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!


Teri said...

I love this story Debbie! I remember Sav-on and you and I oogling over the Liddle-kiddles, and you not buying them because your Grandmother worked at Mattel. I remember your Biff doll was like no others there were, he was a special Biff. I remember that corner market "Paul's" very well...I lifted a ball point pen from there once, about age 8, and my Mom caught me and made me walk back alone,and return it, along with an apology. I was so embarrassed, that was my last shoplifting episode! I could never walk into that store again, I was so ashamed. Looking back, I am amazed our parents let us go to that Delamo (sp?) shopping center, across that busy street. Happy memories, of a less dangerous time!

Jessica said...

That Lisa girl sounds like a handful!