Mae's Real Stories
Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
Saturday, September 30, 2006
The big theaters downtown not only showed movies: they also had real stages where live actors and actresses could give a performance. Myrtle told me that for her birthday one year, her mother gave her special tickets to see a famous actress named Debbie Reynolds sing and dance, as shown in the picture. She went to this show with our cousin Marcia.
Another time, a TV show named Dragnet once was made into a movie, and I went downtown to see the movie and then to see the star of the movie, named Jack Webb, in person. He talked to the people in the theater after we saw the movie. In the TV show, whenever a very important thing happened,there was special music that went DUH DA DUH' DUH. Also, Sargeant Friday, the main police character always said to women: "Just the facts, ma'am."
My favorite movies
When I was a little girl, my favorite movies were exactly the same ones that Miriam and Alice still love now.
Watching Movies Outdoors
A drive-in theater was a different kind of place to see movies: you would sit in your car and watch a huge screen where the movie was playing. Elaine wrote that sometimes my father said the magic words: "Let's go for a ride." Something else we loved to hear on a summer evening was "Let's go to the drive-in."
We would all get in the car right after dinner and drive to our favorite: the St. Ann 4-Screen Drive-In. The 4 screens facing outward in 4 directions from the center all played different movies. We parked the car in a good place -- not too close or too far away from the screen playing our movie. Then we attached the speaker, which was hanging on a post next to the parking space. It fit on the edge of the car window. That was how we could hear the movie sound.
Next we went to the playground in the center of the vast areas of parked cars, all pointing towards the screen. When it got dark enough it was time to settle down in the car and watch the screen. Sometimes Arny went to sleep during the movie, but I think Elaine and I always watched the whole thing. Once we saw a movie about an Australian singer with a lot of problems, who kept singing "Waltzing Matilda." I don't remember most of the movies we saw.
The last time I went to a drive-in was when Evelyn was a little girl. We went with Arny and Tracy and saw a movie with Woody Allen. Now I think almost all the drive-ins have closed, because everyone can watch movies on DVD in their own house instead of sitting in a car.
(Evelyn extends this: "Now some kids grow up watching movies in the car, on the car DVD player.")
Friday, September 29, 2006
When we wanted to see a movie, we had to go to a movie theater. We could only choose from a few movies that were playing at the time.
There were two theaters near our house. They were named "The Varsity" and "The Tivoli." Some kids went to see a movie program every Saturday afternoon. Sometimes kids had birthday parties at the movie theater. Even Evelyn once had a movie birthday party, so this was a custom that lasted a long time.
The inside of the neighborhood movie theaters was pretty plain. The lobby had a big faded carpet, and a few glass cases of very expensive snacks. There was a big popcorn machine that tossed the popcorn around, and a soft-drink dispenser, but it wasn't fancy at all. Some kids liked popcorn, but my favorite snack at the movies was Junior Mints.
Downtown theaters showed new movies. These theaters were very, very fancy. The outsides sometimes had spotlights playing on the front. The marquee, which gave the name of the movie was also very impressive. To get to these theaters you had to take a long car ride or bus ride, so we hardly ever went to them.
Inside, the downtown theaters were like palaces. They had glass chandeliers and plush velvet seats. The lobbies where you entered had enormous staircases to go up to the balcony of the theater.
The railings were painted gold. The theater that I remember best had a small fish pond at the bottom of the stairs. Lenny reminded me that it was called "The Ambassador." It was alredy an old theater when I was a little girl. The two old postcards show the Ambassador.
Aunt Sadie took me, my cousin Marcia, Elaine, and other children to that theater to see Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland
when it was a new movie. There were big cardboard cutouts of the characters standing in the lobby, but it was the fish pond that impressed me the most. Besides candy and popcorn, they sold toys and things to do with the movie. Aunt Sadie bought us each a record of some of the songs from Alice
. Instead of being black, these records were bright yellow, and we played them often after we came home.
The Fox Theater in St. Louis has been restored, and this is a photo of what it now looks like inside.
I will talk about the movies that we saw another time.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Guest Blog by Myrtle
Since I do not remember much about our Grandma, I asked Myrtle to write a guest blog about her. She wrote:
My earliest memories of Grandma were in the house on Kensington Avenue in St. Louis. My mother, Bernadine, my dad, Bob, my sister, Merilyn, Uncle Erv, Aunt Evelyn, and Grandma lived on the first floor of a flat. Aunt Sadie, Uncle Morris, and Bip lived upstairs. I shared a room with my parents. Merilyn, Grandma, and Aunt Evelyn shared a room, and Uncle Erv slept on a couch in the front hallway. I could not understand why my parents got upset with me for singing nursery rhymes late into the night. Needless to say, it was cozy living.
I spent a lot of time sitting on a high stool in the kitchen watching Grandma prepare meals. That is where I learned to cook by observing what she did. She would not let me help, as she kept a "kosher" kitchen, and I might get the meat and milk dishes mixed up. Grandma was a wonderful cook. On Fridays, she would get up at the crack of dawn, and prepare the Sabbath meal, often making her own noodles, challah, chicken soup, roast, and home baked sweets. Usually the vegetables were out of a can, and were limited to fairly standard fare such as corn, spinach, and peas.
Late Friday afternoon, when all of the cooking was finished, Grandma would take her once weekly bath, wash her hair, pouring vinegar on it to make it shine. Then she would put on a nice dress. Most Friday nights, the only ones home for dinner were my Dad, Merilyn, and me. The others all worked. After dinner, she would set the leftovers on top of the pilot light, where they would stay till the next day. On Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, she would not work or ride, and she attended services at the Synagogue. Occasionally, she would break the commandment about riding, and she and I would walk out of the neighborhood and catch the bus or streetcar and ride to visit Aunt Evelyn's family [later, after Evelyn married].
Just before my sixth birthday, we moved to 740 Leland Avenue in University City. Grandma let the bank repossess the house as the neighborhood was starting to deteriorate and was getting expensive to maintain. The third floor apartment was really much nicer, and quite spacious. Within the first year after we all moved in, both Uncle Erv and Aunt Evelyn married. My Mother decorated the apartment very nicely, just as she would have decorated a home. We lived there for 10 or 11 years. When my sister married when I was twelve years old, she and her husband lived there too, as there was a major housing shortage post World War 2. It was not too long after Merilyn married that Grandma was diagnosed with senile dementia and had to be moved to a nursing home. I think I was about 16 years old when we moved to Canterbury Gardens on Delmar Boulevard.
More tales about Grandma to come.
Two Sketches by my Mother
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
In our sunroom, beneath a very large double window, was a low radiator with a wide shelf on top, used entirely to hold my mother's large indoor garden of African violets and a few other plants in small flower pots. Some were presents from her friends, but most of them she grew from cuttings. She would take a leaf from a healthy plant and get it to grow into another plant. My mother seemed to know just how much to water them, and the new and old plants all bloomed. The pink, white, and purple flowers with dark green leaves were very pretty in the sun-filled room.
My mother liked to draw pictures of the African violets on various-colored drawing papers. This is my favorite of those pictures. She made it for me to fit the oval frame.
Aunts and Uncles
We had a large number of aunts and uncles that we often visited when we were children.
My father's Aunt Goldie and Uncle Sam lived near us after we moved to our house, so we could walk over to see them sometimes. Before that, we used to visit their store and home in East St. Louis. The photo shows Aunt Goldie and Uncle Sam in their living room with their daughter Letty.
My mother's two sisters, Aunt Bernadine and Aunt Sadie often stopped by our house to visit. When I was a very small child, Aunt Bernadine had big family parties at her apartment and invited many of the other aunts' and uncles' families. I remember the delicious smelling turkey and roasting potatoes in the oven when we got there. After she moved to a smaller apartment she didn't have enough room for such big parties, but she would reserve a party room for family gatherings sometimes.
Aunt Sadie and Uncle Morris also invited the aunts, uncles, and cousins for holiday dinners. For spring or winter parties Aunt Sadie would set up long tables with white tablecloths in her living room and on the back indoor porch, with food for everyone on the dining room table, and many aunts and cousins helping in the kitchen. Our mother always told us to be sure to take the every-day plates, not the really good china plates, when we went through the line at her dining room table to get our food. My mother was afraid we would break Aunt Sadie's good china, which had gold decorations on it. Aunt Bernadine often organized the parties and did a lot of the cooking for these big dinners at Aunt Sadie's house.
One fourth of July, Aunt Sadie and Uncle Morris had a party in the back yard at the bottom of their driveway. We ate hot dogs and potato chips on paper plates instead of roast beef or turkey on breakable china. We drank iced 7-Up, bright red Vess Cream Soda, or dark brown Dr.Pepper as a special treat. After dark, my uncles lit firecrackers called snakes, which sizzled and glowed for a long time, and one or two firecrackers that made a big noise. Bip had a cherry bomb. Little kids had sparklers.
Besides my mother's sisters, she had three brothers: Ben, Jack, and Erv. Uncle Ben and Aunt Marie lived in Maryland and we hardly ever saw them. Uncle Jack died when I was a little girl, but his wife, Aunt Florence, visited us sometimes.
I remember a few things about her brother Erv and his wife Elizabeth. Aunt Elizabeth's parents owned the Winter Garden, an ice-skating rink.
She and her sister had once been very good ice skaters, and I remember seeing this photo of her skating. The picture was from a long time before we were born. We went skating a few times at the Winter Garden. Also, people talked about having once seen an ice show there with the famous skater Sonia Henie.
Uncle Erv had his own store for a few years. It faced the street where a very special St. Louis parade called the Veiled Prophet Parade went by, and once we sat on chairs in the store display window and watched the parade with a lot of other people.
Another thing I remember about my aunts and uncles is that they went on a lot of trips. Aunt Sadie often vacationed in places like Florida and to South Haven, Michigan. Aunt Florence took a trip to Europe, including Florence, Italy. I will write about that another time.
Monday, September 25, 2006
A funny old sketch
This sketch that my mother made shows what the living room of our apartment looked like when my parents were first married. Obviously, my father is taking a nap on the couch. The apartment only had one bedroom, so later on, when we were born, the living room was much more crowded, with my parents' beds and chest of drawers, because first one, then two, then three children had to sleep in the bedroom.
Almost all our cousins were older than we were. I'll only write about a few cousins, who were all relatives of my mother. My cousin Marcia was two years older than I was. We liked to go to her house when we were little. The photo shows how she looked shortly before I was born. We often went to visit her.
In her room, Marcia had a record player with a record of two songs which she often played when we were visiting her. On one side of the record was "God Bless America," and on the other side of the record was "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean." Also in her room was a small crib with many baby dolls in it. Her brother Bip was too old to play with us.
Sometimes Marcia came to our house and ate lunch and spent the afternoon with us. She chewed gum. Once she showed me how she ate a string bean on one side of her mouth while she was holding her chewing gum on the other side of her mouth. (No one remembers this except me.)
The next older girl than cousin Marcia was cousin Myrtle, who is in the photo riding a horse. In the photo, she was about ten years old. She was in junior high or high school when I remember her best, and had lots of party dresses and high-heeled shoes. She was a very tiny person, so sometimes she gave us her dresses and shoes when she was finished wearing them, and they were perfect for playing dress up, because they almost fit us.
Her shoes fit me when I was only 8 years old or thereabouts. I think that Myrtle took piano lessons. I remember that there was a piano in her living room when I was little. My grandmother lived with her and her parents when I was very little, so we often went to visit there. In the second photo you can see Myrtle as she was just before she got married, when I was in seventh grade.
Myrtle's older sister Merilyn was a grown, married woman. I had gone to her wedding when I was a very small child. My sister was a tiny baby, too little to go to the wedding, but I was old enough to wear a beautiful pink dress decorated with lace and go to the wedding with my parents. Merilyn wore a long white wedding gown. There were lots of white flowers at the wedding, and a very tall white wedding cake. At least that's what I remember.
In the photo you can see me and Elaine with Merilyn.
We had two second cousins named Lois and June, sisters a little older than I was. We liked to play with them too. They lived in a big house, and their parents had a photography studio.
We also had a younger cousin named Judy who was the same age as Elaine.
The little girl on the steps of an apartment building is Judy (confirmed by Myrtle). Judy sometimes came to play with us and her little brother played with my little brother. We once went to her birthday party at her house, but then we never went to her house again.
As we grew just a little older, several of our cousins started to have children of their own. In this picture, you can see Merilyn's two daughters Andy and Leslie with Ellen, the daughter of another cousin.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The Spirit of St. Louis
The city of St. Louis is named for a man who lived long ago. He was called Saint Louis, and he was King Louis IX of France. The people who first built the city on the banks of the Mississippi River came from France almost 500 years after the time of King Louis. They named the city for this king.
In front of the Art Museum in Forest Park stands a statue of St. Louis, riding on a horse, holding up a sword, and wearing his crown. For the people of St. Louis, this statue has always been a symbol of the city. I remember seeing the statue whenever we went to the art museum. Because the museum is at the top of a high hill, the statue is very dramatic.
One of my mother's favorite jobs as an artist was to make a pen-and-ink sketch of this statue once a year. This drawing was part of the creation of a special certificate called the St. Louis Award. Every year a very important person received this award, including the certificate with his or her name on it. A committee of important people decided who would receive the award, and then they had my mother make the certificate. Finally, there was a big ceremony, and the person received the award. My mother was only the artist: she did not go to the ceremony. But she drew her initials in the corner of the sketch.
My mother saved this clipping of the mayor of St. Louis receiving the award. It's hard to see the little picture of the statue of St. Louis the King, but you can make it out if you try.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Streetcar lines went from downtown St.Louis past our apartment on Clemens and on out into the county. One line went all the way to Creve Coeur, a park not far from the Missouri River. Before we had a car, we often took the streetcar to get to our aunts' houses. A streetcar is like a modern metro train, except that the tracks were not fenced off. Above the tracks were electric wires, and the streetcar had a big metal antenna that touched the wires and got electric power to make the streetcar move.
If you wanted to take a streetcar, you waited at a streetcar stop, often in the middle of a street, and the driver would open the door so that you could get on. You could hear the streetcar a long way off because its metal wheels made a noise on the metal tracks, and its brakes made a squealing sound.
Sometimes the tracks were in people's back yards, but most streetcars went down the middle of busy streets. People walking and drivers in cars had to watch for the streetcars. My mother warned us so often that we had to be very very careful of streetcars, that for a while when I was a little girl I was afraid to even go near the tracks, and I begged not to ride the streetcar from our house to Aunt Sadie's house. We had to take the bus instead.
Someone posted these photos of streetcars in the Delmar Loop. The top one shows the streetcar going right past Delmar-Harvard school where I was a pupil. The Loop was right across the street from the school.
The Delmar Loop was named for the loop of streetcar track where the Delmar Line looped back from its westward trip to its eastward return towards downtown. Our house in University City was a few blocks from the Loop area.
The Dime Store, two grocery stores, a small school-supply and stationery store, a drugstore with a lunch counter, and several other businesses were in the block where the streetcar tracks made their loop. In the second picture the streetcar is going past Kresge's Dime Store.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
When we were small, "going on the boat" meant driving down to the riverfront and then spending a warm summer afternoon on the Mississippi River on an excursion boat named the Admiral. The photo shows the boat going under the Eads Bridge; it was taken some years after our excursions, but that's what it always looked like.
My mother had gone on boat trips with her friends for many years before we were born. The photo shows her spending an afternoon sketching on the boat some time in the 1930s.
When I was about 5 and Elaine was about 2, we made our first river trip. We were very dressed up in matching outfits: tiered skirts in a brownish or orange color trimmed with lace, white blouses with ruffles at the arms, and patent leather shoes. Everyone dressed up to go on the boat.
The Admiral was very big with several floors called decks. When you first walked down the dock onto the boat, you entered the lowest deck, which was open and had benches to sit on. The noisy engines that ran the boat were in the middle of this deck. One of the middle decks was called a "Penny Arcade" with games to play or little shows to see for a penny or a nickel. One deck was dark and cool inside: it had a ballroom with an orchestra playing and people dancing to the music. There were restaurants and hot-dog stands on the boat, but we usually brought a picnic.
The top deck was the best. It had chairs where you could sit and watch the river. First the boat went downstream along steep river cliffs topped with trees and occasional houses or docks. A few other river boats went by. On one side of the river was Illinois. The other bank was Missouri. That was neat. It was especially fun to watch from the top deck at the exciting moment about half way through the trip when the boat turned around in the wide river and started back up towards St. Louis. By that time, it usually seemed more fun to go inside and watch people dancing or play games.
When we got older, we sometimes went on the Admiral with a group. A bus would pick up a bunch of friends, and we'd ride down to the riverfront to board the boat. Here is a photo of me riding on the boat when I was in junior high school. I can't remember what group I was with.
On a boat trip in 1931 someone took photos of my mother and her three friends. This was before the Admiral was remodeled to look like a modern steamship instead of what it really was: an old Mississippi River boat:
The Mississippi River
The Eads Bridge spans the Mississippi River. It goes from downtown St. Louis in Missouri to East St. Louis, Illinois. When we were children, we knew that the bridge was very historic, and that its designer was a great engineer.
We drove across the bridge when we went to visit my father's Aunt Goldie and Uncle Sam. They lived above their dry-goods store in downtown East St. Louis, which was full of run-down houses and apartment buildings. Uncle Sam and Aunt Goldie's store sold all kinds of items: handkerchiefs, lockets, shirts, trousers, tablecloths, and many other kinds of things.
The first picture is an old postcard of the Eads Bridge looking back from East St. Louis at the city of St. Louis.
We took the second picture in 2002, from the top of the St. Louis Arch, a monument which was built long after we were children. The picture shows how the old downtown area of East St.Louis has been cleared and turned into a park -- but you can still see the river. The whole riverfront is now a park, and very different from the way it used to be.
As children we sometimes drove with our father down to the Mississippi waterfront in St.Louis, especially when the river flooded and came up higher and higher on the cobblestone banks. The waterfront sloped steeply down to the river from an old neighborhood of brick warehouses. I found this old picture that shows how the riverfront looked from the deck of the Admiral excursion boat:
You could drive or park on the sloping cobblestone surface, and get out to look around. You could look up at the railroad bridge and at the Eads Bridge. You could watch big barges going up or down the river with piles of stuff like coal or stones. You could see a few old boats, especially the excursion boat called The Admiral, which I will write about soon.
Also in the riverfont neighborhood was the Old Courthouse. We took the next picture -- showing the courthouse -- looking the other direction from the top of the arch.
The Old Courthouse was even more famous and older than the Eads Bridge. Once I heard a very famous man named Martin Luther King speak on the steps of this courthouse. He talked about a very bad time long ago, when people were sold as slaves on the steps of this courthouse, and celebrated that there had not been any people mistreated like that for a long time.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
When we moved to our new house, we had to make new friends. Our friends Judy, Marsha, JerriAnn, and some other kids all left our apartment building at about the same time as we did. The apartments were all very small, so we all moved to new, bigger houses. But we couldn't play together any more because we all moved to different neighborhoods, and Marsha and JerriAnn moved to a different city.
In my new neighborhood I made friends with a girl named Dorothy. She lived about half way from our house to school. I often stopped at her house in the morning and then walked the rest of the way to school with her.
Sometimes Dorothy invited me into her house after school. First I called my mother to make sure she would not be worried. She would say "Come home by five o'clock."
At Dorothy's house, we played games and read comic books. Her older brothers had comic books about really scary things. My mother didn't really like this sort of comic books so I usually didn't tell her too much about them. We also liked to draw houses and furniture for our paper dolls. Sometimes we played with other girls, especially with Fay. She lived across the street from Dorothy. When we went out in Dorothy's back yard we enjoyed her mother's large beds of very beautiful roses. Her mother spent a lot of time taking care of the roses.
One day Dorothy got a new puppy, as you can see in the photo of Dorothy and me (above). I think she always got everything she wanted. She had very beautiful dolls with hair that you could comb, wash, curl, and even dye different colors.
Their names were Toni and Tint-hair (named after the brands of hair care products that sponsored the dolls). They were like a little bigger version of Barbie, but Barbie dolls had not yet been created when I was a little girl. Toni and Tint-hair had lots of doll dresses from the Dime Store near our school, and a special place in Dorothy's room with their own doll beds.
Dorothy herself had beautiful long reddish hair. Every week her mother went to the beauty parlor, and she went too. The ladies at the beauty parlor would set her hair to make the ends curl. Once I went along with her, but it was pretty boring to wait while she and her mother had their hair washed and curled. My mother never went to the beauty parlor: she cut her own hair and my hair and Elaine's hair, and we washed our hair ourselves. I still think it would be very boring to go to the beauty parlor every week.
I had other friends too, but I really liked to visit Dorothy after school.
Monday, September 18, 2006
When I was a little girl, my best friend was named Judy. I have already mentioned how Judy used to go to the St.Louis Zoo very often, and visit a llama. Here is an old post card of children petting the llamas the way Judy used to do:
When my mother made an alphbet book, she used a picture of Judy's llama for the letter L, which you can also see here. My mother wrote: "We know a llama whose name is 'Judy.' Her black spots make her a beauty."
Judy and I used to play together. She lived on the first floor of the apartment building. We lived on the third floor. Her mother's name was Pearl and her father's name was Ray. She didn't have any sisters or brothers.
Sometimes we played outside. Judy liked to play ball and run around. She liked to wear jeans. She would have us pretend to be the Lone Ranger or some other cowboys. She liked to listen to "The Lone Ranger" on the radio. The radio was big, and the speakers were near the floor, so we would sit right next to the radio to listen. Listening was like having a story read outloud, without seeing any pictures. Different voices would be different people.
In "The Lone Ranger" on the radio, the two main people were the Lone Ranger and his friend Tonto. His horse would make a high whinny when he said "Hi-Ho Silver. Away." Then music would play and you could hear Silver's hooves on the trail. The Lone Ranger and Tonto would catch bad people who were doing things like stealing horses from good people. The Lone Ranger wore a mask and never told anyone his name. Judy really liked "The Lone Ranger."
There were some other kids in the apartment building and on our block too. In this picture, Marsha (who lived across the hall with her little sister JerriAnn), me, and Judy are in the top row. Elaine and two boys named Toby and Scott are in the bottom row. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were younger than I was, but Judy was three years older than I was. When I first went to school, she knew all about it, and walked with me so that I would learn the way. That was why she was my best friend.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
First, here is Miriam a few years ago with her baby:
And here is Alice's baby. Alice took this photo herself this week:
Now, here is Evelyn with two dolls. She only liked dolls when she was a very little girl, as you see her in this picture. One doll is Raggedy Andy. The other was named Jimmy:
My favorite doll was Raggedy Ann. Here I am with Raggedy Ann and my sister. In the playpen is our cousin Mark when he was a baby.
Finally, do you remember our mother's dolls from when she was a little girl?
They were called "Nickel Dolls" because that was how much they cost. I wrote about them a while ago.
Yesterday we went to Andrew's first birthday party. His sister Miriam had to blow out his candle because he was so sleepy.
Also, because he is only 1, he didn't understand about his party. While everyone was getting a piece of delicious cake, he went upstairs to take a nap.
And many of the guests went downstairs to watch a football game on TV. They were all very happy because Michigan won the game!
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]