The mood in America during the forties fascinates me. Men away at war in Europe and the Pacific; families left behind supporting each other financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually; fear, anticipation and profound heartache, then unbridled joy at the war’s end. Homecomings, new families, lots of babies. All of us!
I only know the forties from TV, books, movies and what my mom and dad told us. Sometimes I wish I had lived through them rather than been born towards the end of the decade. The country’s soul was deep.
I remember bits and pieces of the fifties. The move from our Brooklyn apartment to our new house in Queens when I was four. We drove there in the evening: Me, my parents, my baby sister and a lamp. My first day of school at P.S. 163, when they had to call my mother to calm me down because I wanted to go home. (Goodness, I was a neurotic kid.) My mother sat with me in the stairwell outside the classroom and explained why I couldn’t go home. Getting in line for my first polio vaccine, then the second and third.
Afraid I’d still get polio after seeing a movie in 1959 called The Five Pennies because the young girl in the film got it when she stayed out during a storm. Obsessing about being put in an iron lung, like the girl in the movie. Announcing to everyone at school in second grade that I have a new sister. Going with dad to get Carvel soft serve ice cream every Sunday after lunch in the spring and summer. Horn & Hardart chicken pot pies and mac and cheese. Saturday afternoon at the movies, eating Bonomo’s Turkish taffy (I loved vanilla most). My Brownie uniform and felt beanie ( I was some sight). Filling my Girl Scout sash with badges. Youth growth at the Jewish Center on Wednesday (or was it Thursday?) night.
Our new air conditioner, a tiny little thing we all crowded around. Hurricanes and helping to bail out our flooded basement. Storms that dumped feet of snow, which hung around for weeks. Piling into one-piece snow suits that made me feel like a jerk when I was five. The bus trip to Rolling Hills day camp. Watching The Honeymooners on Saturday night, when my parents were out on the town in a place they called “THE CITY.” (Manhattan).
Traveling to hotels in The Catskills for a week in the summer with my grandma Rose and grandpa Sam. The “Simon Says” competitions at the pool. Waiting for the massive dining room doors to open so I could sit around the big table with all my grandparents’ cronies and eat and eat and eat. Going to Abraham & Strauss every August with my folks and sisters to get new school clothes. Praying it would be cold the first weeks of school so I could wear my new wool sweaters and skirts. (I was always in such a rush to do everything.) Memories of the sixties, of course, are clearer, starting with my hippie themed birthday part in March 1960, clear through to my marriage in 1968 and being hired by Fairchild Publications in 1969.