|Radio: theater of the imagination|
Today is my birthday. I'm old enough to realize each day is special. I'm happy to have family and friends, good health, a purpose to my days... and a list a mile long of things I'd like to see or do or get filed away.
I'm also old enough to remember radio— and when television came into the house. One day a console radio took center stage. We kids would sprawl on the floor right in front of it. That was hardly necessary as you could hear the radio anywhere in our small living room. The next day a television took its place.. We then had to sit close because the screen was so small.
One of my favorite radio shows was "Baby Snooks", the comedic adventures of a little girl— but played by veteran vaudeville comedian Fanny Brice. Baby Snooks was probably too old to be called Baby; she was supposed to be around five. She was worldly wise and a wise-cracker, adept at getting into— and out— of trouble. Even at the age I first remember her (probably also five) I admired her gumption and ability to do anything and get away with it. Let's say she was the troublemaker I knew I should never be.
But I thought Baby Snooks was a child. It was a terrible disappoint to discover that Fanny Brice was a middle aged woman. Even in Baby Snooks-costume I knew she was no kid. Perhaps that was my first lesson in mutton-dressed-as-lamb.
|Baby, you are no baby!|
Fast forward a few years. I had just turned 14. Just. You could say I was 13 and 372 days. Never was there a more accurate description of my mother than "She had champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook". She saw that the Waldorf Astoria in New York City had a summer special where children 13 and under stayed free. I assume in those days you paid by the person and not by the room.
We hit the road— 550 miles in an un-airconditioned car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Howard Johnson's our only source of sustenance. I'm not sure what I wore in the car, but somewhere around Newark I changed into a baby pink cotton sundress and plunked a matching baby pink sailor hat on my head. How did I even own that hat?
|All Waldorf, no salad|
This served as my "checking-into-the-Waldorf" outfit. I must have looked about ten. My mother was not taking any chances we would be disqualified for the discounted rate. I was a full partner in this ruse. I loved the idea of staying at the Waldorf and had bragged about it to my friends. That night we dressed for dinner, and I wore a black sheath dress— scoop neck, sleeveless, pencil skirt. Tres chic that sheath but probably too sophisticated for a young teen. The pink ensemble made no more appearances in New York City.
We had a lovely trip, though we ate dinner every evening at the same restaurant: Stouffer's. My mother had coupons.
|Stouffer's "Top of the Sixes" was |
dining in high style