Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Millie!

Before I begin my post I need to wish my inspiration, the Divine Diva of Elderblogdom, Millie Garfield, a very happy 81st birthday! You're the best, Millie and I think of you with love whenever I post.

It's ironic. I'd just finished writing a reaction to Millie's last post about social life without a car. The kids and I had taken a short trip to visit family in KS and I'd been off-line for 3 days and I'd been composing a piece expanding on Millie's post. So now, in addition to wishing Millie a very happy BDay, I want to share my recollections.

60 years ago having a drivers' license---never mind a car, was not a matter of fact. If you lived in the city the public transportation system could take you where you needed to go. If you lived in ND or KS you started driving whatever you could get you hands on when you were 8 years old and you never worried about whether it was legal or not.

I grew up in Cincinnati. The only people I knew who had a car were rich relations, like my Uncle Will the psychiatrist---or folks who lived on the "other side of the tracks." In my circle, people took the streetcar or walked to wherever they needed to go. This included dating, which believe me, I knew little about.

I'm not exaggerating. I was shy, overweight kid from a poor family. As a teenager I worked at at Zellman's Fish and Poultry store gutting fish and chickens. (I'll never forget how mortified I was when Irene Kaufmann, a friend from my class, came into the store and saw me up to my elbows in entrails. "Oh, Lou!" she exclaimed, "I didn't know you worked here!") Oh, the shame.

But Thursday was the good day. I sat on a stool (I can see it even today) by the telephone and called people to confirm their orders for the Sabbath. One Thursday, Rose, the wife of the store owner, approached me with the offer of a date. (A date? Who would want to go out with me?) Rose said she had arranged a date for her sister Marion (an equally overweight, gawky and unconfident girl in my class.) Harry, Marion's intended arranged date had a brother who wanted to go along. Would I be his date? Marion and I conferred and decided to give it a go.

Harry and his brother Barry, (I kid you not) showed up for our "date." They were 18 and 20. Newly arrived from Israel (now very fascinating to me) with accents a mile thick--and most certainly "greenhorns" to my way of thinking. But I didn't think it was odd they didn't drive and we went to the ice cream store by streetcar without a thought.

It was a disaster. We didn't talk. I mean the boys and girls didn't talk. Barry and Harry were obviously less than thrilled with us and Marion and I decided that fellows who repeatedly sang "Itty Bitty Fishes in an Itty Bitty Pool" instead of attempting what might pass for polite conversation, didn't deserve even our modest attention.

We rode and walked to and from the streetcar in silence except for the repeated "IttyBitty..." refrain by Barry. Marion and I huddled together until the boys walked us to our doors. Needless to say we never saw them again.

I don't know what happened to any of these people but my disappointment and embarrassment have never been truly forgotten. It certainly didn't have anything to do with not driving and taking the streetcar but it's a perfect example of how something even peripherally related can bring back the most exquisitely intense memories.


  • At 9:55 PM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    What a story, my dear Lucy! Welcome back to the Blogesphere. I missed you! Happy you are once again regailing(?) us with your fascinating life.
    We always had cars I think because it was one of the best ways to get around in the small town we grew up in. Of course we took the LIRR in Manhatten quite a bit, though later on when I was driving and going to Drama School, there were three others who all wwent there too, two students and one teacher---we Car-Pooled it before it was fashionable or even needed...except that we enjoyed each others company a lot. But the Sunway was certainly everyone's mode in mAnhatten...(the bus, too, but I mostly took the subway)...And living here in L.A. one must have a car or you almost cannot get to some places...
    The Fish and Poultry Market sounds like it was such very very hard work, my dear. And kind of disgusting, too...I can see why you would have been embarassed....!

  • At 10:18 PM, Blogger bunnygirl said…

    I love your story and your streetcar picture! The photo reminds me of when I visited the Seashore Trolley Museum a few years ago:

    Have you ever thought about sending some of your stories to Reminisce Magazine? They're so cool:

    And speaking of stories, I haven't forgotten you, I've just been editing again in light of getting a request from an agent. I'll be sending you something soon!

  • At 4:03 AM, Blogger MizMell said…

    What kind of ice cream?

  • At 4:16 AM, Blogger goldenlucyd said…

    mizmell dear,
    The BIG kind.

  • At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Alan G said…

    Really enjoyed the story Lucy. Thanks for taking us along.

    Actually sounds like a typical “back in them days” blind date. The street car and trip to the ice cream parlor even seems a bit romantic. But the “Itty Bitty…” refrain does seem to dampen the atmosphere.

    Perhaps you and Marion should have countered their advances by singing "99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall"? :)

  • At 5:17 AM, Anonymous naomi dagen bloom said…

    lucy, you were way ahead of the curve when you left your comment this morning. i had not even told millie yet that i'd posted about her birthday!

    we were just talking about streetcars in my house. there was one kind in st. louis, a modernized number in the 1940s that gave most people a quesy (sp?) feeling stomach-wise. not unlike having the sort of date you describe.

    i have a similar memory about going out with a "very nice boy" who was very boring. even practised what i'd talk about to get through the evening. only once!

  • At 6:25 AM, Blogger Mike ( ex scientia, veritas ) said…

    Wow, the streetcar! I haven't thought about that in a loooong time. Interesting post and thanx for the memory, too.

  • At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Terri said…

    What a great story! I'm still chuckling over "Harry and Barry"....creative parents, huh?
    You're right...even growing up in the 60's, mostly everyone walked or took a bus. We had a car, but it was only used to "leave town."
    I think that's why I love my island so much....we either walk everywhere or take our golf cart. It's a small town and easy to get around. It sure reminds me of an easier, kinder, time.
    Thanks for the memories, Lucy!

  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said…

    I hope you have a lovely trip, my dear...You are the "Traveling Lady", and good for you!

    Thanks for your very kind sweet words my dear, and this documentary is very much worth seeing, even though it is quite painful in many respects.
    Travel safe, my dear.

  • At 10:32 AM, Anonymous claude said…

    Lucy, two years ago, my daughter worked for a whole year on Saturdays as a cashier at a fish shop. So even though she didn't put her hands inside the fish, --I admire you for that-- I felt very proud of her, because I never thought she would keep it up for a whole year.
    We have a saying in French that goes something like There are no stupid jobs, there are only stupid people. So there was certainly nothing to be embarrassed about!
    I wonder if Barry and Harry's parents had a third son named Larry, though ;)
    As Terry said, some people are really creative!!!
    I just loved your story, which as usual was feelingly and well told.
    Thank you

  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger Rain said…

    What a story and I think most of us remember blind dates with horror at least those in high school.

  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger saz said…

    I think it was darn brave of you to go on a blind date. I never had the courage to do that.

    I loved riding streetcars in San Francisco - not the cute cable cars but the old fashioned street cars that actually took you all over the city. They had lovely polished wooden seats and were so clean.

  • At 11:31 AM, Blogger Maya's Granny said…

    Lucy, How typical of blind dates. My last one, I was living in Fairbanks, Alaska, and it was winter and I was wearing high heels so I couldn't just walk home on the ice. I remember wondering how many times I needed to do the box step with him to repay the dinner and be able to ask to go home. He didn't enjoy it either, I'm sure as he never called.
    My father used to sing the the Three Liddle Fiddies song as a lulabye. Good for a baby, not so good on a first date!

  • At 11:50 AM, Blogger Joy Des Jardins said…

    Oh, I can feel the pain of that date Lucy. The awkwardness and how you were just dying end the night and get home. I can't believe it, but I never went on a blind date. I guess maybe I was lucky, huh?

  • At 5:05 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said…

    This story is both cute and a little sad. I'm sure the feelings you felt when those boys seemed less than pleased with the two of you as dates still prick at your heart to this day. I know that things that happened to me as a child can still bring back hurt feelings that feel as if I'm back in that situation again.
    The street car is neat.
    Dating by street car or bus. Very interesting!!

  • At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Coll said…

    This is so true. And with the memories comes the emotions.. often just as intense as they were many years ago.

  • At 6:22 PM, Blogger Mildred Garfield said…

    Hi Lucy

    Thanks for your kind words and birthday wishes.

    Loved your story and could relate to your blind date with Barry and Harry. I could just see you stuck with those guys, I had a few of those blind dates too. Way back then my dates didn't have cars either. That had to be in the 40's.

    As a matter of fact, since I posted that single story have been thinking of a slew of others that I plan to blog about.

    Steve is going to learn things about his mother he never knew!!

  • At 8:25 PM, Blogger kenju said…

    What a fun post, Lucy. My mom used to sing "Three little fishes in an itty bitty pool..." and I loved it!

  • At 7:52 PM, Blogger Suzann said…

    Hey darling Lucy - I just caught up on everything - wow, the wedding was spectacular. Hope you are well - think of you all the time. Just been traveling and out of touch -good to be back. Love you. Suzann

  • At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry that I missed you when you were in our State of Kansas, Lucy. Yes, we had a street car line (in Kansas City MO) just one block away from us to the west, a bus line just one house away from us to the east, and a trolley line just three blocks from us to the east. And, I learned to drive my grandmother's car, in her cow pasture, at age 11--after which I became her designated driver when she wished to go to the nearest town (about 7 miles). The biggest challenge was dealing with rutted, mud roads. Cop Car


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