Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mc Job

This week's nationwide employment extravaganza at McDonald's Corporation got me thinking about the job I had working for the hamburger king back in 1975.  I was a fresh faced twenty something and the job they gave me was far from a Mc job.  It was a wonderful experience.  I was hired to be a STAR and given a pair of sterling silver arches made by Tiffany and Co. in New York.

STAR stood for Store Activities Director and put me in charge of an ever expanding effort on the part of the corporation to involve itself in the broader community by doing charitable work on a local level.  It also had me coordinating the brand new birthday party concept and overseeing the distribution of another new program which included in store premiums like glassware, coffee cups and gifts for kids.  In the five stores I was responsible for, I raised money for band uniforms, hospitals, elderly services and held bike safety events.  I toured Ronald McDonald through crowds of happy children and when it was all over, I made myself a nice little memory box of Mc papers and toys.

This week, over thirty years after the fact, I took out my little Mc time capsule and found a big golden Mc nugget.  My humble little pile of hoarded memories has apparently been appreciating in value..... Mc bigtime.  My hoard of pre- Happy Meal games, corporate memos and premium samples are rare finds for collectors these days.  So... thanks Ronald for another happy Mc-day. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Sorts of Stamps

During my childhood, I watched the men in my family spend hours wearing little loops on their eyes while sorting stacks of coins and stamps. They filed them in huge books and binders, then lined the nicely labeled spines along the built in shelves in their offices. Their collections were real accomplishments. Back in the 1920's  and on up into the 1960's stamp and coin collecting were in their heydays.

Electric lights in homes had made it possible for folks to stay up later and engage in a number of pastimes while listening to entertaining things on the radio or Victrola.  This last week I spent some time going through those same vintage postage stamps while listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music on my iphone and drinking cups of steaming hot coffee to keep the focus going. It was a trip back in time.

These old stamps are beautiful little steel engravings done on wonderful durable papers with excellent oil based inks which have held their brilliant colors for nearly a hundred years.  I can't bear to see them end up in a trash can out back.  The stamp collectors may be diminishing as the older generations die off, but the artistry of these stamps is still strong and compelling.

The stamps commemorate important events and public figures in American history.  Inch by inch, they proclaim our values, urge us to higher achievement and direct the viewer to messages of government propaganda during times of war.  So, I am sorting them again... not into binders which will sit on dusty shelves, but into  packages of colorful history to be used in new artistic ventures like  scrapbooking and cardmaking where they will be put out there to be seen and enjoyed once again.  Perhaps they form a field of green fields and blue skies in a lovely collage.  Maybe they will just fill a bowl on a table so folks can enjoy a happy hour of browsing something other than a computer screen.  At least I hope so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wash and Wear Hair

Freedom is... wash and wear hair.  That's right, I'm an activist now, an activist for freedom from expensive, time consuming hair care.  I want to opt out.  I've been a slave to my own hair for years. 

Every night of the 60's was a ritual performance of sitting on the floor of my bedroom, listening to 45 records and rolling my wet hair up onto brush rollers (otherwise known as thistle and thorn head torture devices) then tossing and turning the night away trying to find a sweet spot on the pillow where the little plastic spikes and wires weren't poking painfully into my temples.

I woke early each morning  to tease and torture my hair into shape and spray it with a half a can of Aqua-net until it was as crunchy and crispy as a potato chip.  In later years, I spent hours having my hair rolled onto tiny plastic rods, doused in chemicals and blasted in head furnaces only to find the end result was a head full of frizzy, cotton candy like, split ends.  Nothing at all like the picture above which I found on a wonderful vintage hairstyle archive where you  can see exactly what it took to come up with a hairstyle like this one.

For the last 15 years I've had my hair cut in the classic two inch long pixie, which was the closest I could get to wash and wear hair. You'd think that would be freedom enough, but...sadly, no.  I still need product for volume and constant trims to keep the hair from shooting out at odd angles as it grows.  I want total freedom, I want to grow my hair out and put it up in a bun.  That's what the old grannies of the past always did when they declared freedom from bobs and heat curlers and Marcels.  What do you think of this classic look?

I also want that neck, those cheek bones and that creamy skin.  Anybody know where you can get that because the jars and bottles I've been buying just don't seem to be doing the trick.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Thousand Words

If a picture truly paints a thousand words, then these vintage 1960's graphics have a whole lot to say about how we thought about things like success, gender, and ethnicity.  That's one of the fascinating things about coming across these old ephemeral (meaning temporary, or fleeting)  gems (having the meaning of treasure).

I spent the afternoon sorting through an old box of vocabulary cards which had these images plastered all over the outside of the box.  The people are engaging, well dressed, happy and working in what looks like wonderful professional lives.  I wondered what the magic words were that insured that kind of a winning life back in 1960?

I wondered how often folks used words like desuetude to refer to uselessness, or lugubrious, to mean mournful, or welter to describe a kind of tossing and tumbling that happened when a holiday was announced?

The words I found in the box were indeed interesting and certainly descriptive, but they weren't the words I might choose to describe what I learned about success in the 1960's.  They forgot to include, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, never mentioned the family business, trust fund, or club, as in good old boy's club, or country club or connections. Words like self-made, hard work, man of his word and firm handshake didn't make the cut either.  She...... was completely absent from the package, unless referring to something nice to look at or on the opposite side, demanding and shrewish.  I'll have to give my granddaughter a call tonight and ask her what she is learning about success at college this year.  It could be very interesting and may, perhaps, involve being some kind of a celebrity ...with a lot of money.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Real Suzy Homemaker

I saw her on the sidewalk as soon as I got out of the car.  She was on her side, half buried by a stack of old Christmas lights and a moldy shower curtain.  I think it was the glint of avocado tin that tipped me off. That was a color I had come to know and hate back in the 60's when they even made refrigerators in that deadly shade of green.  I circled the box cautiously and in an attempt to seem disinterested, picked up the Christmas lights.  I turned them over in my hand, as if giving them a serious appraisal, and stretched my neck around to get a better look at what was under them in the box.  I could see the turquoise accents and little early space era dials all done up in Mrs. Robinson plastic facing up towards me.  A furtive upward glance told me no one had noticed my interest in the box and it's mystery contents.

I made my way up the walkway towards the house, stopping to look at a row of grocery store dishes, a stack of Barney video tapes and several trashy paperbacks, all the while, using the hairs on the back of my head to monitor any movement behind me in the direction of that box.  I kept reminding myself to remain cool, aloof and unconcerned. 

I took a deep breath and feigned some mild curiosity while approaching the owner of the box.  "How much do you want for the stuff in the box at the end of the drive?" I asked, while appearing to be enthralled by the Barney videos on the table in front of me. 

Shopping at garage sales is tricky.  You don't want to seem too eager or too rich.  It's best to wear your blue jeans, shop with a take it or leave it attitude and hope for the best. With a little haggling, the owner and I came to an agreement and a price I could embrace.  I headed down the driveway, saying thanks and reminding her what wonderful drop cloths old shower curtains make and saying you can never have enough Christmas lights.... then went straight  home to clean my beautiful Topper, 1968 Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake Oven which would make a wonderful kitchen night light and perhaps some brownies in the process.  She is in my shop, just waiting for the right kitchen to compliment.  I love her, but after living through the 60's, I vowed I'd never have another avocado appliance in my home.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Trinkets and Lucky Charms

What was it about the words "surprise inside" that made every kid's little heart go all a-flutter?

You knew it was never going to be a real diamond ring or a silver dollar.  Honestly, by the time the delicious caramel coated popcorn and peanuts were eaten, you might not even know where you left the little plastic charm you found at the bottom of the box, which is why its so surprising to think so many of these little trinkets have survived into the present. I guess they were just "charming" in the truest sense of the word.
I've always wanted to make something out of these and this week I did. 

I made a real cracker jack of a bracelet using some of the old trinkets and charms I've collected. Some parts came from gum ball machines, old junk jewelry, bottle caps, game pieces, whatever I could figure out how to attach. It jingles when I wear it, and somehow reminds me of my childhood. 

Now if you can get your hands on a nice box of Cracker Jacks, I suggest you sit down and take a trip back in time by watching this wonderful old Cracker Jack commercial.  It's charming.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Resistence is Futile

It's nearly impossible for me to resist opening an old trunk.  When I open one.... and find a stash of vintage fabric scraps, well,  my resistance just goes right out the window.  I can walk by a beautiful old quilt in an antique shop, admire it, then walk on by, but... there's just something about scraps and half finished quilts that makes my heart just get to pumping.  Anyone else know what I'm talking about? 

I jump right into textile detective mode and begin trying to identify how old the fabrics are by observing color, pattern and cloth content.  This particular suitcase full was great for my inquiring mind.  The quilter had done something I have never seen done before.  She stitched her finished squares to newspaper backings and even left them in place while joining.  Was this commonly done?  What is the purpose of the paper?

While I don't know what the newspaper was for, it does give me a general date for the fabrics... 1951.   I now also know something else... I could have had my car painted for just $49.50 down in Memphis, TN. back in February of 51. I'm gonna have a wonderful time when I untie this bundle of partially finished piecings.  I can't  wait.  I think I'll just wash them,  hang them up in the sunshine, hoard a few and then share a few with you folks.