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Posts tagged ‘memories’

How Green Was My Garden

June 9, 2016

Susan Marg

In my last post, I took exception to an article blaming British baby boomers for their children forsaking gardening. I still stand by my point that each generation is different from every other generation, but I also note that certain interests and talents are passed along. A case in point: the pleasure I get from taking care of the garden I certainly got from my father.

a_0000029AWhen I was a young girl, my father spent his free time in the backyard planting and weeding. He grew beautiful roses and peonies, placing cucumbers among the flowers, so they would not be noticeable. He cultivated tomatoes on the far side of the detached garage, frequently checking on them, as they turned from green to red and ripe.

I recently went back to the family history my husband and I had written for my parents’ anniversary to see what we had said about my father’s favorite pursuit. My mother remembered that he “spent from early spring to late fall out in the yard blissfully gardening.” I recollected a few incidents, including one spring, long after I had left home, when he had discovered that a migrating bird had laid her eggs in one of his larger flower pots. What could he do, despite his lack of patience, but wait for the ducklings to hatch and fly the coop? My dad, a hardworking businessman, never mentioned his outdoor activities at all.

Do you spend your time in the garden? Do you have a favorite flower? What about your parents? Why not write about it? As English author P.G. Wodehouse remarked, “Flowers are happy things.” And they bring back wonderful memories.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Seeking the Sixties

December 15, 2015

Susan Marg

Photo by: © nejron

Photo by: © nejron

There’s an old hippie saying: “If you remember the Sixties you weren’t there.” Well, I disagree. I think we all remember the Sixties. There was the hope and excitement that President Kennedy brought to the country when he was inaugurated in 1961; our shared grief when he was assassinated in 1964. President Johnson fought the war on poverty, but greatly expanded our presence in Vietnam. Like-minded individuals marched for civil rights, burned their bras for women’s rights, and rioted for gay rights. Young people flocked to San Francisco in 1967, the Summer of Love, but fled the Hollywood Hills following the Manson murders in 1969.

If these events bring back memories, write about them. Here are some more suggestions to consider when thinking about your own personal or family history.

  1. By executive order. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship in 1961. Although the volunteer organization had its critics, Congress formally authorized the program later that year. Since then, nearly 220,000 Americans have joined and served in 140 countries.
  2. Notorious for being banned. When first published in Paris in 1934, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was banned here: it couldn’t be imported to the U.S. When Grove Press legally published it in 1961, the battle to read about the adventures of a young expatriate in Paris had just begun. Local authorities in twenty-one states filed sixty lawsuits against the book or those who sold it on grounds of obscenity. When one such case went to the Supreme Court in 1964, it overruled state court decisions and established a new, more liberal definition of obscenity. No longer could a book be banned because of its dirty parts, but rather it had to be without any socially redeeming value, as well as prurient throughout and offensive.
  3. Tell the people what she wore. The bikini first went on sale following an outdoor fashion event in France in 1946. The song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polk Dot Bikini” was the number one song for one week in August, 1960. The sexy swimsuit did not become fashionable, or acceptable, however, until Annette Funicello wore one in the 1963 movie Beach Party. Hers neither had yellow polka dots nor showed her navel.
  4. The doctor is in. In Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb, a 1964 satire of the Cold War, the President and his advisors, including Dr. Strangelove, a nuclear war expert played by Peter Sellers, are trying to resolve a crisis brought about by a crazy Air Force general who unleashed a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It did not end well for anyone. In Doctor Zhivago, an epic drama released the following year, a doctor/poet played by Omar Sharif survives World War I and the Russian Revolution. Both films were nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and both lost to musical love stories, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, respectively, demonstrating the wisdom of making love, not war.
  5. The British are coming! The British Invasion refers to rock bands from across the pond, such as the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones, making a big splash in America in the mid-1960s. Few made it to Woodstock in 1969, however. The Who performed, and Joe Cocker’s performance of “With a Little Help from My Friends” earned accolades. John Lennon wanted to be there, but the U.S. government refused him an entry visa.
  6. A shot in the dark. While protesters marched for peace, we witnessed the assassination of John R. Kennedy in 1963, of Malcolm X in 1965, of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, and of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
  7. A space odyssey. American astronaut Neil Sheperd went into space in 1961, three weeks after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the earth. Still, Sheperd was the first person to have manual control of his spacecraft and was widely celebrated upon his safe return home. In July 1969, we went to the moon, landing in the Sea of Tranquility. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong pronounced, stepping outside. Fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin joining him twenty minutes later described the surface as “magnificent desolation.” Their teammate Michael Collins stayed on board to man the controls, while Armstrong and Aldrin collected rocks that President Nixon gave as gifts to 135 countries and all fifty states.
  8. Kings of cool. Dean Martin, former partner of Jerry Lewis, member of the Rat Pack, nightclub entertainer, and movie star, began hosting The Dean Martin Show, a television variety program, in 1965. Always charming, he sang, danced, flirted, smoked, and drank his way through the hour program. In 1967 Tommy and Dick Smothers offered viewers an alternative point of view on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In their opening act they sang folk songs, which usually led to an argument. There were also plenty of arguments with the censors, as their pointed humor was usually directed at racism, the President, and the Vietnam War. The show was cancelled in 1969, while Dean Martin continued to get good ratings through the 1973-1974 season.
  9. Thank you, Al Gore. Contrary to statements Gore made, possibly taken out of context, he did not invent the Internet. Rather the Internet grew out of the ARPANET. Scientists formulated the idea to enable general communications among computer users, particularly corporate, academic, and government researchers, in 1963 and developed a plan to implement the network in 1968. It was up and working in 1969, under the control of the military for two decades. Al Gore as a Senator, by the way, promoted legislation to fund the expansion of the ARPANET to allow greater public access.
  10. Close to home. The Cuyahoga River, dividing the East side from the West side of Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown, caught fire in 1969. Neither the first nor worst time this had occurred, the incident barely made the local news, but it created a national outcry, leading to the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The pendulum swings, and a lot happens in a decade.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

What Do You Remember?

August 3, 2015

Susan Marg


Brevity by Dan Thompson at

Are your memories keeping you awake?

Get up, and write them down.

In the morning,

have a strong cup of coffee

and call a personal historian.

Happy Music, Happy Times

February 18, 2015

Susan Marg

Stock image: Depositphotos

Stock image: Depositphotos

It might have been branding, but I always thought Bette Midler was divine. I bought “It’s The Girls,” her first studio album in eight years, as soon as I learned of it. I knew almost every song on her tribute to classic girl groups, which included the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, the Chiffons, and the Supremes. Reaching back to the thirties and forties, Midler also included hits by the Andrew Sisters and the Boswell Sisters.

When asked how she made her selection, Midler, now 69 years old, replied, “The bulk of it is the sixties because it was such happy music. You have very fond memories of the music you grow up with. In fact, really, it’s the music you know the best. It’s the time of your life where you have the most time to listen.”

Ah, to have time to listen to the music and dance. So, make time.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Oh, What a Doll!

December 14, 2014

Susan Marg

You can buy a Madame Alexander doll wherever fine toys are sold. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, has a wide selection from babies to ballerinas, including Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious Cloth Dolls. Or, you can buy a vintage Madame Alexander doll on E-Bay.

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

Beatrice Alexander, the founder and namesake of the doll company, began her business from her kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York in 1923. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she learned her craft by the side of her father who operated the first-of-its-kind doll hospital.

Initially the Madame Alexander Dolls were homemade from cloth, but the business soon expanded. In the 1930s, Alexander added lifelike details. With synthetics introduced in the 1940s, she began using plastic to create vinyl heads and hair that could be styled.

In the 1950s advertisements touted various models:

Madeline – fully jointed at wrist, shoulder, hip and knee for pretty posing.

Kate Smith’s Annabelle – with the pixie look.

Rosebud – soft plastic baby with voice and moving eyes.

Maggie Walker – walks where you lead her.

Dryper Baby Doll – let her drink, change her real Dryper pantie pad insert.

Alexander believed that dolls could be used to educate and created collections based on historic events, literature, music, art and film. Some of the well-known personages on whom she based her designs include Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, the Dionne Quintuplets, and Queen Elizabeth and her daughters (at the royal family’s request). A Scarlett O’Hara doll is housed at the Smithsonian.

My mother received a Madame Alexander doll on her eighth or ninth birthday. It was the height of the depression, so my mother wonders how her parents had the money for such a wonderful gift. She still exclaims, “Oh, such a beautiful doll.”

As a personal historian I believe a favorite plaything can fill a sleigh with happy memories. What are some of yours?

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Who’s in the Kitchen?

October 15, 2014

Susan Marg

No one is in the kitchen, not even Dinah. Nor is anyone making dinner, not even “simple, easy, everyday meals,” per chef Mark Bittman in the October 20 issue of Time.

No one's in the kitchen. No one's home. Photo by: designbuildinhabit.

No one’s in the kitchen. No one’s home. Photo by: designbuildinhabit.

That’s a shame for a lot of reasons.

As Bittman points out, it’s so much healthier to eat at home. A home-cooked meal, compared to the same served in a restaurant, has two hundred fewer calories. It’s less expensive, too.

Sure, eating out is convenient. That’s why fast-food restaurants are so popular. But, when was the last time you had a real conversation at MacDonald’s or Burger King or even Chipotle? Do you even remember your last meal in an In-N-Out? Who were you with? What did you talk about? Did you try something new?

Currently, Del Webb, the retirement community developer, is running a slice-of-life commercial narrated by a young-looking senior citizen who proudly claims, “I never cooked Thai food in my life, and now I’m cooking it for twenty people.” Well, I used to laugh at the ad, thinking the spokesman had nerve treating his guests no better than guinea pigs. Now, I think, why not.

Why not step out of your comfort zone? Why not learn a new skill and make new friends? As a personal historian, I’m all for creating memories, as well as recording the past.

By the way, those of you who didn’t catch my reference to “Dinah in the kitchen” probably never had the pleasure of singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” around a campfire. You can make up for lost time by listening to Muffin cartoon characters here. I’m sure any resemblance to “Hell on Wheels” is purely coincidental.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved