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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule was a big deal when I was a kid.  Every time I pinched my sister or shoved my brother, I was sure to hear one of the adults say "now, now.. remember The Golden Rule, you wouldn't want your brother to push you would you?" This amazing statement seemed to apply to everything including being the first one to reach for the largest piece of chocolate cake or sharing your new toys, or flushing the toilet in a timely fashion. 

Your parents, pastors, teachers and local police officers were all making sure you got the message, even the Coca Cola Bottling Company was hard at work drumming the point of social responsibility into our hearts and minds with slogans printed on common household objects.  Every time you reached for a wooden ruler, you were reminded of that rule.  At which point,  you quickly measured something, and ran to the icebox to get the last Coca Cola before someone else could snatch it out from under you.  If you did, you were sure to hear something about sharing the last coke instead of being a greedy little piggie and drinking it all up by yourself.

Little by little, day by day, the rule sunk in.  Its right to be courteous, kind and self-sacrificing and wrong to be greedy, self-absorbed and cruel.  Now, if we could just get the message out to drivers who won't let you over a single lane to make that sudden right turn you weren't expecting.  If only we could train people who have a month's groceries  for a family of 10 to happily step aside and let us check out one gallon of milk first, or give golden rulers to men at home improvement stores who actually race you to the check-out, nudge you off balance with a cart full of lumber and sport a triumphant grin when they see you totter back out of their way.  Well, that would be a better day indeed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Momma's Pancake Breakfast

You don't need to dig too deeply into your sub-conscious to realize the title of today's post seems awfully familiar. That's because you've probably ordered and consumed at least one of these belly busters at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant's somewhere here in the good old USof A. The fellas who started the place in Lebanon, TN back in 1969 were hoping to set up a comfortable, homey place where folks could sit around relaxing with friends or family vexing and jawing about the state of affairs and other interesting stuff.

Some friends of ours joined us early last Saturday to grab a breakfast and head on out to the local flea market to see what kind of vintage treasures we could drag home and we got to thinking...... How much do you think the antiques in a Cracker Barrel are worth?  Next thing you know we were appraising everything in the place and multiplying the whole thing by 540.  Let's just say... the total was a pretty big number.

Curiosity got the best of us, so out came the i-phones and we started searching up some pretty interesting facts.  It wasn't long before we decided Larry Singleton has the best darn job in America collecting all the antiques to put in the new stores when they open. He and his family have been decorating Cracker Barrels since the day the first one opened.

Larry, we think we found some stuff you just might be interested in and if you don't like what you see, well sir... we would sure be willing to look for some more, as soon as we finish that last biscuit, drain down to the dregs of our coffee cups and come to some kind of agreement on what a rusted RC Cola sign is really worth in today's market.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spurn The Iron

That's right, I said "spurn the iron".  That's what the new wonder-blend fabrics of 1961 promised to do. Still, I seem to remember ironing a lot back in the sixties.

I also remember going around in sleevless tops with no concern for sun protection of any kind.  Okay, we were a reckless generation who thought we were all immortal.  After all, our lives were supposed to be wrinkle free.

Take a look at that waistline, I mean...... only Barbie has a waistline like that.  Barbie and your average size 10 woman of the sixties. Right, a size 10 was something quite a bit different back in good old 1961. Ten was the samllest size this pattern came in, if you were any smaller than that you were probably either a child or near death from starvation... like Twiggy.

These tops are actually still pretty cute and apparently quite easy to make.  Back in 1961 you just clipped the little ad out of your weekly copy of Parade Magazine, taped two quarters to a file card and mailed the whole thing to Radio City Station.

Then waited by the mail box for the Postman to drop your wonderful Patt-O-Rama pattern in the box. In 2011, if you want to "spurn your own iron", get a hold of some wonder fabric and head over to Mama's Etsy shop for some vintage sewing inspiration of your own.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cutting a Fine Silhouette

A silhouette is, in one sense, a shadow cast on a surface and in another its a fine paper cutout of an image of a shadow carefully mounted to a contrasting surface.  The one I found at a garage sale last weekend was done in the 1920's when having your silhouette cut at the State Fair was all the rage.  She sure is a fine figure of a woman isn't she?

A little research into the subject of silhouettes quickly brought me to Mary Granville Pendarves Delany who was a British matron of the high society type back in the late 1700's.  The poor dear had been married off to a rich, old alcoholic at the age of 17 and suffered a horrible few years before he died.  During this time the creative pursuit of fine embroidery and other crafts of the times were her solace. Her tools were her constant companions.

When she was 72 years old, she embarked on a new endeavor using her scissors to create some silhouettes. This led to her seminal life achievement, the execution of 1,000 intricately cut and pasted botanical collages which are now in the permanent collection of the British Museum.

Much has been written about Mary and several comprehensive biographies are available online and  for purchase, most include images of her work.  I imagine viewing them in person at the museum would be amazing, but for now... you can follow this link to The British Museum to see some of the wonderful imagery she created.  Mrs. Delany has left her shadow, her silhouette on art history and she did it as an old woman in a culture which valued her and her achievements very little.  Mary Granville, you were a fine figure of a woman indeed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old Time Romance

Back in the good old days

Things really haven't changed, have they.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A, B, See

As a child, I had a huge fascination with Helen Keller and all things having to do with blindness.   I loved to color and read and.... according to my family..... spend an inordinate amount of time staring at myself while dancing in front of a mirror.  How in the world was Helen Keller coping with a sightless and soundless life?

Maybe I have Helen Keller nostalgia today because I've come across a stash of vintage braille paper.  Could I read this if I gave it a little effort? 

All I can feel is a general sense of texture.  Perhaps if I do a rubbing, I'll be able to see the dots and decipher what they mean?

Nope, no help at all. I guess if my worst fears ever come true, I'll  have to rely on a talking book reader because reading braille seems next to impossible at this point. 

I hear the braille paper I found is highly prized by collage makers and journalers .  The textures are gorgeous and the stock itself is thick and receptive.  Adding color and form to a page which was once read by someone who could see neither will seem hauntingly redemptive to me.

If you never got the pleasure of meeting Helen Keller or only saw her portrayed in movies, here is a brief clip of the real (incredibly inspiring) Helen.

Monday, January 31, 2011

One World One Heart

Here is an event I've really been looking forward to for awhile.  It's the 2011 One World, One Heart Blog Tour.  In order to participate, you have to have an active blog.  This is wonderful fun, a chance to meet other bloggers and enter lots of fabulous prize contests.

I'm supposed to introduce myself so, here goes.  I'm a mother, grandmother, wife and avid collector of vintage things, including the 1920's house I restored and live in.  I love to create art out of vintage items.

The soft heart door hanger I'm offering in this drawing was created completely out of vintage sewing supplies, old costume jewelry, millinery flowers and beads.  It is about 5" wide by 6" long and hangs well from a door knob or small hook. 

Comment below for a chance to win.  The winner will be announced February 17th.  I hope it's YOU.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

America Loves Scrabble

If Alfred Butts were alive today he'd be amazed to see all the uses people have found for his little wooden alphabet tiles. Mr. Butts was a depression era, out of work architect who decided to try his luck at inventing a board game that had the look and feel of a crossword puzzle. His original title "Criss and Cross" was soon changed to the now very familiar term "Scrabble".  Over 120 million sets of "Scrabble" have been manufactured since 1948.

Today, the familiar little "Scrabble" tile has found itself incorporated into lots of different applications from jewelry to card making and scrapbooking, as structural components in model making and art elements in collage and assemblage.

Here in our house, we rarely get the old game board out and prefer to gather around the table playing a cut-throat game of "Speed Scrabble" with the little wooden tiles.  The kids would rather play electronically. No matter how you decide to play... it's clear we Americans have had a long term fascination with the little wooden alphabet tiles Mr. Butts design in the 1930's.

You could even spend a little time today doing a little something you know you love. Play Scrabble.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Gloved One

Before Michael Jackson was even out of diapers, any sight of a gloved Jackie Kennedy was enough to send the paparazzi flying for their flash bulbs.

Here was a woman of such style and grace who just made us all think wearing gloves in the heat of a summer morning was as normal as breathing.  Never mind the sweaty palms the smudges on our white cotton fingertips, having to take one glove off to have a smoke (probably in the grocery store) and inevitably loosing one of a precious pair in the process.  We all wore gloves anyway.

Our mothers wore gloves to church, to go shopping in the city, to tea parties with friends, hey, they probably wore them to carry their little American Tourister compact bags to the labor room to give birth to their little glove wearing daughters, like me.

Then one day, not quite sure when, we just stopped seeing gloves.  Fashion folks, who chronicle things like this, say it was around 1970.  High society women had been wearing gloves since before Marie Antoinette.  Perhaps, when it got down to Aunt Bea showing up at the Mayberry jail wearing a hat and gloves, the fad was really over. The masses were just less germy if you know what I mean. Who needed gloves when we had antibiotics and vaccines?  Who needs gloves today, when we have hand sanitizer pumps right next to the grocery carts?  I miss gloves.  But, if they come back into fashion in another form like this...

I probably won't start wearing them to the grocery store anytime real soon. Fashionistas are predicting a return of the glove, so... if you want to get a jump on the trend, I've got some good ones here .

I'm also happy to report I'm now a sponsor at Sweet November and was featured there today.