Simple, Spiritual, Outdated Living in a Vintage New England Home on the Southern Coast of Maine

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How I Met The Original Owners Of My Maine Time Capsule House

I had always dreamed of living in a mid-century ranch house like my grandmother’s. I spent many happy days as a toddler eating while seated at her chrome dinette set, admiring the figurines in her curio cabinet, watching “I Love Lucy” on her large TV with rabbit ears and looking out of her large multi-pane window onto the tree lined suburban street of Fort Lee, New Jersey in the late 1960’s.
I bought my dream home after years of looking. As soon as I walked inside it I knew right away it would be mine. There had only been a few updates since it was built in 1952, most of them done in the 60s. Thankfully no one tried to make it look like a cosmetically covered up mid century gem with new granite, stainless appliances and soulless muted colors in the kitchen.

While looking outside the living room window that was just like my grandmother's I wondered about who had lived there before the lady from whom we would purchase the house. She had been there fifteen years, but what about the people before her? There was an indescribably good energy to whole house. Almost like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” I felt transported back in time and I could almost see and hear “Leave it to Beaver” showing on a black and white television set as a housewife and mom cooked in the kitchen wearing an apron while her kids played in the front yard.

After I moved in I decided I wanted to look up the people who had lived there to thank them for taking such good care of it and see if they would like to come over for coffee. I called the town office where public records of ownership are maintained and it turned out that the original owners lived in the house for over forty years! I really wanted to meet them, but I hesitated; what would they think? Would I sound like a nut? To some people a house is just that but to me it’s a home filled with history and stories. What did I have to lose other than a pretty daydream?

I looked them up, saw they were still living in my town and invited them over to see their house (I didn’t call it “my” house). They were very receptive and offered to bring old photos- bonus!

When they arrived the following Saturday morning we walked around the grounds and they told us about the old neighborhood and people in it.

My (ex as of 2015) husband with the former owner

Inside we walked from room to room, and I asked them what was original and what had been replaced. I heard many stories and they said my television is in the same spot where they had theirs and that they indeed watched the first runs of “Leave it to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy.”
The best part of the visit was when we all sat down at my chrome dinette set in the kitchen with the large stack of photo albums they had brought over. 

My chrome dinette set

I saw pictures of my house being built, family pictures taken inside the house throughout the years, bridge games played in my living room and my favorite, Christmastime.

Although only 1,200 square feet they raised two children in the house, and judging from the excellent condition inside, they were very well behaved. We talked about the changes in ways people are able to finance homes now as compared to then and how a bigger house has somehow come to equate “better.” A smaller house is now usually perceived only as a starting point.

I explained: “I plan to live in this house a very long time, yet people often refer to it as a ‘starter home.’”

“This was our starter home for forty-two years,” the former Lady of the House replied.

I learned about some of the local business history and even saw a picture of the businessman whose name is on the thermometer outside my door. 

It seemed that back then everything was locally owned and you could shake hands (or even go bowling) with the person whose name was on the shop.

After a lovely two hour visit they needed to get going and they were kind enough to let me scan some of the photos.
“We approve,” they said as they left. I do, too.

An earlier version of my story appeared on Retro Renovation in 2009.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Zeitgeist Music Machines

When I listen to music in my house it's usually not of the MP3 variety. Other than select artists, my taste in music is not contemporary. Sometimes I choose music for where it brings me, or from where it takes me.  It's like time and soul travel.

I own an Edison "Diamond Disc" that came with a cabinet of 78 rpm records. The instant you crank one of these it's easy to feel like you're in the set of a very old silent film. You're powering it all! You're suddenly grooving scratchy and LOUD off the grid to old timey music.

I love this photo I found in an antique album I purchased at an estate sale. This happy looking lady is listening to her Edison Gem ghetto blaster. Was it some kind of block party, maybe? Here's a snippet of mine:


I own two other turntables: One is unsexy new and the other is a very swanky 60s portable model in a leather case ideal for listening to Sinatra. I actually got this beauty at a yard sale in the free pile!

But I don't just listen to vinyl. I own an 8 track player that's made for 70s classic rock. I don't miss sound "quality" because I don't always listen to music hoping for a flawless transmission the same way I don't seek out "perfect" experiences.


Look at the head cleaners I picked up at a yard sale. The pop art adds to the fun. 

I bought this 80s boom box at a yard sale this summer for a buck. Where else would I listen to my 80s Run DMC cassettes? This is exactly how I listened back then, and placing it on my shoulder to rock out makes it extra authentic.

This is an a.m. tube radio I use for display only although it works. The capacitors wear down over time and they need to be replaced to be safe. Tube radios run very hot. If you live in New England like I do you can save on heat in the winter with one of these playing. : )

Finally, when I retire at night, I have my literal "clock radio" by my bedside.

My grandfather had that same exact radio in the 70s. He carried it around with him in his wheelchair later in life and I don't recall him ever putting it down except before bed or when he ate. I missed him so I bought this one on ebay.

Little time machines are all around my house.

Friday, November 8, 2013

American Girls Entered Puberty Later in the 1950s

1950s Puberty PSA

If you've been reading my blog for a while or you've read my book, you're familiar with the focus on obesity today being about "real" and "normal" women versus "unhealthy" which is disputed by "Health at Every Size" and similar movements. Yet how can anyone deny the impact of obesity on girl's and women's health when Early Puberty in Girls Linked to Obesity...Again?

In the 1950s girls entered puberty around ages 12-13 according to the PSA above. (Also notice that the narrator refers to some of the children as "fat.") Today?
The authors of the new study followed over 1,200 girls, starting at age 6 to 8, in three metropolitan areas: the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Cincinnati, and New York City. They monitored breast development over the next 7 years. The median age of breast development was 8.8 for African-American girls, 9.3 for Hispanic girls, 9.7 for Caucasian girls, and 9.7 for Asian girls.
Although they didn't prove causality,  “The obesity epidemic appears to be a prime driver in the decrease in age at onset of breast development in contemporary girls,” wrote the authors. Other suspected factors are toxins in our environment and food.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marilyn Monroe: How I Stay In Shape, Pageant Magazine, 1952

You're in for a treat! I own a copy of the September 1952 Pageant Magazine with the pictorial spread on Marilyn Monroe's article "How I Stay in Shape." It has been circulated on the web before but the site that hosted the original scans appears to have gone offline. Since then numerous blogs and articles have lifted those scans (you can tell because they all have the same dog ear creases and markings.) I have scanned the article in much larger file sizes

Pageant Magazine was a bawdy read at the time and primarily designed for men. It was also very cheeky with "articles" like this one about those kooky women drivers. And now, here is the entire Marilyn Monroe "How I Stay in Shape" article!

Monday, November 4, 2013

How Chicago Has Rocked My World

My favorite era for music is the 60s and 70s, and one of the bands I've loved since I was born in 1967 is Chicago. I recall hearing their music often as a small kid, and as my mother verified, she played their albums over and over. My father has seen them live five times. But the connection for me has always been the beautiful melodies, incredible instrumentals, brilliant song writing and sexy, heartfelt vocals.

One of the things I dislike about "today" is that "sexy" is often used to define twerking performers, vulgar lyrics, objectifying women and soulless bragging about conquests; listening to it makes me feel as sexy as being "romanced" by an inexperienced grabby grabby Axe cologne-wearing buffoon.

A couple of weeks ago Chicago posted the Onion article: The Most Visited Site on the Internet to their Facebook page. Comments like these ensured: know this is an article from The Onion, right? Parody & satire.

Consider the source!!!!

Not that I want to burst any bubbles, but The Onion is a satirical news website.

I then left this comment:

Not long after I saw that little red alert that let me know Chicago has replied to the thread and I read this:

WHAT?!?! Was my first reaction. It's not like they were having a contest! Stuff like that just doesn't happen. I didn't trust it, although snark isn't Chicago's shtick. I proceeded cautiously, wrote "OMG!" and sent a message. I received a quick reply asking me to contact them via email which I immediately did. Meanwhile I tried to explain to my husband what had just happened. "I was just sitting here and...." I pointed to my computer and couldn't speak. Finally I showed him the thread on Facebook.

While waiting for a response it occurred to me that they may not even be playing near me any time soon, so I checked the tour dates. They were going to be playing in Bangor, Maine, two hours away from me, on November 2nd! That would be the second of a whole series of OMG! moments. Let's fast track to one of the most wonderful and magical nights of my life:

They gave me seats front and center!
I asked Robert Lamm if I could stand next to him. He held my arm and said: "You're the star here." I also had a brief but meaningful chat with Lee Loughnane.
When I arrived at my seat, the best in the house, (I did win two tickets but we couldn't get a pet sitter in time for our guinea pigs with medical issues so my husband stayed home) I was questioned by a fellow who told me that it couldn't be my seat.

"Are you sure?" he asked, but was really telling me no way is this your seat with hints of getting ready to call security.

"I'm sure of it. Excuse me, I'd like to sit," I said with hints I was getting ready to call security.

I turned to the lovely lady seated next to me and asked: "What's with that guy?"

"Oh, he's my husband."

"Oh. What's with your husband?"

Turns out that the other VIPs were media reps, DJs and radio contest winners whereas I was there because Chicago liked something I said. (If you ask me, that's the best!) Despite the "greeting" from Ryan Cote I really enjoyed chatting with him and his wife. Ryan explained that there are people who try to scam their way into the front seats to which I replied: "So you think I look like a scammer, huh?!" It was all very good-natured ribbing and I couldn't have had better people to be seated next to on my right. In fact Ryan really made me smile when Chicago played "Old Days" and he pointed to me and said that's about me because he got how much I love vintage. Ryan also has his own DJ service, so check it out if you're in Maine. 

To my left was husband and wife team Christopher and Ann Joles of Maine Music News. Christopher and I chatted about his awesome job as rock star photographer and all of the celebrities he's met over the years. A bit further down from them was the fellow who sang "If You Leave Me Now" on stage with the band, and he was fantastic! I wish I had gotten his name so I could give him a shout-out here. (Update: His name is Michael Pacheco. He raised money for the American Cancer Society for a chance to sing with them and this was his third win. Thanks for the info, Colleen!)

But the best part of course was Chicago:

Their performance was nothing short of spectacular! Their wide scope of emotions in their music was evident whether rocking the house with people rushing the stage, moving us to sway to slower love songs or giving me and no doubt thousands of others goosebumps when they performed "Beginnings." Two personal highlights for me was when, on stage, Lee waved to me and when I pointed at Robert and he smiled and pointed back. OMG! Totally swoon-worthy stuff!

And I need to talk about sexy. To me, musically speaking, it means being in touch with who you are, intimately involved with the creative process, a fearless resolve to tap into all and especially the most vulnerable emotions and a professional execution that isn't reliant upon special effects and circus sideshows. That's why I think Chicago is HOT at any age and they are aging beautifully.

Selfie of my tour-t in my hotel room after the show

I am so grateful for the kindness of both Chicago and their staff for giving me a magical night, all because of something I said in their defense, a band that needs no defending and whom has given me so much already. Thank you!