
I'm sure growing up with a dad who considered coffee a staple in his diet made an impact on me as well—he drank it black. At that time in my life, my dad was a salesman—known during the "great do it yourself era" as Mr.Sawdust. He worked for AMF (American Machine and Foundry) demonstrating and selling their DeWalt radial armsaw in the northeast region of the country. He spent a lot of time on the road so he knew all the diners that had the best coffee.

On his return home from a week of traveling he would call my mom from the road and say, "Put on the coffee, Jeannie! I'm comin' home." He'd drive up the driveway and as soon as he walked in the door we would run to greet him. I still remember hugging him—that smell of the road—his aftershave—the excitement of his return home with all the great news. He would give us a rundown of all that had happened that week—all the sales he had made, distributors he had set up. He was excited! He would come in and sit at the big Lazy Susan table and my mom would pour his coffee.

...and it was a great cup of coffee!

Last year I bought an automatic coffeemaker at Christmas time—nice looking twelve cup, with all kinds of bells and whistles. The coffee was.....OK. But after one year of use, it died. It still sits there looking very sleek and utilitarian. The only reason it's still there is that I just can't believe it only lasted for one year. Every once in a while I try it again and conclude that it is in fact...useless.

I thought back to the very first coffee that I recall and the pot that it was perked in. Maybe that is the key—I need to find that pot! Within a week one of my sons found the pot—vintage—perfect condition.
We perked a pot of coffee...and it was a really good cup of coffee!

I remembered the coffee pot my husband and I used as newly weds—a Chemex pot, shaped like an hour glass with a wooden band around the center, secured by a leather string. The cone shaped filter was placed in the top half along with the coffee. After pouring the boiling water through the filter we sat and waited...and waited... several minutes for the coffee to drip down into the bottom half.
But that was OK. We were so starry eyed in love, we didn't mind waiting. was a great cup of coffee!
(...Baby Boomers always did like "show and tell"–here it is!)
Maybe that first sip of coffee on my mother's lap was not in fact the best coffee around, though I remember it that way. Perhaps it was just that moment in time when mothers were not rushed, so children were not rushed. Most mothers stayed home and we all benefited greatly by their presence in our lives. We had time; time to be kids, to explore— time to imagine, time to create.
Maybe it wasn't the coffee after all.

During my dad's final years, living with his failing eyesight and other diabetes related health problems, he spent his days and nights on his computer, engrossed in his writing and genealogy research. He enjoyed it—but maybe it was a distraction from the reality of his decline.
He drank coffee, morning, evening it didn't matter; refilling and reheating in the microwave, over and over again, until it took on the likeness of 3-in-1 oil.
Not just coffee, instant coffee—if you can believe that!
Now this was a man who knew what a good cup of coffee was. I always wondered how he could tolerate it. Maybe I'm beginning to understand.

This morning my husband drove me to Milford PA, a quaint old town situated along the Delaware. I had an appointment with a surgeon, a follow up after some surgery a week ago. It was an operation I had been dreading for over a year, yet it was now all behind me. It went far better than anticipated, which I attribute 100% to finding the right surgeon. I was informed that all reports came back fine.

I had not been able to eat much for the entire week so the suggestion of a breakfast out sounded very appealing. We pulled off the road at an old mill turned restaurant situated along the Sawkill Creek, The Waterwheel Cafe & Bakery, known for its great food and historic atmosphere. It's one of those simple but charming turn of the century buildings, with bare hardwood floors, stone walls and exposed beams—several old glass display cases, one filled with great looking pastries.

As we sat at a small wooden table by the window, watching the snow falling outside through the old glass window panes, I realized my future plans and ideas were returning to me. What a great feeling!

The waitress poured our coffee and as I took a sip looking across the table at my husband—the same one I drank that Chemex coffee with thirty five years ago—there's was only one thing I could say— that's a great cup of coffee!