LOTS OF LAUGHS AND A FEW WELL-EARNED TEARS
A TIME-BOUND TALE WITH TIMELESS APPEAL
Angela's home life forces her to grow up too fast. A popular school leader and "closet nerd," Angela responds by enshrining carefree fun as a virtue when it comes to the opposite sex.
Bart Aikens, filmmaker, The Vampire's Dance
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Secret Life of a 1950s Girl
By Angela Weiss
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 Angela Weiss
All rights reserved.
Saturday Night, New Year's Eve 1949: Nightmare
"Mommy! Daddy!" I want my mommy and daddy. I'm frightened! I keep calling, but no one comes. Where are they? "Daddy! Mommy!" I had a scary dream. I hear the wind howling outside. The tree branches are slapping the window. "Mommy! Daddy!" I'm alone in a giant bed. I can see through the thin white curtains. It's nighttime outside. It's dark in this big room. I can hardly see the pretty flowered wallpaper. I'm in Grandma C's upstairs guest room. I've never slept here before. I'm a big girl. I'm almost five. But I'm afraid! "Daddy! Mommy!" It seems as if days go by before I hear footsteps. The door opens. I see Grandma with the hall light behind her. She's wearing a long, white flannel nightgown. She is shorter than Mommy and Daddy and the other grown-ups. She has a gray braid of hair. It goes almost down to her tushy. Yesterday I told Mommy, "Your mommy is really old."
Mommy laughed and said, "She's only seventy. It's not that old."
Grandma commands, "Gay schluffen! Gay schluffen!" She speaks only Yiddish. Though I don't know Yiddish, I remember this means, "Go to sleep!" But I'm afraid. I want my parents or even my brown bear to hug. Grandma doesn't hug me. She doesn't come near me. She's in the doorway, a dark shape against the light. Over and over, I hear, "Gay schluffen!"
"Daddy! Mommy!" I keep crying for my parents. At home in Albany, I don't cry. In our apartment, I'm not afraid. I stay with sitters when my parents go out. I sleep in a daybed in the living room. Here in Gloversville, I'm many miles from home. I haven't been alone with Grandma before. I don't know whether I like her. Even though I need a hug, I'm not sure I want her to hug me. She doesn't smell good. "Mommy! Daddy!" I become more upset. I keep calling them. Grandma never comes into the room.
Finally, after more orders of "Gay schluffen," she closes the door and leaves. I'm scared. I'm all alone again. It's very dark. As her footsteps go down the hall, the floor creaks. Then I hear only the storm outside. I see a white thing on the arm chair by the window. It's my rabbit-fur muff! Aunt Sara gave it to me on my birthday. I love it! If I touch it, I might feel better. But it's dark. I'm afraid to get out of bed.
"Mommy! Daddy!" Nothing happens. Why don't they come? Oh! I remember. They got all dressed up.
Daddy said, "We're going to the Jewish Community Center with Uncle Abner and Aunt Myrna."
I asked Mommy, "Why aren't Aunt Sara and Uncle Jules here?"
Mommy said, "They live too far away. Spring Valley is near NYC."
"Daddy! Mommy!" I'm still alone in the dark. I try to get out of bed. But it's too cold and scary. I yell their names more. I cry louder and faster. After a long time of fearful crying, the door opens. Did Grandma call my parents? I see them in their party clothes! "Mommy! Daddy!" I hug them. I stop crying. Mommy's face is sad. I feel bad. I say, "Is your New Year's Eve party over? I'm sorry."
Daddy says, "It's okay, Angela. Happy New Year!" With Daddy and Mommy nearby, I calm down and fall asleep. Being alone with Grandma was too much.
Saturday, January 7, 1950: Birthday Shoes
After vacation, I'm back in kindergarten and in tap and ballet class. I'm five today! I got patent leather tap shoes! They tie with a ribbon. I like to click the silver taps on the floor. I wear soft black slippers to do the five ballet positions. I love to dance!
Friday, February 3, 1950: Stars
Pretty Miss Bridges gave me my report card. Mommy said, "Angela, you got yeses on almost everything. Very good! I'm putting a giant gold star on your chart." I like stars! I get them when I do something good. I have red stars for telling time. I have little gold stars for tying my shoe laces in a bow. If I am really good, maybe I will get a sister or brother.
Sunday, March 5, 1950: Flower Girl
I am happy. Daddy, Mommy, and I took the train to NYC. It made a lot of noise. My new plaid taffeta dress is so pretty! The collar has ruffles and lace. I was the flower girl. Cousin Justine was the bride. Her handsome husband has blue eyes. Nice Grandma W and Daddy's sisters hugged me. My uncles were quiet. I had fun with my cousins Ron and Hal. I asked, "What's a honeymoon?"
Mommy said, "It's like a vacation."
Sunday, March 12, 1950: Tad
Tad lives down the hall. He has blue eyes and is five. I told him about my cousin's wedding. He got down on his knee. "Angela, will you marry me?"
I laughed and said yes. I was excited. Mommy helped me dress up in a pretend long dress made of scarves. My veil was a scarf. Mommy and I cut red, orange, and yellow paper flowers for a bouquet. All the kids in the three apartment buildings came to our wedding. Tad looked nice in his suit.
First Tad said, "I do."
Then I said, "I do." Tad put a ring on my finger. He kissed me. Tad's pretty mommy gave everyone punch and cookies. Tad and I danced. Our wedding was fun. He's my husband now. We don't get a honeymoon.
Monday, April 3, 1950: School
Daddy read my report card out loud:
Angela has learned to listen quietly. She is well mannered.
Angela is a very fine pupil. She is interested in everything. I like my nice teacher and Hudson School.
Sunday, April 16, 1950: The Funnies
I like Sunday. Daddy's home from work! I unlocked our front door and picked up the heavy newspaper. I opened the bedroom door. Daddy and Mommy were asleep and woke up. Mommy looked unhappy. She put on her robe and went to make breakfast. Daddy is always happy to see me. I jumped into bed and listened to Daddy read the funnies. Dagwood and Blondie are the best. We laughed at the jokes. Daddy let me jump up and down on the bed. I love Daddy.
Tuesday, April 25, 1950: Get Busy
I heard Mommy tell Daddy, "The dermatologist suggested that I get a job or do something similar. My rashes should go away if I'm too busy to worry."
Sunday, May 28, 1950: Toys
Mommy drove Daddy and me from Albany toward Schenectady. We stopped to look at an empty store. Mommy said, "It is small, but will keep me busy. Any profits will help us buy a house. Angela, I'll drop you at first grade in Colonie before opening the store. We'll sell clothes, home supplies, and things they have at five-and-ten-cent stores."
I asked, "Will we sell toys?"
Daddy said yes. I like the store. I can get more toys. Dolls are the best.
Sunday, June 11, 1950: Ranger
I shot my two cap guns and played cowboys with my friends. I liked wearing my dungarees, cowgirl shirt, chaps, tie, big hat, and holster. The Lone Ranger is my favorite cowboy. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans are next best. I don't like Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy much.
Friday, June 23, 1950: Well-Adjusted
Mommy read my report card out loud:
Angela works and plays very well with others. She always obeys promptly and cheerfully. She always answers in complete sentences. She counts from one to a hundred. Angela is well-adjusted emotionally.
I asked what well-adjusted means.
Daddy said, "It's good!" I'm happy! It's vacation!
Tuesday, June 27, 1950: The Store
Mommy and I go to Fern's Cleaners and Variety Center every day except Sunday. Stores are closed on Sunday. I love looking at the toys and clothes in our store, but can't have them. We have to sell them for money. On white cardboard from the inside of shirts, Mommy painted fancy signs in big letters of different colors. "Angela, I learned to make signs in art school. Soon you'll learn to read this flyer telling people in the housing development that we're open. It lists specials: plastic tablecloths, sixty-nine cents; salt and pepper shakers, four cents; nylon hose, $1.09; and fifteen cents to launder a man's shirt. We'll use Albany dry cleaners."
I said, "Our new phone number is 8-8044."
Mommy said, "You have a good memory, Angela."
Friday, June 30, 1950: Separation
Tad is lucky. He has a baby brother and moved to a bigger house. I'm sorry I can't see him anymore.
Tuesday, July 11, 1950: Chief Helper
Daddy sells clothes at the Surplus Store on South Pearl Street in Albany. After work, he brings vegetables and kosher meat on the bus to Colonie. In the back of the store, Mommy cooks dinner. We eat between customers. The store has no hot water. At nine o'clock, we put the dirty dishes in the car. Mommy drives us home. If Daddy tells a story, we get home faster than thirty minutes. I like to hear how Chief Helper gets people out of trouble. Angie Indian, a girl like me, helps the Chief, like Tonto helping the Lone Ranger.
Monday, July 17, 1950: Pray
Mommy said, "Angela, your job's important. Watch the kids and tell me if they steal anything in the store."
I answered, "If I do my job, can I have a sister?" Mommy looked kind of funny. Daddy and Mommy looked at each other.
Daddy said, "After Rowena was born dead, the doctor said, 'No more babies.' God answered our prayers and sent you."
I asked, "Can't we pray again?"
Daddy answered, "The doctor said it's dangerous for Mommy." If I am good and pray maybe God will change his mind.
Monday, August 14, 1950: College
Mommy rang up a sale on the cash register. I whispered to her, "The boy put two toy cars in his pocket."
When the boy's mommy paid for clothes, my mommy said, "The total is $8.50, including the toy cars."
The mommy looked at the boy. "What cars?"
My mommy said, "In his pocket." The boy's face got red.
His mommy pulled out the cars and spanked his tushy hard. "Put these back, Johnny. Haven't I told you not to take anything in stores?"
After they left, Mommy smiled and said, "Good job, Angela."
At dinner, Daddy said, "Dolly, I'm putting two dollars, instead of one, in your college savings account. You've saved us money by watching customers." Daddy calls me "Dolly" when he's happy.
I asked, "What's college?"
Daddy said, "An important school, which costs money, after high school."
Mommy said, "The Depression kept Daddy and me from finishing college."
I asked, "What's the Depression?"
Daddy answered, "A bad time. People lost jobs and couldn't buy food." I hope it doesn't come back.
Sunday, September 3, 1950: Coincidence
We took the train to NYC. Uncle Bert drove us to the Belle Harbor summer house of my aunts and uncles. Nice Grandma W hugged me. I had fun on the beach with Ron! When Daddy and I came out of the ocean, we both said, "Ouch!" Under my foot was a green metal bed for a doll house. Under Daddy's foot was a green metal truck. No one came for the toys, so I kept them. I wonder why Daddy stepped on a big boy toy when I stepped on a little girl toy.
Sunday, September 10, 1950: Ledge
Mommy and Daddy cleaned our apartment and did the laundry. I had fun playing ledge with my friends. The ledge is a stone shelf around our red brick building. We threw our pink rubber balls onto the ledge. We liked the popping sound of the balls bouncing out high from the back of the ledge.
Wednesday, September 20, 1950: Big Girl
Wearing dungarees, I played ledge with a friend. Mommy and Daddy were all dressed up. Mommy said, "We're walking to the synagogue for Kol Nidre. Come along. It's too late to change."
I asked, "Can I stay and play?"
Mommy answered, "Okay. We'll return in an hour."
I played until my friend's mommy said, "Time for supper." It was no fun alone. The sun was going down. I looked down the street. I couldn't see Mommy and Daddy. I played more. The sky was darker. I felt afraid. Our apartment was locked. I thought: if I don't talk to strangers, even if they have candy, I can run to the synagogue. Hoping scary Annie wasn't out, I started down our street. The long block had junky row houses. Negro men in white undershirts sat on the stoops and drank from dark bottles. At the corner, I looked both ways and saw no cars. I ran across the street and down another long block with old houses attached to one another. With Daddy and Mommy, it didn't seem this far. I felt scared of getting lost. My heart pounded. I breathed hard and wished I'd stayed near our building. I hoped Mommy and Daddy would be proud of me if I found them. I turned left and crossed the empty street. I ran a short block to the corner. I didn't know where to go. Facing right, I crossed the street and raced to the next corner. When I looked to the right and saw the synagogue, I stopped holding my breath. I let out a big sigh about not seeing scary Annie. In the empty hall, I heard loud voices chanting prayers. I wanted to sit with Daddy in the good seats downstairs. I climbed to the ladies' balcony, hoping to find Mommy. I was afraid to go home alone in the dark. I tiptoed down the aisle behind the seats. I was glad to see Mommy's black felt hat with the feather! I ran to Mommy. I usually don't hug her, but this time I did. Looking surprised, she whispered, "Did you come by yourself?"
I nodded yes.
Later, Daddy said to Mommy, "Angela found the synagogue, like a homing pigeon. She had to make three turns and cross streets." I let out my breath because they weren't mad.
Thursday, November 16, 1950: Schoolhouse
My two-room schoolhouse is on a country road. Our first grade is across the hall from second grade. Woods with ferns are in the back. It's hard to write on the junky desks because kids carved things in the wood. I can read my book about Dick, Jane, and Spot now!
Monday, December 4, 1950: Crazy
After we lit Hanukkah candles, Mommy told Daddy, "Jules had Sara committed as crazy. My brothers are getting her out of the private, locked sanatorium."
I asked, "Is she crazy?" I felt worried.
I'm happy that Mommy shook her head no and said, "Jules is a conventional businessman without imagination. He can't understand Sara's artistic temperament. He became a tyrant when she wasn't a housewife with his dinner ready every night."
Sunday, December 24, 1950: Divorce
Mommy told Daddy, "Sara called. Thank goodness she's free. Poor Sara! Another divorce!"
I asked, "What's divorce?"
Daddy answered, "They'll stop being married. Fern, at least Jules was fun. George had no sense of humor. Remember our 1942 camping weekend at Lake George?"
Mommy nodded yes and answered, "But George supported Sara when she was publishing her three music books."
Daddy said, "True. He used his attorney contacts to get her on the Albany Symphony Board." I don't remember Uncle George.
At their fancy house in Spring Valley, tall Uncle Jules smiled and said, "You look like Sara." He looked handsome with wavy blond hair.
I smiled and said, "Thank you." Mommy wants me to look like her and Daddy. Aunt Sara took me for a fun ride with the top down. Uncle Jules took our picture in the convertible. It's in our album. I'm sorry he was mean to my best aunt. He was my nicest uncle.
Friday, April 27, 1951: Scream
At school, my friend and I screamed at a snake crawling on the floor near our desks. Scared, I jumped on my chair. After taking the snake outside on a broom handle in a bag, our teacher said, "Settle down, class. It's a harmless garter snake." Instead of listening to the lesson, I kept looking at the floor for snakes. Ugh!
Sunday, May 13, 1951: Mothers and Daughters
My doll, Molly, and I wore the aqua mother and daughter hats and sweaters Mommy knitted. I told Mommy, "Molly wants a sister. I'll take a sister or brother." Mommy smiled, but didn't say anything. When we went to Grandma C's, Mommy and I wore our matching navy dresses, which Mommy sewed.
She asked, "Do you like your silk shantung dress, Angela?"
I nodded and said, "Thank you." Mine's smaller.
Excerpted from Boy Crazy by Angela Weiss. Copyright © 2015 Angela Weiss. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPre-Diary Memories, 1,
The Childhood Diary, 27,
Mother's Family, 297,
Father's Family, 298,
Males in Angela's Life, 299,
Females in Angela's Life, 302,
Acknowledgements and Permissions, 303,
Author Photograph and Biography, 306,