Monday, October 26, 2009

I Wore a Monkey Suit - Memories of Me Monday

The very corner market I frequented as a kid in the late 60's and early 70's; It's still on the same corner, in Redondo Beach, just with yet a different name. {Photo taken in 2001}

Today's Memory Jogger:  "What do you remember about shopping with your mother?  What particular store did you frequent?  What was your favorite store?  Did you shop differently with your mom than with your friends?" 

This cracks me up.  Of COURSE, I shopped differently with my mom than with my friends!

Back in the "day" there was not the ever-present hysteria about kidnapping (although I do remember the same dire warnings at Halloween about poisoned candy and razor blades in apples) and so we kids got to walk to the corner store in our Redondo Beach neighborhood pretty much whenever we had a bit of change saved up from collecting soda pop bottles (no cans then) and turning them in for a nickel a piece.  Ahh, those were the days!  My brothers and I, or my friends and I, would walk the 4 or 5 blocks to Paul's or Phil's or John's (it changed owners & names a number of times just in the 5 years we lived in the neighborhood) and shoot the works on Hostess fruit pies, 50/50 ice cream bars, peanut butter cups, Abba-Zabbas, Big Hunks, Sixlets, candy buttons, and eensy wax pop bottles filled with brightly-colored sugar-water.  There was penny candy, too, that actually cost a penny, or even two-for-a-penny; taffy, bubble gum, lemon drops, and jawbreakers.

Saturdays always found the corner store full of kids, turning in pop bottles, buying candy & drinks, as well as loitering outside.  It was a kind of gathering place for the days when you didn't see your buddies at school.  And every weekday there was a rush to Phil's for after-school candy.  If you didn't have any money you could often score a share of whatever someone else bought.  The store proprietor seemed to like us, too, there was never an "Only Two Students Allowed at One Time" or a "Leave Your Backpacks Outside" sign posted on the door (of course, we didn't have backpacks, we carried our schoolbooks in a pile in our arms).

Sure, every now and then there might be a scuffle in the aisle between two or more boys, or outside, but they were short-lived and mainly consisted of an exchange of rude words and then a push or shove.  And a few times kids were caught stealing which was a huge scandal.  The absolute worst thing you could do was embarrass your parents!

I remember going shopping with my mom a lot.  With 5 kids in our family (at that time) someone always needed something, not to mention grocery shopping every week.  And Back-to-School shopping was always a big deal.  Seems we mainly went to the May Company for that; I'm sure we bought our gym uniforms there, for junior high.  Now, those I remember VERY well.  They were all-white, one piece outfits with short sleeves, an elastic waist, buttons up the front, and shorts with elastic hems.  Yeah, can you imagine?  Our shorts ballooned up around our upper thighs and hips, but they were modest!  We called them our monkey suits.  We also wore white socks and white tennis shoes.  I think the boys got to wear blue shorts with white t-shirts, white socks and white shoes, but I'm not 100% certain.  Boys always got the better deal!

I liked shopping with my mom.  I was always impressed with how she seemed to know just where to go to find whatever was on her list for that day; I couldn't figure out how she did that.  We always had two or three of my younger siblings with us, too, and I would help entertain them if they got restless.  My sister, Lisa, who was the youngest at that time, would often throw a fit if she couldn't have whatever she wanted; she could be especially bad when we were shopping for clothes.  She wanted everything pink, frilly, ribbony, silky, and short.  My mom bought practical clothes but Lisa hated practical, she wanted to dress like a movie star or a princess.  My mom made most of our clothes, too, so we would usually be shopping for stuff like socks or shoes, or coats, but Lisa would want the store-bought dresses (no pants, even as playclothes!) and the frilly blouses and short-shorts.

Some people never change!

The rest of us kids didn't care that much about what we wore.  My mom has always said about me, "I could buy anything and bring it home (or sew it) and Debbie would just wear it."

I haven't changed either, I guess!

I do remember that one of my other sibs was tough to buy for, too, but in a different way.  My older brother, Mike.  He hated, absolutely hated, to go shopping especially for clothes, and most especially for back-to-school clothes.  By the time was in his teens he wasn't keen on even going to school, let alone spending time at a department store trying stuff on to wear to school.  He resisted like crazy, and got into frequent arguments with my mom.

One time that I remember quite clearly, because I've never forgotten his reply to my mom's insistence that he go with her to the store and try on some jeans so that she would be able to buy the appropriate size, and because he was "down to just one pair that still fit."

Mike said, "So? I can only wear one pair at a time!"

When I was 12 or 13 there was a new fashion fad that my BFF, Judy, and I were totally into and desperate to own: "Hot Pants."  These were short shorts in blue denim with different colored waistbands and pockets and they were soooo boss!  Of course, neither of our mothers would buy them for us because they were too short, immodest, and simply not appropriate.  But everyone had them!  This was around 1970 and the Love Generation of the 60's still had a hold on the fashion industry, and Hot Pants reflected the Flower Child/Free Love attitude, not to mention that we thought they'd be grovvy worn with the peasant-style blouses we had already learned to sew for ourselves.  So Judy and I concocted a Plan.

We each saved our allowances and our babysitting money and when we had enough we walked to the shopping center and each bought ourselves a pair of the coveted shorts. They cost $3.99.  Then, and this is what floors me now: we wore them to a church picnic! The picnic was being held at El Nido Park, in Redondo Beach, which was walking distance from our homes, so after the picnic started we slipped off unnoticed, ran home, and changed out of our mom-approved long pants into our Hot Pants, then returned to the picnic all puffed up like peacocks & strutting around in our short-shorts.  Boy, we thought we were something!

Funny thing is: I don't remember our parents' reactions at all. I definitely don't remember getting sent back home to change, so I'm thinking maybe they just looked the other way and let us have our little moment. I was not made to return the shorts either, and I remember wearing them again that summer.  They may well have been the first item of clothing I bought with my own money, but it wouldn't be the last.  Within a few years I was buying a lot of my own clothes, and sometimes fabric for items that I sewed (like my drill team "Friday" uniform in high school), and taking great pride in it knowing my parents hands were full providing for the needs of five kids.

Judy and I went "shopping" quite a lot.  It was something we really enjoyed.  We often walked (sometimes barefoot in the summer!) to our favorite stores, Sav-On and the "Dime Store," to browse, buy a small item like a new writing tablet, a set of colored pencils, or embroidery thread, and then walk back home (unless we stopped at Winchell's Donut shop which I'll write about another time as it's an entire blog posting on its own).  We also walked a longer distance to a shopping center where there was a Woolworth's that had a lunch counter.  We loved to sit on the red vinyl stools and order Cokes and pretend we were older girls who ate out all the time.  We'd try to talk all sophisticated and stuff.

Then we'd buy 5 candy bars for a quarter and go to the 50 cent movies. Usually a Disney flick.  Suitable for kids.

NEXT WEEK'S MEMORY JOGGER: "Do you have a special school memory?"

Yes, I do.  Read about it next week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holiday Fundraiser to Benefit Several Charities

To all my blog readers, if you are anywhere in the vicinity of Benicia, CA., on Saturday, November 7th, stop by and check out this holiday fair and fundraiser.  I'll have a booth there!  The event benefits several charities, plus gives many of the self-employed women in the area (like me) a chance to display their products and services.

Be sure to bring the kids to see Santa!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Will do Math for Books - Memories of Me Monday

My three favorite books of all-time:  "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, "Island of the Blue Dolphins," by Scott O'Dell, and "The Giver," by Lois Lowrey (not sure why "The Giver" didn't make it into the photo - must've been a technical difficulty because of course I own {multiple copies of} the book).

TODAY'S MEMORY JOGGER: "What are your favorite books?  Describe the best book you have ever read, and also the worst book."

Here are more of my faves from when I was a kid:

Most of these books I've read multiple times; many of them I still re-read every few years.  For a lot of them I have some very specific memories.

When I was in the 5th & 6th grades the Bookmobile used to come to my elementary school every other week.  Not sure why; after all, we did have a school library, but perhaps it carried books that our library didn't.  At any rate, I loved climbing aboard the library-on-wheels and choosing a book from amongst its shelves.  That's where I first found "Brighty of the Grand Canyon," by Marguerite Henry.  She was a favorite author already since she wrote the "Misty of Chincoteague" and that whole series of stories about the famed ponies on Chincoteague Island.  Brighty was not a pony, but a winsome and dear little burro who lived in the Grand Canyon.

I first read "Where the Red Fern Grows," by Wilson Rawls around the age of 10 or 11.  If you've never read this book, stop reading this blog, and go get it!  It's the most incredibly fascinating and emotional story of a boy and his two hound dogs, and it's absolutely unforgettable.  When I was around 14 my mom read the book to my brothers and sisters and me, one chapter at a time, every Monday evening for Family Night.  At that time we ranged in age from 7 to 15 but every one of us was mesmerized by the story, and looked forward to that chapter all week long.  Even though I had already read the book, it was a totally different experience to hear it read aloud. Even my strong and stoic mom could barely make it through the last, and most emotional, chapter.  There was not a dry eye in the room that evening!  Both my mom and dad had read to me since I was a baby, but this particular experience, of hearing "Where the Red Fern Grows" read to the whole family, is probably the biggest reason I became a read-aloud mom to my own kids.

Have you figured out yet that I LOVE to read?  I can't remember a time when I didn't love to read.  I know that I learned to read quickly; I'm pretty sure I already knew a lot of words before I even started kindergarten, and in those days reading was not taught until 1st grade.  I had good examples to follow; my mom and dad both read, and so did my older brother, Mike.  It was also a way for a very shy child to inhabit many different worlds and cultures, have incredible adventures and, best of all, imagine herself the heroine of the stories!

In my family we kids always got books for Christmas and birthdays.  Even now it's just not Christmas without a new book to crack open during the quiet Christmas day afternoon following the high-pitched & noisy excitement of Christmas morning. I grew to love rainy days, and cold winter days (especially snow days in Minnesota when schools would be closed) because it meant I could curl up in a favorite reading spot and indulge in my favorite activity all day long if I wanted.

In elementary school we students could order books via the Scholastic Book Club (through our school) for between 45 cents and $1.25 or so.  My mom would give me a few dollars to spend and I would write down the books I wanted from the books listed on the pamphlet, then calculate and re-calculate the prices to get the most books for the money. Those were probably some of the few times I did math willingly!

In the 60's and early 70's, in southern California, most cities had what were called "neighborhood branches" of the public library.  These were small branches situated right in housing developments and neighborhoods, making it easy for people to utilize them simply by walking or biking a few blocks.  What a shame they are for the most part a thing of the past.  I can't even begin to imagine how many times I either walked or rode my bike to one of those little branches.  My friend, Judy, and I would ride our bikes and come back with our bike baskets full to the brim with books.  I often couldn't decide which book to read first so I'd put them in a stack, read Chapter One of the book on top, then Chapter One of the next book, and so on down the stack.  Then I'd start at the top again and read Chapter Two of each book!

In Junior High "Gone With the Wind," by Margaret Mitchell was THE book to read amongst the girls.  I bought a copy with my allowance and carried it from class to class the entire school day just so I could read a paragraph or two on my way from one class to another.  When I finished it I immediately turned back to Page One and started over, reading it completely through a second time!

Just writing about the books I loved as a child makes me want to re-read them yet again.  Maybe I will!

MEMORY JOGGER FOR NEXT WEEK:  "What do you remember about shopping with your mother?  What particular store did you frequent?  What was your favorite store?  Did you shop differently with your mom than with your friends?"

Are you writing down your own memories?  Share with us -- if you like!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Drama Queens - Memories of Me Monday

Me, standing in front of the junior high school I attended 1969-71 {photo taken in 2001}

The memory jogger: "Describe the buildings, grounds, etc., of the junior high you attended. What was it like walking to school?"

I have more clear memories of my two years at Adams Middle School than I do of all my other school years combined.  Maybe that's because of the huge difference between junior high school and elementary school, or perhaps it's because I attended there during the time I was also going through that wondrous time in a child's life known as puberty but, thinking back, I'm pretty sure the real reason is because it was the most dramatic, emotional, and crisis-prone time in my life.

What was going on?  My best friend and I were fighting!

Hey, that's totally serious stuff when you're a 12 or 13-year-old girl!

It's pretty much the end of the world when you're on the outs with your best girlfriend because she's the most important person in your life; she's the one you do everything with because you enjoy all the same things, she's the one you talk to on the phone every day the minute you get home from school even though you spent most of the school day with her, and she's the one person you can trust with your all secrets.  When you're not speaking to your best girlfriend, you might as well be the last person on earth because that's how alone you feel.

Yeah, we were quite the drama queens, Judy and I, and also our friend, Jill, who we were very tight with as well during 6th grade, and with whom we matriculated to the Adams Middle School campus.  It was either Judy and I, or the three of us, all summer before school, and the fighting, began.

I don't remember the details of many of our fights but most of them did have a common theme:


Nope, not a boy.  Charlie was short for Charlotte.

I don't remember meeting Charlotte; I just know it was in the 7th grade.  Judy and I had many classes together, and Jill was in some of them, too.  So was Charlotte.  From early on Charlotte and Judy did not get along.  Jill and I tried to be friends with both of them, and that's when the trouble began.

I remember one incident during lunch break.  We were outside on the grassy area.  Judy, Jill and Charlotte were playing tag.  I hadn't wanted to play so I was sitting on the lawn reading a book.  Charlotte came over and started saying that Judy and Jill didn't play fair.  Judy and Jill heard Charlotte's comments and assumed I agreed with her or something, so they got mad not just at Charlotte, but me as well.  I thought that was totally unfair so I got mad right back.

That afternoon, walking home from school, Judy and I walked on opposite sides of the street, arms wrapped tightly around our books, both our noses high in the air, each disdainful of the others' very presence. I have to laugh, now, when I think back on how many times during our two years at Adams we repeated that scene!  Sometimes Jill and/or Charlotte would be along as well, if Jill was going to Judy's house, or if Charlotte had once again missed her bus (which I suspected even then was on purpose and just to cause trouble) and begged to come home with me so that my mom could give her a ride home.

The following evening I wrote in my journal: "Judy and Jill were still mad.  They had all these wonderful things planned like Judy spending the night at Jill's house and going to the movies the next day.  Judy didn't even want to go to Sister Gaine's slumber party!  I started crying in Math because I was so sad.  In one of the notes Judy and Jill wrote me they said they wouldn't be friends with me as long as I was friends with Charlotte.  So I told Charlotte I wasn't going to be her friend anymore and Judy and Jill made up [with me]."

That was on a Friday.  The following Monday I wrote: "Today Judy got mad at me.  And it's been only 2 days since the last fight.  I'm friends with Charlotte again also and I guess that's partly why Judy's mad.  Judy's most famous saying is: 'Any friend of Charlotte's is no friend of mine.'  And that includes me.  In P.E. I gave Judy a good kick in the rump.  Then in Social Studies Judy forgot her purse in the classroom and I picked it up.  When I got home I marked up all her papers and things that were inside it.  I'm really mad at her now."


Understandably, when Judy found her purse the next day, in the locker we shared, she was furious, and so was Jill, who had taken sides with her.  It seemed we were always either two against two, or the three of us united against Charlotte.  Again, Judy and I walked home separately.  Later we had a screaming fight on the phone.

The following day, a Wednesday, I wrote: "Judy was mad still, that is until P.E. when she told Carolynn that she was ready to make up.  But by then I was mad because in Art which is just before P.E. she made friends with Charlotte, 'cause remember her famous saying, 'Any friend of Charlotte's is no friend of mine?'  But we made up in S.S."

It's amazing to think of how many times the four of us repeated the same drama, in a hundred variations.  Sometimes Judy's and my parents tried to intervene.  I think mostly they just hoped we'd grow out of it.

And we did.  We all graduated from middle school and Judy and I went on to Redondo Union High School.  Jill and Charlotte went to other high schools (not the same one, though, I don't think).  We stayed in touch with Jill, since she lived fairly nearby but Charlotte, who didn't, we lost touch with very quickly.  And with great relief, I would imagine!

In all the years since, except for a brief period in high school when we fought over the same boy, Judy and I have remained very close.  She's my BFF, my "best friend forever."  I know she's going to read this post, so I sure hope she doesn't mind my baring our souls (not to mention our [now] hilariously pathetic adolescent insecurities) to the world! 

MEMORY JOGGER FOR NEXT WEEK: "What are your favorite books?  Describe the best book you have ever read, and also the worst book."

Reminder:  you don't have to use the memory joggers in a literal way; that is, whatever memory is sparked by the jogger, feel free to go with it, if you like.  Today's post is a good example; it certainly had only a tenuous connection to today's memory jogger!

Update:  If you're a digital scrapbooker get my free "Drama Queen" Word Art (plus an entire "outline" style alpha/number/punctation set) inspired by this post at the Webajeb blog!

Now go make some new memories!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Warm Up America - The Pile is Still Growing!

Yep, my little stack of crocheted and knitted squares is still growing! I now have 31 in the pile; only 18 more to go and I will begin the process of sewing them all together into an afghan. The afghan will then be sent to the Warm Up America Foundation to be donated to a homeless shelter or hospital.

I've been using yarn given to me by Rose Rich a couple years ago when I was visiting her in Utah. I love being able to put that yarn to good use! Of course, I also have lots of stray skeins, partial skeins, and various sized balls of yarn hanging around from past projects, or projects that I never did get to. I'm digging into it all.

I got tired of the crocheting the same patterns (the ones provided at the Warm Up America Foundation's website), fun though they are, so I started looking around for more stitches to try. I dug up an old (unfinished, natch) afghan project I started a long time back. The pattern I was using is in a booklet called "63 Easy to Crochet Pattern Stitches - Combine to Make an Heirloom Afghan." The 63 patterns all make squares so I've just been modifying them to make a 7" x 9 " rectangle instead. It's been really fun trying out the different stitches.

I've found I can easily crochet at least one piece per evening, if I'm watching television; sometimes I will do more - just depends on how much time I spend in front of the t.v., which usually isn't a whole lot.

I've never actually joined a bunch of squares into an afghan before, so that may prove to be a bit of a challenge in spite of all the tips given at the Warm Up America Foundation's website. It'll certainly be something new to learn.

Any suggestions??

Memories of Me Monday - Postponed

Due to pulling a muscle in my upper back, and spending all of yesterday on a heating pad, my Memories of Me Monday post did not appear this week.

It will return next Monday.

Meanwhile, a reminder of the memory jogger: "Describe the buildings, grounds, etc., of the junior high you attended. What was it like walking to school?"