Tag Archives: 1960s

Red Sneakers

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Many years before Prince coveted his little red Corvette, I invested hours of begging my mother for a pair of little red sneakers. I was in love.

 

 

Red Sneakers

 

In those years of the late 1950s to the early 1960s, canvas-coated feet were emboldened in a battle between Keds and PF Flyers. My mother favored Keds.

Okay.

I accepted the poverty of options. Secretly I preferred Keds also, because on close scrutiny of my friends with PF feet, I could see a deficiency in quality. The fabric was skinnier; the rubber was wobblier. From a distance, the colors and styling were eye-catching. Up close, the optical illusion gave way.

Keds had solidity. Longevity. Ankle support.

But they were poor in color palette. White, navy, and black predominated, which was a bit boring to a small girl with a big dream of being a fashionista.

Today I describe my go-to wardrobe as: black, white, and indigo. Once again demonstrating the power of the circle. The ceaseless circle of life.

I’m voluntarily back where I began.

Almost.

Against that background color trinity, though, I love accents of surprise from every pie slice of the spectrum.

But, in the post-WW II days, life was spectrally dim. Women wore quiet dresses. Men sore Obama suits. Children wore practical clothes, that is, clothes of colors that did not readily reveal dirt. Clothes that could be worn a few times without washing and still pass for respectfully clean.

Looking back, I appreciate that practicality. Fewer loads of laundry made ecological and economical sense.

But, still. I wanted a pair of red canvas sneakers. Just so my feet could shout a little. Be happy and dance a little.

And not just plain red low-riders. No, I wanted red high-tops. And that’s where the real battle began.

Not only did Mom see red canvas as a grass-stain magnet. She judged high-tops as completely inappropriate for girls.

What the heck? I never could figure it out, but, suddenly practicality became too masculine.

I was a tall, gangly kid in need of strong ankle support. So, why not high-tops?

My arguments were in vain. For six years of childhood, she denied me.

And that denial rode along with me into adulthood.

Decades later, I found myself periodically craving a pair of red high-top sneakers. This time, though: Converse. Yes. A pair of tall, red Chucks.

Somehow, every moment of zealous pursuit was foiled. My size was not available or red was not in favor with the fashion police or long shoelaces were not being manufactured. Some quirk of commerce always roadblocked.

Then.

This year.

In the midst of 2015’s final three months of holiday blitzing.

My husband surprised me with a wedding-anniversary gift:

 

RED CHUCKS!

 

 

Yes, it truly is never too late to have a happy childhood.

And today, on this Winter Solstice, may all of your sorrows be lifted. May all of your dreams come true. May a new season of happiness fill your soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Chiffon

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It was early morning. I wandered out into the front courtyard garden and was greeted by a late-blooming lily of exquisite delicacy. Flower - Lily

 

Like a parachute at dawn, this lily had silently landed – petals spread aghast – in a color impossibly soft.

 

Made of flouncy fabric with ruffled edges, so like a trill of tiny pie shell scallops that I jolted.

 

“Lemon Chiffon,” I thought.

 

Yes. The lemon silk pies my mother baked in the moist summer heat of her cherished kitchen.

Pie - Lemon Meringue

Attributed to BettyCrocker

 

The kitchen designed in tones of mocha icing: big brown blocks of linoleum knitted the floor together in a spray of geometric patterns. Countertops were speckled with confetti inlays of chocolate and bronze-metallic.

 

Why, I wonder, was tidy splatter ever appealing as décor in the 1960s?

 

Was it the mirror of a rebellion brewing in the human heart, or, something simpler: camouflage for crumbs?

 

My mother’s kitchen was, always, well-scrubbed with elbow grease. She had little to hide. Perhaps just a few . . .

 

Stealthy crumbs like pie crust crystals left behind after the rolling pin ironed the dough ball flat and the pewter knife trimmed the jagged ends and the crooked knuckles of my mother’s hands had crimped the 9” diameter of a tenderized tin plate.

 

The hot clammy summer weather soothed her crippled fingers, while its weight caused the pastry ruching to droop.

 

The process always looked futile.

 

Until she poured molten lemon custard from a stainless steel double boiler into the slumping, buttery pie shell.

 

And slide the tarnished pan onto the oven’s middle rack, baking it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Tangy Lemon Chiffon Pie Photo by Taste of Home

Although this routine raised the already sweltering heat of the kitchen, she produced an animated, flaky-crusted, glossy-skinned meringue that floated cloud-like atop a lemon silk pie.

 

Impossibly soft in color.

 

Tartly refreshing in flavor.

 

Bordered with crisp, fluted edges.

 

Just like the perfect lemon chiffon summer.

 

And as the dog days of summer relax their bark and collar their bite, a slice of nostalgia seems so fitting to me.

 

A vision carried from childhood on the breath of God.

 

A snapshot of mother-magic.

 

To boost me forward on my earthwalk.

 

Drive-in Churches and Rogue Religion

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Theatre Marquee (2)

My father’s antidote to his mother’s church-going religiosity was delay.

Every summer, my family spent several weeks with my paternal grandparents in Clearwater, Florida. And every Sunday morning, my grandmother, Nana, insisted upon church attendance.

After breakfast, the six of us competed for two bathrooms. My father always graciously volunteered to be last, allowing the rest of us, especially us women, enough time to adorn ourselves in summer frocks with matching hats and gloves and shoes. Meanwhile the men sought coolness with a wrinkle in summer-weight suits of light linen or seersucker. My grandfather, Papa Schumacher, accessorized with his signature fashion statement: a bolo tie bearing a porcelain scene of The Sunshine State.

Once dressed, the five of us filed out to the garage, as my father inevitably had to return to the house to use the commode. Nana became impatient at this weekly announcement and ushered us quickly into the car.

Nana didn’t drive, so Papa S. did the car purchasing. This one was a rare find. It seems that one year, around 1960, Dodge decided to give Cadillac a little rivalry. They produced an elongated Dart with tail fins that ended with a tiny pair of lights that looked like grace notes.

The head lights were hooded like a pair of eyelashes.

The body paint was pale pink:  vintage sun-bleached flamingo.

The interior was fabric: a Scottish plaid of bold reds and black; accents of yellow and green dotted throughout.

I capriciously liked to think that this plaid was a nod to Nana’s ancestry and swayed Papa S.’s decision. Dad disagreed. He didn’t believe in romance. He just scornfully nicknamed it “The Pink Panther.”

My father never could quite get over this Detroit delicacy, but with a smirk and a shake of his head, he obliged to taxi us five passengers around town during summer vacations.

Sunday church was no exception. After we heard the toilet flush a second time, Dad would emerge, ceremoniously open the door, dust his lapels, re-fold his handkerchief and take a seat behind the steering wheel. He would wipe the leather-covered wheel with the freshly-washed white handkerchief, pat his prematurely perspiring brow and then shift the gear column into reverse.

Dad always lost his heavy foot on Sundays. He drove with the dedication of one searching to avoid any possible roadway calamity. Nana began to fidget. My father’s pace slowed. She opened a paper fan printed with tropical flowers and began to wave it furiously back and forth in front of her powdered, moon-pie face.

A leisurely fifteen minutes passed. Somewhere across town, the church building never failed to sneak-up and surprise me. We seemed to approach its parking lot catty-cornered from some intersection and suddenly it appeared like a mound of ice cream on the waffle cone horizon…mint green stucco, soft yet bold in the morning light.  Lushly landscaped with bougainvillea, hydrangea, birds-of-paradise and other semi-tropical flowers. Its lawn was so green it glistened even in the shade of the coconut palm trees.

Every year I scanned the property for a flock of plastic flamingos to complete this Floridian Art Deco scene. I was always disappointed. As was Nana.

We always arrived late and most often, too late to get an indoor seat.

My father’s secret genius: I am certain that he was delighted each time the parking attendant directed us to the overflow lot where another attendant placed a dented metal microphone box on the driver’s half-open window, and, handed us six paper fans.

Once again, Neal succeeded in avoiding the church. He confined us to drive-in church, which my brother and I greatly preferred. We could giggle and poke each other with the wooden sticks of our fans, as the adults struggled to grasp the message traveling through crackling static.

I don’t know who invented drive-in churches or why, but drive-in churching was almost as fun as going to drive-in movies – minus the pajamas, pillows, and blankets.

Nana never found the fun in it, though. She was visibly annoyed during the hour of automobile religion. She wanted us to believe, but instead, she only maintained her perfect church attendance record in some rogue reality of her son’s design.

But what was her greatest regret?

I’m thinking it’s that she missed the après-service coffee hour. After all, what’s more enticing than a java jolt and some holy gossip?

 

Turret Churches and Basement Coffeehouses

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Turret Church with Black Border

“Turret Church” – Cartoonery by jayni

My first experience with a coffeehouse was back in 1969. That critical year after Woodstock when society feared that every child under 18-years-of-age was going to dive into drug addiction, run away from home, discard marriage and all other morals from the 1950s, and, possibly eschew a day job and live off of love and handouts.

It was a panic moment for parents and authority figures .  .  . no one older than 30 understood the new paradigm. And to be honest, no one under 30 really knew the definition of a “paradigm,” but, we were mostly committed to the adventure of discovery.

So, as police started to crowd-manage with billy clubs and tear gas, and adults scorned bell-bottom jeans, strands of beads, long hair, bralessness and free speech, just about the only badass folks left to temper teenage rebellion were the clergy.

The young graduates of divinity school, almost on the edge of hip, and with stars in their eyes and energy pulsing, they commonly took on the cause of saving the youth from self-destruction.

This sort of salvation is not to be confused with the soul-type; it was aimed at the physical body. It was aimed at diverting addictive behavior and keeping society sterile.

A popular way of doing that was to entice teenagers into Saturday night alternative activities, such as creating a groovy subterranean coffeehouse in the basement of many a grand old church. Free food – mostly sweet pastries and sodas – was served to start us on the road to sugar addiction, thinking it was much healthier than heroin.

The atmosphere was bluesy, jazzy, hazy, dark enough so you could make out with the one next to you and no would know – often not even you.

The music was rock: loud, rambunctious, flamboyant. Impossible to talk above. And, therefore, impossible to conduct a drug deal. The organizers wanted a new form of brainwashing and behavioral modification, in the hippest setting possible.

No police were on duty. Just God watched over.

When the band took a brief break, many of us would slither into the restrooms, crawl out the windows that sat at ground level to the back parking lot, and meet the city’s premium drug lords. It was an audience made in heaven for the dark angels of any powders, pills or portions we craved.

Ten minutes later, the band was warming up, grinding into a groove and we were perched back on our pine-log stools, circling around electrical wire-spool tables. Cupcakes and Cokes were spread out like latter-day picnics on the rustic, splintered wood.

And so, the Saturday nights progressed and the fledgling youth pastors felt pleased with their mission.

Somewhere in the midst of this hipster club trip, my friend Dougie and I got a notion to hitchhike to California. To explore the real counter culture revolution in Haight Ashbury.

We crashed with some friends of friends and spent hours walking around the city, peeking into book stores, pubs, brothels, underground music venues. We stayed up all night and slept a few hours on filthy, floral-upholstered sofas that were spewing foam viscera like dry cleaners’ exhaust plumage.

We felt cool, progressive, and witty. But as we hitched our way back eastward, in the privacy of an eighteen-wheeler’s back cab, we swore allegiance to each other: As exciting and energizing as the journey was, we really found the Haight to be pretty grimy – pretty messed up; the people smelly and rudely demanding of the money we didn’t have.

It was a creative learning lesson. Not one the basement coffeehouse in New Jersey could teach us. But, I needed to know if I could live there or not, and, having concluded “no way,” I did leave with a passion that would follow me for the rest of my days.

I fell in love with every turret on every fading Victorian house. I dreamed of playing out the role of The Lady of Shalott. Weaving my way to artful loneliness and flirtations of loveless longing.San Francisco Victorian houses in Haight Ashbury California

I fell in love with the colors also. Even in their states of decay, the splendor and playfulness of their child’s-coloring-book indulgence was evident, and, very seductive.

A little while later, I discovered colored wooden churches, in the South, in the forgotten country hollars. And they became an addition to my collection of inner images that would burst like a dandelion crazed by a nosh with the wind.

Gorgeous Colored and Wooden Churches, Chiloé Island, Chile

Once I entered college in New York City, un-addicted to heroin, alcohol or cigarettes, even the drab, industrial, edgy design of the city left me needy for the colors of innocence. For the the wild abandon of a child’s pure heart.

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And so, after graduating, I set off to immerse myself deeper into old, cold, stodgy ways. This time in Europe.

Then back to California for an encore, but, for the warmth and narcissism of LA.

Neither worked.

I was being summoned by the call of innocence.

At long last, I followed.

Eventually, it led me to rural mountain towns across America.

And it cracked wide open that egg of many colors and turrets and quirks that I’d packed in the suitcase of my imagination.

Finally.

Art flowed.

I was Home.

And crazy little cartoons like the “Turret Church” above are continually emerging from my mature soul.

Yes. To play with color is to affirm that soul is a happy entity!!