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Rediscovering My Master’s Thesis On The Jewish Press

22 Jun

As journalists and media outlets are facing some of their most difficult times with the loss of large newspapers and 24 hour entertainment/news, and the attack on the journalists in the USA, I found my latest move-related discovery: a box filled with papers included a red folder containing the survey responses from a 78 Jewish publications in the late 1970s, who responded to my master’s thesis request.

I worked on and wrote, “The Jewish Press: Journalism Versus Religion,” in 1979. Starting in the fall semester of 1978, I f finished with my defense and publication in December 1979.   I remember my advisor being happily surprised that so many responded to my survey.  I took the information and diligently typed this information on to computer punch cards.  Then reserved my time on the University of Missouri’s mainframe computer where, my cards zapped through the machine and presented me with the results. 

I have to laugh.  It took three tries. The first I dropped the cards, and I did not have them all numbered. This was a disaster in those days, because certain cards told the computer what to do.  You do that once, and never again!  The second time, a one card had a typo.  Finally, on the third try, it went perfectly.  Of course, four responses came after the computer work, so I had to mentally add them to the statistics.  The computer took up an entire room. You do have to laugh when you think about computers today and then 41 years ago. Sigh.

Back to my surveys. I sent my survey to magazines, newspapers, English and Yiddish publications. Any publications that identified as part of the Jewish press. Some of the editors/publishers just answered the questions with as few words as possible, others sent me paragraph upon paragraph of information about their publications and their thoughts. 

One person’s help stood out.  He wrote me a letter along with returning the survey.  In his letter, Bernard Postal offered as much help as possible in my project. My most vivid memory of working on my thesis was his wonderful help and advice! 

Mr. Postal had been an associate editor of The Jewish Week from 1971 until his death in 1981.  In the 1920s and 30s he worked at many publications including the New York Globe, the New York Times, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Jersey City Jewish Standard.  He was the editor of the monthly magazine, The Jewish Digest from 1955 till he passed away. He wrote books and he was honored by the JWB’s Jewish Book Council for his contributions to American Jewish History.

For me he was a godsend.  He had written an unpublished article in 1976 entitled, The American Jewish Press after 150 Years. He was interested in my master’s thesis and wanted to help. He wrote to me about my research. He spoke to me on the phone.  Finally, when I was in New Jersey during a break, I took the train to Long Island, where he met me at the train station and took me back to his home. We spent hours going through his personal archives.  He sent me away with a load of articles, information and a wonderful interview which took place on March 29, 1979. This interview is footnoted in my thesis.

We kept in touch.  I even invited him to my wedding, which took place a year after our day together.  He did not come.  And then, less than two years after my thesis was published by the university, he died.  I was devastated.   He was my mentor.  I was 26 and he was 75. I felt terrible that I had not gone to see him with the bound copy of my thesis.  However, his name and  memory has stayed with me throughout the years. 

Finding these papers, brought me back to the memory of my day in his home. Because of my thesis and my time with Bernard Postal, I always had a positive imagine of the Jewish press. I have had articles published in three different national Jewish publications, of which only one is still published today.

For many years, I have freelanced for the local Kansas City Jewish newspaper.  I will admit, that one of the people who responded to my thesis survey was the then editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, Milton Firestone.   He was one that answered with just a few words. I never worked for Milton.   I started freelancing for the Chronicle in 1985, when I was pregnant with my daughter, 35 years ago.  He had died suddenly two years before, when he was quite young, 55.  I never had the chance to discuss my thesis with him.  However, I still write an occasional article or commentary for the paper. 

When Milton Firestoen responded to my survey, he mentioned concern to the question about “the possible demise of your publication.”  His answer: there is “little new talent interested in producing a publication. Also, young people may not want to read it.”  I think he would be happy to know that it just celebrated its 100th anniversary.  Although, I am sure there is still concern about the future of the publication, just as there is for all newspapers throughout the world.

Rereading some of the survey questionnaires has brought me back to a different time. So many of these publications are no longer published, or if they are, in a much smaller format.  I think everyone who responded is no longer alive.  I am actually feeling so glad that I held on to this tiny bit of Jewish history.

I am still looking to see if I saved the letters and the notes from my interview with Mr. Postal.  So far, I have not found them.  But what I did find has given me a bit of joy.

Life Is An Adventure; How Key People Changed My Life

21 Nov

I think everyone has at least one person in their life that makes a comment or a suggestion that changes the course of life.  I know I do. Below are three of my important people.  Two were educators, to which I am sure many can relate.

I grew up in New Jersey, but now live in Kansas.  I did not get here by happenstance.  Rather, it was a series of people who made the right comment at the right time, that changed the direction of my life.

First comment came from Professor Jacqueline Berke at Drew University.  I was taking one of her classes when she told me that I should become a writer.  She loved how I wrote and told me that I had talent.  Up to that time, I never thought of being a journalist.  I did work on the school’s newspaper, “The Acorn,” and I had been an editor of my high school newspaper, “PawPrints.”  But I had not thought of journalism as a career.  Professor Berke’s comments set me on to a path that has guided me for over 40 years.

I applied for graduate school in journalism. I was only going to apply to Columbia University in New York City.  A visit to my high school changed that opinion. I visited with Celia Whitehouse, my English teacher and the advisor for both yearbook and newspaper at North Bergen High School.  I was one of the editors for both these publications.   I told her I was thinking about journalism.  She thought that was a great choice and suggested I apply to the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Journalism as well as Columbia university.  She had been a mentor throughout high school and college, so I listened and applied to both schools.

I got accepted to both schools!  Now I had to decide.   My Mom’s comment sealed the deal.  My parents made it clear that they expected me to live at home if I went to graduate school in New York City.  Then my Mom commented, “How will I sleep at night knowing that you will be going to Harlem every day.”  My answer was sincere and to the point.  “I am going to Columbia, Missouri, that way you will not have to worry about me, as you will have no idea what I am doing at night.”

Which is why I attended graduate school in Missouri.  I will admit, it was a major change for me to move from New Jersey/New York to Missouri.   But I survived.

My second day in Missouri, I met the person who would become my husband a few years later.  Being a St. Louis boy, he wanted to remain in the Midwest.  My fate was just about sealed. But one more person had to make an important comment.

We married while he was in medical school.  Then moved to Kansas City where he was a intern then a medical resident. I got a job at a Girl Scout Council working half time as their public relations director and half time as a field advisor.  In this role I would go to different areas within the Council to train Girl Scout leaders, meet with leaders and give advice.  But in reality, I learned as much from the leaders as they learned from me.

One of the areas I was in charge of was Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  I went monthly to the military base to meet with all the Girl Scout leaders providing information about what was going on in the Council, camping and other activities.  The woman in charge of Girl Scouts at the base was Jane Stilwell, the wife of the base commander.  I can still see her when I close my eyes.

In any case, after three years working for the Girl Scouts, I was going to have to quit my job, which I LOVED, and move to Michigan, where my husband was to begin a fellowship.  I was unhappy.  I wanted him to accept an offer as a general pediatrician and stay in Kansas City. I was miserable and I let everyone know how unhappy I was about moving.

Jane was not happy with me.   At the end of each year on the base, we had a luncheon at Jane’s home, a lovely Victorian home right on the river.  As everyone was leaving, she told me to stay.  Jane then gave me the most important lecture of my life.

She explained that being a military wife, meant you packed up and moved on a moment’s notice.  That not moving could destroy a career.  That I needed to think about what my husband wanted to do in learning more; how my decision, to be unhappy, could change the course of his life and mine.

She then told me that I had a choice in life.  I could look at this move as a prison or as an adventure.  If I chose to look at it as a prison, it would become a prison. But if I looked at it as an adventure, I could have a wonderful time and marvelous life.

She was RIGHT.  From that point on, I decided that Life was an adventure to be lived.  Her words touched my soul. I loved my two years in Michigan.  We traveled to Canada, Chicago and around Michigan. We made new friends. My husband completed his fellowship and we moved back to Kansas.  Jane Stillwell was gone. But her words continued in my mind and heart.

I still live in Kansas.  My husband has had a wonderful career that gave us the opportunity to travel as he gives lectures.  I have had so many adventures!

I still think of Jane’s most wonderful advice.  I tell that to people all the time.  You chose!  You decide if your life will be happy.  You cannot change other people, but you can change your reaction to what happens.  And if you chose to be happy and go on adventures, then you will enjoy the ride.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/11/end-of-the-school-year-has-me-bringing-out-my-old-yearbooks/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

Our Daughter: Not An Astronaut

7 Mar

We always thought our daughter would become an astronaut.  It was not a crazy dream.  Our house was filled with books and videos focusing on the idea of space exploration.  My husband actually started filling out the application to join NASA, but an undetected medical issue ended his dream.  However, that did not stop him from always speaking about space. (See blog below.)

Because he could not be an astronaut, for his 40th birthday, I gave him a week of Adult Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama in 1994, just four years after the program began. He had a wonderful time and came home with his own blue NASA jumpsuit, which became his Halloween costume for years.  As a pediatrician, it was important for him to have a great costume.  Each time he put it on, he glowed.

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My husband and daughter in Space Camp.

His constant discussions of the joys of space camp excited our daughter, who also wanted to go.  So in June 1995, my husband  took his NASA jumpsuit with him when he took our then nine-year old daughter to Huntsville for a weekend of Family Space Camp.  They had a wonderful time.

Our daughter was hooked. She also came home with a desire to learn everything she could about space and becoming an astronaut.  So the summer between sixth and seventh grade she went to Space Camp at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.

There is a wonderful museum there that contains many space relics.   We had been members of the Cosmosphere for several years, after a tour there once on our way to Wichita.  It was a bit out of our way, but well worth the journey.

When our daughter went to Space Camp in Hutchinson, there was only one overnight Space Camp available.  But she lucked out.  The following year, the Cosmosphere added a second level to Space Camp.  In this new program, the campers had an overnight trip to Houston, Texas, to visit NASA. That was so exciting for her.

While they were in Mission Control, the Space Shuttle mission STS-93 was orbiting the earth commanded by the Astronaut Eileen Collins, July 1999.  Our daughter was able to speak to Astronaut Collins.  And they were there when the Space Shuttle actually returned to earth and touched down in Houston.  That was the highlight for her.  A woman in control  epitomized our daughter’s dreams.

Her next stop was Huntsville, Alabama, on her own for Space Academy.  She was in her happy place.  At 15 years old, the world was hers.  As a scuba diver, she had her happiest moment in the giant tank, while others were learning to scuba dive, she somersaulted and enjoyed moving around the mock-up of the space vehicles.   We flew in to attend her graduation, where we were told what an excellent student she had been that week.

We didn’t fly in just for her.  Since her program ended on a Friday, my husband and son were signed up for Family Space Camp that weekend. While they enjoyed camp, my daughter and I explored Huntsville.  And she told me all about her experience.  She came home with her own  NASA jumpsuit and joined my husband in dressing up each Halloween.

Thus, we were surprised when she did not go into science and pursue her space exploration adventures.  In fact, when she wrote her college essay, she focused on the strengths of Pippi Longstocking, and not the excitement of space camp.

Why asked why, she said that an astronaut had come to speak to them at camp. He told them that the astronauts currently in the program were like penguins, who would never fly. To our daughter that was the end of her NASA dreams.  She found another dream and earned two masters’ degrees.  But never joined NASA.

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Our daughter never became an astronaut, but her American Girl doll did!  Last year, 2018,  the American Girl Company came out with Luciana.  Our daughter and her husband were at the mall when she stopped into the American Girl store because she saw all the clothes and items available for Luciana.  She purchased a NASA like jumpsuit for her doll.  She dressed her Rebecca doll as an astronaut and joined her in her own NASA jumpsuit! (It still fit as it had when she was a teenager!)

Recently I was at the mall and saw all the space accoutrements.  I sent photos to our daughter to see what she thought, as it was close to her birthday.  And even though she is in her 30s, her American Girl dolls and space are still important to her.  She reminded me that she had purchased the jump suit, but her husband said she did not need anything else.  But what is need to a mom.  I got the space suit, the book and a few other items. Once again I state, my daughter might never have been an astronaut, but I could be sure that her doll reached the stars.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

End of the School Year Has Me Bringing Out My Old Yearbooks

11 May

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With the end of the school year coming, I have an urge to look at old yearbooks.  I have every yearbook from high school through college, as well as ones I mentored as a teacher, and now ones from the school where I work in a non-teaching role.

It is strange to see me as I age from 14 to now.  But one thing stays consistent, I was on the newspaper and yearbook staffs of high school, college and my year studying overseas.

It is strange when I look back and see where I began my interest in journalism and writing, to where I am now.   When I first started working on my high school newspaper, “Paw Prints,” and yearbook, Prelude,” at North Bergen High School, I never intended to go into journalism.  I wanted to be a psychologist.   I just enjoyed being on the school newspaper and yearbook, moving up to become one of the editors, but never vying to be editor in chief.  Just happy in the role I had.  It was fun, but not my main interest.

In college, at Drew University, I had the same view.   College was a bit disjointed and strange for me.   I spent my sophomore year in Israel doing a year abroad.  Most people go during their junior year, after they have made an impression on their friends and professors.

I went a year early, because a friend of my parents was on the board of the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program.  As a college professor, he thought being gone junior year was a mistake, and pressed my parents to send me a year earlier.  In 1974, it was unusual for students to go overseas to study at all.  For my parents to even let me go, and to go a year earlier, I think they were brave.

In any case, I lost a year of making a name for myself at the school and connecting with friends.  When I got back, it was a bit awkward, as I had to reacquaint myself with everyone and sort of start again in the school atmosphere.  Also, I was changed by my year in Israel, arriving there less than a year after the Yom Kippur War.  The me who left Drew in 1974 was extremely different than the me who returned in 1975.  I was resolute, braver and knew myself!

While I was in Israel, I actually worked on the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program yearbook. I am listed as one of the eight students on the editorial board. I have vague memories of working on it.  Being in Israel at that time was so amazing, I honestly feel as if a different person was there, each memory more of a dream then a reality.

When I came back, I had to decide what to do next.  I had to declare a major.   I now knew that psychology was not for me.  I had taken a neuropsychology class at Hebrew University where we went to look at brains and studied brain damage and its impact on a person’s personality.  The professor and I clashed. He believed left handed people were left handed because of underlying brain damage.  I am left handed.  I still remember him stating: “Ten percent of the population has brain damage, ten percent are left handed.”  I told him his logic was totally off!  No matter, it left a bad taste in my mind for psychologists.

I came back to Drew and decided to become an English major, with a minor in political science.  Now I was really busy.  I had to take many of the sophomore English classes, as well as upper level courses, so I could graduate in time.  I was taking 18 credits a semester.  I guess I should say, in time, for me meant early.  I wanted out of college.  I set a plan of action to graduate in 3.5 years.  I had spent three semesters learning in Israel.  The entire summer I had studied at the Ulpan learning Hebrew. That provided me with 12 credits.  I decided that by graduating early, I could save my parents some money…which I did.

Upon my return, I joined the newspaper staff, “The Acorn,” and the yearbook staff, “Oak Leaves.”  I wrote stories, worked on layout, and made new friends.  I was busy with all my course work…lots of reading and writing… and I also became a research assistant for Professor Chapman. (See link to earlier blog below.)

I was on a roll.  Although I still did not have journalism on my mind.

In my senior year I became one of the layout editors for the yearbook.  I let them know in advance that I would be gone second semester. But all went well…for a while.  I still remember my first indignant protest as a woman.   I was out of town for the weekend when the editor in chief wanted my layout pages.  Why he needed them, I don’t know. But he got my RA to let him into my dorm room and search it till he found them.

I was incensed.  The invasion of privacy was outrageous.  I when to the Dean of Student Life, Elynor Erickson.  I had an earlier issue with her my junior year, so we knew each other.  I told her what had happened and how furious I was about someone going through my things when I was not there.  She agreed. The RA got in trouble.  As did the editor in chief at the time. It was so wrong!  It still bothers me. But I had to stand up for my rights!

In any case, I do not have an official photo in the yearbook. I think he got his revenge.  Although I am in a photo of the yearbook staff and I am still listed among the editors.  Of course, it could be that I just was not there during the time the official photos were taken.  I have to be honest.

During that fall semester I was trying to decide what to do next.  My Dad would joke that he had paid for an expensive finishing school with my degree in English literature.  Also,  I really did not have a career in mind.  But I thought about journalism, and when I applied to graduate school, I included a master’s in journalism on my list.  I still was not officially going into journalism as a career.

However, at Drew, there was a January-term program.  You could take a one-month class over winter break. That year there was a class in journalism, and I decided to take it. I loved it. I excelled at it.  This class marked the start of my career path.

I had applied to three graduate schools: Columbia University and University of Missouri-Columbia for journalism, and Hebrew University for a degree in Jewish American Literature.  I got accepted to all three. So now I had a great decision to make.

Professor Joan Steiner, my advisor, as well as Professor Jacqueline Berke, who was my independent study advisor, seemed to think journalism was the best for me.   It also kept me in the country. They were routing for Columbia University. (Especially Professor Berke, as she was a Columbia graduate.) On another aside, I still have my independent study paper I wrote for my personal class with Professor Berke, “Alienation In th Novels of Saul Bellow.”  Originally I wanted to do Bernard Malamud as well, but that would have been a master’s thesis.

But I had another source of advice, Cecelia Whitehouse, my high school English and journalism teacher. (see link below.) She and I had kept in touch all through college. She was the one who had told me about the University of Missouri in the first place.  She thought getting out of the NYC area would be an eye-opening experience for me.  She was right!

The University of Missouri won out. I accepted their acceptance.

Eventually I taught high school journalism for a few years.  During those years, it was me who was the newspaper and yearbook teacher.  I often thought of Cecelia Whitehouse during those years.  I would think about how she handled issues with students. And I modeled my teaching on her.

I kept in touch with her and my college professor, Joan Steiner, for many years.  They both were positive and important role models!

My life was forever changed.  It started with school yearbooks and newspapers.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/12/remembering-my-college-during-graduation-season/

 

Girl Scouts Should Not Be Banned

3 May

I feel a need to speak out against the banning of Girl Scouts by Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas (KCK). Why me?  I started my adult  career 37 years ago working for the Girl Scouts in Kansas City, Kansas.  I was one of the women who went out and recruited new leaders for troops; I was a troop leader for Troop 77 in KCK; and I trained new leaders there.

Although 34 years have passed since I actually worked for the Girl Scouts there, I was a volunteer for many years after my daughter was born. I was Vice President of what was the Santa Fe Trail Council of Girl Scouts headquarters in KCK before this Council merged into a larger Council   based in Kansas City, Missouri.

I am well aware of the low income areas of KCK.  And I have to say what a mistake it is to sever ties with the Girl Scouts. Many households in KCK live in poverty. Girl Scouts (and Boy Scouts) provide a way for these young women to learn about the world outside of their difficult life. As new immigrants moved into the area, it was Girl Scouts troops that helped the girls acclimate to living in the US. And it helped the parents as well.

Girl Scouts of the USA is a secular organization. It does support organizations that in turn support women and women’s rights.  But those that are affiliated with a religious organization have always been able to decide what they want to do in terms of national activities.  So if the troop leaders do not want to participate in a March for Women, the troop does not need to march!

Severing ties with Girl Scouts will be a detriment for the girls of KCK. It will cut girls off from a sisterhood of  women throughout the country and the world.

I have been a Girl Scout, a Girl Scout Leader, a Girl Scout staff member, a Girl Scout board member, the mother of a Girl Scout and a Girl Scout Volunteer. I am a Girl Scout life member. I was trained to be a Trainer of Trainers at the Girl Scout Edith Macy Conference Center in New York. The trainings and relationships I made through Girl Scouts impacted my life.

I hope this decision is reconsidered. Banning Girl Scouts is a mistake.

 

http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article147857619.html

 

In Other Election News … Cannabis

10 Nov

As we all consider the ramifications of a Trump presidency, another important decision was being decided. Three states approved marijuana for recreational use: California, Massachusetts and Nevada. And three others approved the use of medical marijuana: Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

There are now 28 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana!

The world is changing!

I could say that the country needs to be stoned to get through the next four years. But I think that is a bit of gallows humor. So I will stay on topic: Pot.

There is even a large ‘cannabis’ industry. A young man I have known since he is four recently finished his law degree.   He found a job immediately in a Chicago firm. I asked him what was his specialty, as he focused on business law. His reply, “Cannabis law.” I laughed.

I laughed even more when I spoke to his Mom.   She was abashed. But happy he was doing so well. It seems that there is a lot of legal matters in the cannabis industry. I am sure he will be employed in his chosen field for many years! What a great job choice.

Last year my husband and I saw the change in marijuana laws in action. While in Seattle we went on a walk to find a medical marijuana store. My husband is a physician, and he had many questions about medical marijuana. The employees at the store were really helpful and informative. They answered all his questions, and even let him peak into the inner sanctum….where all the marijuana was bundled and waiting to be used. It was just a peak, but I will tell you…there was a lot of marijuana there!

They were dealing with some major issues in Washington due to Senate Bill 5052 which went into effect on July 2016. This bill tries to integrate recreational and the medical marijuana system. The people we spoke to, in June 2016, complained bitterly on how the price of weed would increase dramatically for all. And those using it medically would have to pay much more once it all became recreational. Also people who used marijuana medically would have to register, while recreational user would not.

I am not sure what is happening now, four months later. But with tide against legal restrictions across the country, I am really not worrying about Washington’s pot users.

Weed, dope, pot, marijuana, cannabis: it is a big money business! However, because there are federal restrictions on the sale of marijuana, it is still a business with many legal issues. I think as the states keep making it legal, the federal government will change as well.

I must say, with all the unrest in the world and in the United States, with the hatred and bigotry that was stirred up, I find it somewhat unsettling that the same people who voted for a conservative view of the world, also voted yes on legalization of cannabis issues.

I could come up with my own conspiracy theory. But I will leave it at this. Soon marijuana will be legal throughout the USA. I only hope that women’s rights, LBGT rights, religious rights and other anti-discrimination rights also stay legal.   Citizens are fighting for the right to get stoned. I hope we all continue to fight for the rights of all citizens to live in a free world that respects their rights as well.

 

Working For My Dad’s Firm in NYC Lead to my Love of Lingerie

15 Jan

Growing up with a father in the textile industry in New York City had certain blessings. My Dad was involved in the women’s lingerie, undergarment and swim suit industry. And among his clients were some of the top names in lingerie at the time: Christian Dior, Maiden Form and many others. When Ginger Rogers started her own lingerie line, my Dad was one of her suppliers of fabrics. Gottex, the Israeli bathing suit company was his client in the late 1960s and 70s.

Dad was the ‘converter.’ He made sure that a printed fabric was made correctly. He had an artist on staff who did the colorizations if they were printing several different color combinations of the same print. He worked with textile factories in the Carolinas and Providence, Rhode Island. With his start in the embroidery manufacturer, he also knew so much about lace and embroidery.

He did very well, until the textile industry in the US started to fall under the burden of cheap imports from other countries.

But when I was in high school and college, Dad was in his most productive and expansive years. I worked in his office in the summer time. I got to know his staff and his customers, his sales men and his clients. At lunchtime I would go out and shop at B Altman’s, my favorite store. Dad would give me his credit card and I would chose items to be shipped to NJ to avoid sales tax on clothing. He paid me a small salary, but the benefits of his credit card are not to be denied.

However working with Dad brought about other benefits.   When I went away to college, his friends, who knew me, wanted to help.   One provided me with 144 pairs of panties. Do you know how popular you are when you have 144 pair of clean underwear?   I cannot tell you how many I gave away my freshman year of college.   And I will not say it was a daily event. But at least once a week, a dorm mate who heard about my stash would show up at my door, asking for a pair. You do not have to do laundry as long as you have clean underwear! I saved the day for many girls.

I carried the need for many pair of undies with me for my adult life. When my daughter went away to college, I did not send her with 144 pair of underwear, but I did send her with about 48. In my mind I had to make this same advantage for her that I had when I went to college.

My daughter and I have spent many hours at Victoria Secret searching for the perfect undergarments, lingerie and comfort clothes. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunities I had for free samples. When I started shopping with her, I realized even more emphatically what a benefit I had with my Dad’s career in with the fashion industry.

As for samples, I was the perfect Gottex sample swim suit size as well. I had multiple bathing suits that were designed and never made it to production. Then they became mine. I still remember a white bikini with hearts on it and a navy blue flowered print one-piece suit.

The bathing suit company was from Israel. Which leads up to my next underwear story. I spent my sophomore year of college in Israel. Before I went, I was once again the beneficiary of many undergarments. Did they really think I used up all those from freshman year? I guess so. Because I got lots more.

In any case, one of my father’s friend sent me four boxes of lingerie for his family and me to my dorm in Israel. When his Mom and sister came to pick up the boxes, we first opened them all, and they said, “Take what you need and what you want.” I did not want to take too much because I already had some I had brought along with me. But they were insistent.   Really, for me and for them, what was another 24 pair of panties and several nightgowns? Wow! I had the most beautiful underwear and lingerie in all of Har Hasofim, the Mount Scopus Campus of Hebrew University.

Mom's peach colored peignoir.

Mom’s peach colored peignoir.

Until my father retired, I never had to worry about buying any negligee, camisole, nightgowns underwear or slips, as well as swimsuits or swim wear cover-ups. I had the loveliest items. I was not the only one to benefit from this lingerie largesse, my Mom and sister also benefited. I still have a beautiful peach colored peignoir my Mom received as a gift from Deena of California. As my sister reminded me, we also were delighted every Hanukkah with gifts of lovely lingerie.

Bras were another story. But luckily a friend of mine’s parents own a lingerie shop, Sylvette’s, in North Bergen, where those could easily be obtained. I will admit, as a tween and teen, I was a little embarrassed to go there and see my friend’s father behind the counter. But he never made you feel uncomfortable. I think because he had the best sense of humor.

I still remember the first few times I went with my Mom. The first time I was o be fitted for a training bra. What is that all about? Can you train your chest? Not really. A few months later, we went back again for me to be fitted for a real bra. I think my friend’s Mom is the person who took me to the back room both times to measure me. Then she and my Mom had a long conversation on what would be best. There were drawers upon drawers of bras and lingerie. Eventually I got over my embarrassment and would go by myself. I loved going in there and looking at all the pretty items.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

One of my honeymoon peignoirs.

When I got married, the bounty from my father’s friends continued. I think I was the only bride with three peignoir sets to wear on her honeymoon. My mother and I looked them over to decide which ones I should take with me. Should I really take three? We were going on a cruise and that seemed a little too much.

I can see them in my mind. One was a creamy white satin with inlaid lace on the shoulders of the robe and the nightgown. It was designed for Saks Fifth Avenue. Another was beige chiffon. I was lost in the billowing skirt. The last was my favorite. A Christian Dior with a long cream color negligee with embroidery and a short jacket/robe.

I still have the two sets I actually took, including the Christian Dior one. They were too lovely for me to give away. I guess I am hoping to one day present them to my daughter. And after being married for almost 35 years, I am sentimental.

There are times when I can close my eyes and still see my father’s office. His artist, Christine, lives in California. I often think of her and our laughter at work. My father instilled in me a love of fine fabrics and color. The touch of cloth has meaning to me.

The ‘schmattah world,’ the ‘rag trade,’ the textile industry; the bustle and noise and mayhem of the textile industry was a vital part of my life. I am glad I spent time with my Dad at work in Manhattan. It was a wonderful time leading to a life- long love of lovely lingerie.

 

 

An earlier blog about my Dad’s embroidery shop in New Jersey:  https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/

 

Remembering My College During Graduation Season

12 May

 

Walking through the balloon arch at Drew University graduation. This was in 2008.

Walking through the balloon arch at Drew University graduation. This was in 2008.

With the May graduation season, I always think of my own graduation. I graduated from college 37 years ago… I find that a bit frightening to admit. But it is true. I still remember the green and yellow balloons (In 1982 the colors turned to blue and green) that we walked under on our way to our seats. I still remember my excitement at graduating magna cum laude. I still remember that my grandparents and parents came to my graduation!

I loved my time at Drew University. It was the best place for me. A small liberal arts school, Drew is situated on the most beautiful campus. Large trees, quiet paths, lovely buildings, great professors all in one place, with easy access to New York City and an easy train ride home. I learned; I made friends; I found my place in life at Drew.

As an English major I had two professors in particular that had a major influence on me. Professor Joan Steiner and Professor Robert Chapman were my inspirations and both added much to my love of words.

Not only did I take Professor Chapman’s classes on literature, I also took classes on semantics and I was his paid assistant one year. He was working on revising his Dictionary of American Slang, and I helped. Dr. Chapman was well known for his dictionaries and thesaurus. He loved words and language. His excitement about words encouraged my love of language and words!

For the second edition of the Dictionary of American Slang, we had to find three references for each new word for it to be included in the dictionary. Each word was put on an index card…. no computers in those days. If we found a new word in a printed reference, we started a card with the referenced article. I had to do a lot of reading of popular publications: newspapers and magazines.

My biggest achievement was the word “carpool.” I will never forget the moment I found my third reference in Newsweek magazine. I was visiting my parents for the weekend. While reading my Dad’s Newsweek, I found it. I was beyond excited.

“Dad,” I said. “Read this page now. I have to take it back to school with me.” He didn’t even argue when I ripped the page from the magazine.

I remember racing to Prof. Chapman’s office in the Browne Hall with the page from the magazine in my hand on Monday. That was it. The word could now be added to the files for the second edition of the dictionary.   I then helped with writing the official definition of the word. I walked on air for days after that. The two of us were so excited. Carpool was officially a new word!

I know it sounds strange now. Carpool is such a common word. People use it all the time. Mothers and fathers plan carpools with friends in order to take their children to school and sports and afterschool activities. Co-workers organize carpools to work. But in the early 1970s it was a new word. And I helped define it for the dictionary.

I cannot remember the other words I helped uncover that year. It is the word carpool that forever stays in my memory. I get a moment of joy whenever I see the word in print or hear it used. “Carpool” is my word! And yes, carpooling is also my word!

Most important for me, however, was that Professor Chapman encouraged my love of words and added to my interest in language. His discussions on the leveling of language and how languages change stayed with me throughout my time in college, graduate school and in life.

Besides Professor Chapman’s support, I had the support of my advisor and mentor, Professor Joan Steiner. It was her encouragement throughout college that led me to become an English major. I had started my college career focusing on studying psychology. But after my first few literature classes, I realized that my love of literature was more important.

Joan Steiner and me graduation

With Joan Steiner as my advisor, I was able to focus on English during my last two years at Drew. But more important, she help me find what I really wanted to be, which was a writer. And with her help, I focused on journalism as a career and went on to earn my master’s degree in journalism.   I kept in touch with Professor Steiner for many years. Since I live in Kansas, our contacts were usually holiday greeting letters. But once my daughter also went to Drew for her undergraduate years, Professor Steiner and I had a bit more contact.

I miss her wonderful letters. And I feel blessed that she was part of my college life and that we had contact later in my life.

I so loved my time at Drew that when my daughter was a sophomore in high school, I took her to see the campus during one of our annual visits to my parents in New Jersey.   She fell in love with the campus as well. But not only the campus, the focus on political science and religion was important to her. (A Methodist seminary school is also situated on the Drew Campus.) When it was time to make her college choice, she chose Drew.

I am proud that my daughter graduated Drew 31 years after I did. She received her double major in Political Science and Religion. She participated in the semester at the United Nations through Drew and participated in many activities, although she did not follow my major and goals in college. I worked on the newspaper, the yearbook and was a member of the OC (Orientation Committee). She focused on political science organizations, mediation and policy. She even interned at the County Courthouse working with domestic abuse victims. But she walked the steps I walked and loved the school as much as I did.

Her graduation also included the blue and green balloon archway that led to the outside graduation behind Mead Hall. And she, also, graduated magna cum laude, wearing the cords from two honor societies. We did not have those when I graduated from Drew.

My parents were once again there, as was my entire family: siblings and their spouses, and all the cousins. My daughter, as the oldest grandchild, was the first to graduate college. And since my entire family lived in New Jersey, it seemed important that all be at her graduation.   Afterwards we had lunch with her then boyfriend’s family and friends. It was a wonderful celebration.

I love graduation. I love the transition to another stage of life. But for my daughter and I, I am so glad that we were able to experience college life at Drew. And share a graduation experience 31 years apart.

 

To see the beautiful campus go to : http://www.drew.edu/

The Great Shoe Catastrophe

18 Mar

Spending the summers in the Catskills was so important to my brother, sister and I, that once we became of age to work, we looked for jobs in and around Kauneonga Lake.  We wanted to be able to spend the weeks in the Catskills and not have to join the long line of cars that went to and from the City every Friday and Sunday night/Monday morning.

For two years, when my brother was 16 and 17, his job was at a shoe store in Monticello.   It started as National Shoe Store, but then was changed to the Triangle Shoe Store. He worked five days a week.  Sometimes he worked during the week, but many times on the weekends, because that is when all the tourists were up.  For this job he had to be dressed appropriately.  No jeans and tee-shirts  and sneakers for him, instead he was in nice pants, a collared, button-down shirt and dress shoes.  This attire lead to what I call the GREAT SHOE CATASTROPHE.

It started as an abnormal day to begin with for us.  Not only was my Dad in the City working, but my Mom had left the day before to spend time alone with Dad at our home in North Bergen, New Jersey.  I think they had a meeting and a social event they had to attend.  My Mom decided she would take some items back to our house.

At this point, we were no longer staying on the grounds of my grandparent’s bungalow colony.  Instead we had a bungalow on the same property as their year-round home about 1/2mile from the colony.  Both houses sat on several acres of land.  It was peaceful and beautiful.

Image

A peaceful Catskills morning on our property.

But not so peaceful on this morning.

My brother was getting ready for work, when he realized he had no shoes.  My Mom had taken his good shoes with her to New Jersey to get the repaired or resoled or something. But she did not only take the damaged shoes, she took both pairs of shoes. All my brother had to wear was a pair of sneakers.

He went bonkers.  He was yelling, he was screaming. “How could she take my shoes! Both pair.!”  I have to be honest, I was laughing.  That is what a younger sister does, when an older brother is annoyed.

But then he lifted up a kitchen chair.  I don’t think he meant to do anything really wrong.  But first the chair hit the ceiling then crashed into the floor.  A t this point, my sister and I decided it was prudent to leave the bungalow and get my grandmother.  Which we did: we ran to get her, screaming all the way.

She quickly went back to the bungalow to see what was happening.  And then came back to the house, laughing.  With a big smile on face, she turned to my grandfather and said, ”Go back there.  Look at yourself.”

We stayed with Grandma, while Grandpa walked back to the bungalow and my crazed brother.  I was not witness to what was said. But it became family lore.

My brother raved and ranted about my Mom taking both pair of shoes and leaving him with only sneakers. And he had to wear nice shoes for work.  And why would she do that to him?  (This was before the age of cell phones, so he could not even call her.)

My grandfather laughed.  “Shmenrick ,”  he said.  “You work in a shoe store.  Buy another pair of shoes.” And he gave my brother money for shoes.

I am laughing as I remember the story.  My brother, for a long time, did not think it was so funny.  But later…the words,  “You work in a shoe store, buy yourself shoes, “ became amusing even to him.

When my Mom returned, she felt terrible.  She realized when she got to Jersey that she had both pairs of his shoes.  She had not meant to do that. But it was done.  However, she was not happy with the hole in the ceiling or the broken chair.

That chair matched her kitchen set.  And there were only four of them.  She wanted it fixed.  So it was put in the corner of the screened-in porch.  We all knew not to sit in it.  Eventually my Dad was going to fix that darn chair.  But he did not get around to it right away.  It sort of just sat there in the corner for most of the summer.

Several weeks later, we had lots of company one weekend.  We were all eating breakfast on the porch.  Along came my cousin to join in for the food and conversation.  But there were no empty chairs at the table. In the corner was a chair that looked fine.  So he went over to sit on it.  (Yes that broken chair.)

We all yelled at the same exact moment,  “NO DON’T SIT THERE!!!!!”

Too late.

He was down and out. The chair splintered into hundreds of pieces beneath him and scattered everywhere.

He had a horrified look on his face.  And said,  “Did I do that?”

None of us could respond because we were laughing … there was nothing else to do. The chair was a goner.  My cousin was fine, just startled.  We tried to explain what happened.

The great shoe catastrophe had taken one more victim.  But the outcome was important: my brother never lost his temper like that again.