Saturday, April 7, 2012

1960's Drive-In Movie Theaters

In the fifties and sixties, a popular form of entertainment was the drive-in movie theater.  For a small price, a carload of people could get in.  You could bring your own snacks or buy something from the concession stand.  While you waited for the sun to go down, and the movie to start, the kids could play on the playground equipment.  The drive-in theater in Lapeer was called The Sunset.

I remember, sitting in the back of my dad's station wagon, filled to the brim with my brothers and sisters. Usually, it would be to see a Walt Disney movie.  We always brought our own popcorn - huge bags of the buttery, salty stuff - and Kool-aid.  We brought blankets and pillows, too, by one, we would nod off before the movie had finished.

I am a member of a group operating at a writer's website called The Writer's Cafe.  I was given a story prompt to write about "three" in some way or form.  Inspired by events of my teen years, I wrote this story about a trip to the drive-in.  This actual trip never happened, but it could have.  Hope you enjoy it!

                 It Happened One Night at the Drive-In      copyright WSG 2012
                                                          by Wendy Seames Garner

Norm pulled carefully into the parking spot, he didn't want to damage the paint on his white 1960 Pontiac Bonneville convertible on the speaker post. Rolling the driver's window up partially, he reached over, grabbed the speaker and gingerly placed it on the window. He adjusted the sound. Mary Wells was singing, “Nothing you can do, cause I'm stuck like glue, to my guy, my guy.” He turned and looked at her, she was smiling. Are you thinking about me, Ruth? Am I, your guy?

It was a hot and steamy July night. A bead of sweat trickled down her neck. He fantasized about licking it. He imagined his tongue sliding across her skin, tasting it's saltiness. Got to control myself. He ran his hand through his mousy brown hair, trying to calm down. Before long, the sun would set and millions of stars would be twinkling in the black velvet sky. It would be a night made for romance.

Her light brown hair was cut shoulder length in a pageboy, the ends flipping up. Bangs cut across her forehead. A little blue velvet bow was clipped just above the bangs, before the hair swooped up, carefully ratted, and liberally sprayed until it wouldn't move. She was just taking off the blue silk scarf, she had used to protect her hair from the breeze that had rushed through the open convertible as it raced down the road. Her sleeveless light blue dress, with it's scoop neckline, fit snugly, accentuating her breasts, before flaring out from a gathered waist.

Slowly she turned to him, she eyes glowed with excitement...

“Let's go play on the playground, until the sun goes down!”

Jumping out of the car, they raced to the playground, set up in front of the giant, outdoor screen. Swinging and sliding with youthful abandon, she couldn't look more beautiful to him. At twilight, they walked back to the car.  The temperature dropped when the sun down, but the humidity was stifling.

Her brown eyes danced with excitement as she talked - which she was doing too much of tonight. He could get lost in those eyes. He only pretended to watch the cartoon - his mind was on other things. She turned her head and looked at him, her eyes seemed to be pleading. He was just about to kiss her when she said...

“Norm, can you get me something to drink from the concession stand? It is so hot and muggy.”

“Ah...sure, Ruth Ann.” he said, pushing his black rimmed glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. His blue eyes filled with disappointment. “Here, just let me out your side, so I don't have to mess with the speaker.”

Sliding across the bench seat, he exited the car. Taking out his wallet, he hurriedly checked to see how much was left after buying the tickets.

“Oh...and can you bring some Milk Duds and some popcorn? Please!”

He returned, juggling a tray of icy cold Coca Cola, Orange Ade, popcorn, and Milk Duds. His juggling act wasn't too good, he lost the Orange Ade, it's contents spilling down his shirt and onto his pants. So back to the Concession Stand he went - with a trip to the restroom first. The line was even longer than it had been the first time. I sure hope my luck improves tonight.

The feature, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, was just starting when he returned. Everyone was settling in to watch the movie, the cacophony of sounds quieted down to a few whispers, coughs and an occasional honk of a horn when someone entered the drive-in without turning off their lights.

She was entranced with the movie, watching every move, listening to every line. He stretched, then casually laid his arm across the back of the red leather seat. Slowly, he inched his way across the seat, closer and closer to her. The heat of her young body excited him. Time to make my move. She is going to get scared and turn to me, then, I'm going to kiss her.

Melanie, played by Tippi Hedren, was being attacked by seagulls. In what seemed like slow motion, Ruth Ann turned her head...right past Norm...toward the back seat.

“Tell me when the gulls stop attacking, Wendy, I can't look!”

Wendy, sitting in the back seat, noticed the look of disappointment in Norms eyes. Sorry, Norm...she made me come. There may be three of us, but I sure feel like a fifth wheel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Terrible Twos - The Saga Continues

My little Hope E.'s antics as she makes her way through her “Terrible Twos” year are sure to test this grandma's patience. We are trying to potty-train Hope. At Me Ma's house she will only sit on the potty chair fully clothed – while at home, she has actually used it, twice.

I tell her, “If you are a big girl, like Jessica, and go potty in the potty chair, we will have a party!”

Nope, that doesn't work.

“You can wear pretty “Big Girl” panties if you go potty in the potty-chair.”

Are you kidding me?

Lately, she has started telling me when she has gone poo in her diaper. Yesterday, I was trying to throw some supper together, when I looked over at Hope. She was standing if front of the TV, one hand jammed down into her diaper. Her other hand held a big brown clump.

“Nooo, Hope, ewww!” I exclaimed in horror.  I rushed her to the bathroom to wash her hands, before she could touch anything. Next stop, the bedroom to change one nasty diaper and check her clothes for contamination. “Why do you do that, Hope? That is soo nasty!” I rambled on, totally grossed out.

I must say, Hope comes by this trait honestly. I remember when her father was a little boy, just a bit younger than Hope is now. I heard him giggling one day, when he was suppose to be napping. Entering his room, I was assaulted by a sight and smell I remember like it was yesterday! Brian was brown, head to toe. Poop was smeared from one end of the crib to the other. The walls, within an arms reach, as well.

After eating her supper last night, Hope was taken into the bedroom, where Christy changed her, once again, shapoopied diaper. Caught it before any damage could be done this time. Yes!

A few minutes later, I heard Hope yelling, “Help, Me Ma, mess!” Entering the bedroom, I found the now shredded diaper, strewn across the bedroom floor – courtesy of the dog.

I will be so glad when Hope is finally potty-trained!

I'll throw you a party, Hope, and buy you a dozen balloons. Pretty please, please, please, please, please use the potty chair Hope.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Terrible Twos

My once sweet little monkey, Hope, is into her “Terrible Twos” now.

Hope loves balloons. Her birthday balloon lasted for a month, but finally would float no more. So, being the good grandma that I am, I told her we would go to the store and buy a new one.

My mistake was buying the balloon first, and then thinking we could do a little grocery shopping, then stop for lunch.

Parking in the Kroger parking lot, I went around to the back door and proceeded to get Hope out of the car seat. She had a death grip on that balloon. I tried to pry it out of her little fingers.

“No, no, my ba-youn," she screamed.

“Balloon will be right here, waiting for you when you come back,” I assured her.

I had a heck of a time getting the seat belt unbuckled with Hope thrashing and the balloon's ribbon intertwined through everything, but somehow I managed.

Hope still screamed, “No, no, my ba-youn,” at the top of her lungs.

“We can't take balloon in the store, Hope, they sell balloons and they will make us pay for it again,” I tried to reason with her.

Dragging her from the car, I ran for the nearest shopping cart. She was wiggling and screaming so much I thought I would drop her. I couldn't believe her super-toddler strength. It took me several minutes before I was able to wrestle her into the cart. All the while she was screaming, “No, no, no!”

I looked around, wondering if anyone thought I was trying to kidnap her. One little old lady was sitting in her car, with her window rolled down.

“That's a feisty one,” she said.

“She didn't want to leave her balloon in the car,” I said, hoping the police weren't already on their way.

As we entered the lobby, I spied a lone balloon up in the corner of the ceiling.

“Look, Hope, a balloon,” I said.

Hope immediately stopped crying.  Almost as if I had turned a switch off,  Hope was her normal sweet self again! I was able to shop to my heart's content, no mention of her “ba-youn".

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hope E. and Me Ma

The sun streaming through the living room windows, illuminated the tiny hand and nose prints, and hinted of spring on its way. Dust bunnies hopped around the floor searching for dust carrots. The TV sang out the tune of a popular children's show. Coloring books and crayons were scattered across the trunk, spilling onto the floor. The floor was a virtual mine field of toys.

“What are we gonna do?” Hope asked, her two year old shoulders raised in a shrug, her hands stretched out at her side, palms up. Her big brown eyes, looking up at me in askance from her round face. The light brown pig-tails that sprang from each side of her head, bounced as she spoke.

“I don't know, Hope E., what are we going to do?” I said. Born Hope Evangeline Garner, I was with her mother at the pediatricians office, when the nurse came out and called for, “Hope E.” From then on, we would call her Hope E.

“I got a idea!” Hope said as her eyes brightened. Bending down with a snort, she picked up a piggy, and carried it to the little red barn. Opening the barn doors, she placed the piggy in his accustomed spot.  Jumping on the band wagon, I scooped up a couple of zoo animals and returned them to the zoo. Hope and I were now singing, “Clean-up, clean-up! Everybody, everywhere! Clean-up, clean-up! Everybody do their share!”

The toys picked up, I brought out a broom, and a little stick vacuum. Using the vacuum, I chased down those dust bunnies, while Hope ran the broom under the couch. I set  the vacuum down for a minute, to move a chair.  Hope saw her chance and grabbed it.

“Hope E... can gramma please use the vacuum?” I asked.
“No, my Hope E.!” Hope said as she turned on the vacuum and ran it around the room. I had to be content with the broom, I knew from past experience that Hope wouldn't give up without a fight. Soon, I had a nice pile of dirt - that Hope immediately ran through, neglecting to sweep up.

The house clean, Hope decided to go for a march. Joining in with her, I started signing, “The ants go marching one by one, ha rah, ha rah!” By the time we reached the ants marching ten by ten, I was ready to drop. I sat down to catch my breath. 
Hope walked over to her birthday balloons, attached to the back of her high chair. Straining she reached her arms up into the air and said, Uh, uh, can't reach!”
I laughed, “Hope E. grab the ribbons and pull.”  Hope grabbed the ribbons. “Pull, Hope E., pull,” I told her. Hope pulled until the balloons were at her eye level. She stood there, just looking at “My Hope E.'s” balloons for about fifteen minutes, occasionally giving them a kiss.

Glancing at the clock, I noticed that nap time had arrived. Scooping Hope up, I rushed her to the bedroom for a diaper change. Then, we snuggled down on the bed, whispering secrets until I started to doze off. Listening to her breathing, I assumed she, too, had succumbed to the lure of the sand man. Easing myself up off the bed, I looked down to see her mischievous eyes looking up at me, a wide smile on her face that said, “Fooled you Me Ma.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Monday was the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration. According to Wikipedia the Dragon year is the luckiest in the Chinese Zodiac. As it happens, I was born in a dragon year, in fact, I'm a water dragon or so Wikipedia says – I wonder if that's why they couldn't keep me out of the water when I was a kid? My little grandchild, due this July, will also be a water dragon. My son, Brian is a fire dragon and his son, Mathew is a metal dragon. What are the odds of having so many dragons in one family?

Traditional dragon attributes include: Motto – I Reign, Ruling Hours - 7:00 am until 10:00 am, Birthstone – Amethyst, Color – Red, Season & Month – Spring, April, Food – Wheat & Poultry.

Well this sounds just like me! I'm a Red Hatter, so the amethyst and red color fit in perfectly. Being born at the end of July, the regular zodiac has me down as Leo, a lion who also reigns – oh and I did do a stint as a Red Hat Queen. Yes, I'm a morning person, 7:00 am to 10:00 am you might find me ruling from my throne with my laptop.  I just love spring, the sun shinning and the flowers blooming - I  move my throne out into the garden when spring arrives. As far as food goes, bread is my very favorite food and it's made from wheat; chicken and turkey are the main proteins I consume.

So there you go, I'm a natural born dragon. I'm just sitting here waiting for all that luck to rain down on me - it can start any time now!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Happy New Year, I am envisioning this year to be
happier, healthier and wealthier for everyone!

Our New Year's Eve celebrations this year included my family – minus Charity, who spent the night at a friend's house. We had plenty of junk food – much to Jim's chagrin, he has been dieting. The festivities included watching Hope and Jessica run through the house, screaming at the top of their lungs with happiness! We also played a couple of rousing games of Bananagrams – which Brian was leery of playing because he hates banana – and Bunco. I didn't win, but at least I got to play a game! Just before midnight, we all texted Charity a “Happy New Year” to her new cell phone. We watched the ball drop in Times Square New York, via TV – we also saw cities, around the world, welcoming the new year with spectacular fireworks displays. After exclaiming “Happy New Year,” with hugs and kisses all around, Christy and I shared a wine cooler – the only one in the house – we didn't share with Diane, as she is pregnant. Gary toasted in the New Year with a tiny bottle of alcohol-free wine – great vintage from the dollar store – Brian downed a glass of fat-free egg-nog from a carton, while Jim sipped a diet soda of some kind or another. Quite a different celebration, in many ways, than those of my childhood.

As I child, I eagerly awaited New Years Eve and all the pop I could consume!  I think Grape Ne-hi was my favorite, but I also liked orange and red. When a diet cola, Tab, appeared on store shelves and I switched to drinking that – because as a teenager at 100 pounds, I thought fat when I looked in the mirror . Chips and dip topped the menu for New Years Eve back then, I don't remember if anything else was served – unlimited pop with chips and dip was like being in heaven to me.

I remember, all the family sitting around the big old oak table in the dining room; the old year fading away as we played Canasta. I don't remember how to play the game anymore – haven't played it since getting married, when I started playing Euchre – now even that is a thing of my past.

I don't remember us watching TV – I don't even think Dick Clark had a “Rock in' Eve” back then – though he did have American Bandstand. I think, we just yelled out “Happy New Year,” finished our game and went to bed.

I do remember the neighbors, teacher Mr. Miller, his wife and two girls, coming over one year to celebrate with us. But mostly, on New Year's Eve, we just celebrated as a family; Mom & Dad, and we kids, Mike, Wendy, Patti, Terry, and Dawn.

We celebrated without the help of TV – we didn't even get a TV until I was six or seven years old – and there were no cell phones - or personal computers either. I don't recall any non-alcoholic drinks nor fat-free egg-nog – we made our own with fresh eggs and whole milk – and no sugar-free anything – unless you forgot to add the sugar, then it didn't taste too good. Well, Tab did come out when I was a teenager and they did have a really nasty tasting sugar substitute, but only diabetics used that. Of course, these fat and sugar filled treats were only served on special occasions, not something we consumed daily.

Yes, things have changed as the years have flown by...
                  but, we still have the time spent with loved ones to keep us grounded.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Childhood Christmases

The Christmas Season is officially here and my thoughts are drifting back to my childhood Christmases. Christmas was always my favorite holiday! I would start the year out with a Christmas Club account at the Lapeer County Bank & Trust, depositing my thirty-five cents every week in anticipation of the gifts I would be able to buy everyone. As I got older, I upped my bank account up to fifty cents a week – I was a big spender!

The season began with “The Hanging of the Greens” at Trinity Methodist Church, across the street from the hospital in Lapeer. I think this would have been the first Sunday night in December. It was always so exciting, decorating the church with ropes of greenery and red bows; it all looked so beautiful. It was warm inside the church while outside the wind howled and the snow flew. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best; the Christmas music, cookies and punch made it all so festive. On several occasions, I was the acolyte for the evenings service. Dressed in a white gown and carrying a lite brass taper, I walked slowly down the center isle of the sanctuary, being careful not to let the flame go out. I would first light the alter candles and then candelabra on each side. When I finished, I would sit in the pews up front, opposite the choir, waiting to extinguish the candles at the end of the service.

Finally, the time to cash in Christmas Club accounts would come and I would start my Christmas shopping. I always tried to buy a little something for the entire family. One lucky person received a world globe shaped pencil sharpener from me! I think I bought Old Spice After Shave for Dad most years. Can't remember what I bought Mom, maybe some stationery or maybe some of that Evening in Paris perfume.

I loved to go Christmas shopping downtown on Friday nights. It all seemed so magical with the lights, the snow and the cold. Downtown Lapeer was a busy place back then, no empty buildings. I would shop at McCrory and D & C dime stores. D & C had lots of penny candy to choose from, I'm sure I bought a little something for myself there. There were two hardware stores to choose from, The Lapeer Hardware and Gwinns. At one point there was a toy shop, my dad worked there! There were two drug stores downtown, selling much more than just drugs, Vincents and Zemmers. Lyons & Smith, Gages, Thornes, Vosburgs, and JC Penney were all lots of fun to look through, but I couldn't afford to shop there. I can't remember when the Hallmark store opened downtown, but once it did I was a constant shopper. I loved the Christmas kick-off they would have every year with free calendars, cookies and punch.

Decorating for Christmas at home was fun. Mom loved candles and we would make our own. Melting down paraffin wax, we would add crayons for color then pour the wax into a waxed paper milk carton with a string suspended from the top, tied to a pencil. Next, we would melt some more wax, but not add any color, then we would beat the wax with a mixer until fluffy and apply it to the outside of the hardened colored candle we had already made. The uncolored wax would look like snow and with the lights off at night and the candles lite, the colored wax would show through. We would display our new candles surrounded by greenery – cut from the bottom of the tree. 

Mom always liked to have all blue bulbs on her Christmas tree and I must say the effect was beautiful! Lately, I've noticed a few houses decorated with all blue bulbs, it makes me think of her.

Mom loved music. Her stereo was sure to be playing Christmas music all season long. The Little Drummer Boy is one of the albums I remember. I'm sure Perry Como was playing, too. Nate King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” makes me think of Dad, along with White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

I don't remember our doing any holiday baking, we didn't need to, Dad received so many gifts of cookies and candy while he was working as a rural mail carrier. He received homemade cookies of every kind, huge fancy brass tins of store bought cookies, fruit cakes and candies. I especially loved the tins of chocolate and vanilla caramels! I don't know where you can get those chocolate caramels now.

Occasionally, we would get together with my mom's family at Grandma Taylor's house on Madison Street in Lapeer. I think this would usually be a week or two before Christmas. Card tables would be lined up end to end in the living room, to accommodate all the people. I think we usually had ham and potatoes of some kind or maybe a turkey. Aunt Ernestine usually brought a delicious rainbow layered jello salad with cream cheese in it. I'm sure we had the perennial favorite, green beans with mushroom soup – probably made by my mom. Can't forget the brown and serve rolls.

Dinner finished, the adult women would clear the table and was up the dishes. While waiting for presents, I would play with my cousins Brad and Roger, the two closest to my age. I remember playing Move To The Head Of The Class and a marble/maze game with a tilting table. In the closet was an old fashioned metal race car that use to go when pumped, but it no longer worked.  The View Master with reels of a cave often caught my attention. There was also a marble filled tube, you had to shake it to move the marbles from the top to the bottom; that tube drove all the adults crazy! 

Finally it was time for presents! I think we exchanged names, so we probably only received one gift each. Aunt Gern always decorated her packages so beautifully. I remember a hand crafted gift, a glass jar with macaroni glued on, painted with gold spray paint and filled with bath salts – I thought it looked so beautiful!

Christmas Eve was always spent at Grandpa and Grandma Seames' house on South Elm Street in Lapeer. The delicious smell of grandma's scalloped potatoes and ham greeted us as we opened the door. We couldn't wait to eat, not just because grandma was such a good cook; we got to open presents after dinner! One year, I remember receiving a white oxford shirt, gold link bracelet with pearls and, as always, vanilla drops from Grandma and Grandpa. The cold trip home in the crowded car seemed to last forever; our breaths fogging up the windows, elbowing the one sitting next to us. Once home, off to bed we would go, too excited to sleep, knowing Santa would be coming! I remember trying to wait up for Santa on the top landing of the stairway, but I never made it.

Waking early (probably around 4:00 am) we would check out our stockings. There was always an orange, nuts and assorted miniature Hershey candy bars in the stocking. Not too many gifts stick out in my mind, except the year we got a round pool table with a single hole in the middle (That was fun to play!) Or maybe the year Patti and I got a Barbie house (Dad must have been working in the toy store that year.) I think we got games, paint-by-number pictures, and probably some clothes. I remember wanting a Betsy Wetsy, but I never got one. The year I turned seven, my sister Dawn was born, so I guess I had a real live baby doll then.

I think Dad usually made us eggnog on Christmas day. Made with uncooked fresh eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, beaten until frothy. It was delicious – we didn't worry about eating uncooked eggs back then.

Can't remember what we ate for Christmas dinner, Mom wasn't much of a cook. Maybe we had Swiss steak braised with onions, she liked to cook that. I mainly remember bowls of nuts - that Dad could crack with his bare hands – Hershey's candy bars, and cookies. Who needed real food with all the goodies around! 

Merry Christmas!