Tag Archives: Whitehall Ohio

An AWESOME Prom

2017 Spartan Theatre production of The Awesome 80s Prom

In high school I totally skip the dating scene. I blame this on an incident that occurs during freshman year algebra. Our entire class is cutting up and an extremely popular jock I think is cute asks me for my phone number. At that very moment our teacher shuts down the ruckus and being an obedient child I don’t take the chance to even pass a note.

Later in study hall I try to explain but he’s having none of it. I have snubbed him and for the rest of my entire high school days I am considered not cool to all the jocks. And who else matters, this is 1960’s high school. In reality that missed note pass couldn’t have had one thing to do with my popularity, or lack thereof, with hot guys but whatever the reason in hindsight it is a good thing. I am not ready for the world.

All is good until prom season. Junior year involves selecting colors and themes and vendors. I am on various committees. We decorate the gym within an inch of its life. And that is that. No date. My best friend Sandy didn’t have a date either. We move on.

Senior year prom I think about asking a shy guy, John Klein, in our art class since I know that we will all die waiting for him to ask anyone but I never get up the nerve. He goes with friend, Michelle Wilson, that pins him down, being braver than me. Our school photographer telephones to ask me to go with him. I feel that this is going to happen and dread the call. He is nice but dull, overweight and not cool. (After high school he drops the weight, gets a intriguing job and finds himself). I turn him down. Mom is aghast. I have turned down a date to the prom.

He asks Sandy. She accepts and gets to do the dress shopping thing and fancy hair and flowers. As mad as I am at her, the day of the prom I suggest that we go downtown to Lazarus shopping. As we head home a mean girls idea pops into my head and I decide that we will walk home. It’s a nice day. The walk takes us along the edge of a beautiful park and through the high dollar neighborhood of Bexley with its huge homes and manicured lawns. I have no idea what the distance is (seven miles) since we always take the endless bus ride to our stop, the last on the route, but she has let me down by scooping up my rejected date and in the back of my mind I want retribution. It takes us a couple of hours, she is tired and sunburned. I am miserably smug.

Later Mom insists on taking me over to see the decorated gym and then we go home and I probably watch TV or read a book.

So when grandson Martin snags the part of Louis Fensterspock, introverted computer nerd, in interactive The Awesome 80’s Prom I am set to party. After all it’s interactive, awesome audience participation is expected. West Springfield’s theater is undergoing a renovation and this 2017 fall production lands at nearby Burke Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department meeting room. The set is a simple one but it needs to be struck and reconstructed after and before each production, an added layer of stress. The weekend shows are not so bad but Thursday involves working around classes. The awesome crew gets it done in record time never missing a beat.

The last night of the three day run, Martin’s entourage; both set of grandparents, an uncle & teen cousin, his parents and teen sister do our part to make it a smashing success. We’re dressed for the part participants, Donny wears his tux and I’m in a smashing pink number. We’re having a blast. I’ve never seen this show so it’s all new to me. Outside before the show starts a cast member waltzes up to me waving a Ken doll and asks if I’ve seen Blake. I tell her I that can find Louis for her. I know that he’s about to arrive on his bicycle. She’s whispers, “He’s my boyfriend,” and whirls away.

An instant mini of me & DJ Johnny

As the show progresses things periodically happen on stage led by the school DJ. One such is the Best Dressed Boy. Gals from the cast weave through the audience quickly selecting five guys to join the DJ on the stage for this vote by applause event. After some dance breaks and other interactive moments it’s time for The Best Dressed Girl competition. Guys are told to do the selecting this time. I look around at who’s being picked. Suddenly a gal grabs my hand and says, “I’m not a guy but you need to be up there.” She pushes me toward the steps.

I’m game. I join the other girls on stage. The DJ counts us. There’s more than five. He shrugs whatever and proceeds to commence the vote. I look around. The gal next to me has a Joan Jett kind of thing going on. She looks pretty cool, she might win. The others are all beauties in their prom dresses. The first girl gets a good round of applause. I’m next. I step forward, hoping not to embarrass myself by receiving only a smatter of claps. I’m already a rogue entry.

The applause is decent. I’m happy, this is good. I prepare to step back, but the clapping doesn’t stop. It begins to swell. I’m baffled. Me? My outfit is rocking I’ll give you that. I worked hard on it. So I begin to milk the crowd. I wave. The applause gets louder. I urge them on. It gets louder. I’m elated albeit embarrassed on the flip side of the coin. All the other girls don’t have a chance. To be fair the DJ quickly goes down the line. And then back to me, his winner. I know the question is coming from watching the guy competition, “Where did you get your outfit?” No one really cares about that answer I decide, I deflect, “PARTY ON!” I shout into the mic. The crowd roars, they are with me.

My loot

Later I tell Martin that I could have quipped, “My closet.” He says someone already used that answer in another performance. Spared by my own wit. As I exit the stage I spy Lydia. “You set this up,” I challenge her. She grins, “I may have helped.” Martin/Louis closes the show with his eloquent delivery of how we may act and look different but we’re all really the same inside with the same needs and desires.  Then he declares his love for Kerrie (Ken doll girl) who pines after Blake but after Louis’ heartfelt speech realizes that he is the real deal. They kiss. It’s a sweet ending.

It really was an epic Awesome Prom.

 

Epilogue

April 2018 calls for entries in what will be the last Self Portrait Show Glenn Eure hosts. Pat will hopefully carry on the tradition but without Glenn and his pretty pill winks and his sincere, we need to get together soon to sketch nudes, it will be different. I don’t know this of course when I plan my entry but I do know that my Awesome 80’s Prom outfit needs clearance. I check with Pat & Glenn about such a big entry (the show room is small). “If it will fit through the door, you’re good,” Glenn promises.

I want to make a life size doll and dress her in the Awesome 80’s Prom finery complete with her prize goody bag. I stuff. I sew. I glue. She looks wrong. I tear things apart and start over. It is truly a labor of love. Finally I’m over it. I pose her in a chair. She is art show worthy but looks more like a wasted night on the town gal than a popularity contest winner. She doesn’t pick up any nods at the show. No matter I have already won well enough for the both of us.

When she comes home I nix trying to make her look real and position her in a Chagall exaggerated body pose which is perfect. To paraphrase a very young Martin who, when asked to do something, declares that he can’t move because he has no bones, my prom look alike doesn’t either. But she doesn’t need any. Her one job is to remind us of a fun night with awesome people and she’s a winner at that.

 

 

 

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Christmas MAGIC

6416 three chopt

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

“Shhhh…listen. Hear that? It’s the reindeer on the roof!” We believe, my cousins and I. Never mind that we are teens, the closer it gets to Christmas Day the firmer our shaky faith becomes.

Between middle school and college years my family makes the long pre-interstate trek from Whitehall, Ohio (an enclave of Columbus) to our grandmother’s home in Richmond, Virginia for Christmas. Twelve hours by car stopping for gas and maybe one meal at Howard Johnson’s, the only road trip place with reliable food, gets us all dog tired to our destination. Many is the trip when Mom packs lunches to eat along the way. Dad does all the driving. Once we trade the Cumberland Gap Route 40 for the more direct mountain roads of West Virginia. Once.

In Richmond, we join forces with my Dad’s two sisters and their families to celebrate Christmas. It is magical. Everyone around us feels it too and tells us so. We know. We live it. We are in the magic.

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6416 Three Chopt Road Richmond VA

Our grandmother’s home at 6416 Three Chopt Road is the perfect Christmas house. An early twentieth century three story foursquare style home, it has a huge covered front porch. The massive front door with its brass mail slot opens onto an enormous hall. Called a hall, it is really a big open space where folks can unload packages, greet guests, and easily play kid games on the oriental rug.

There is a screened porch to one side, and to the other through a double wide sliding pocket door opening is a cozy living room with fireplace. Straight ahead is the classic plantation flying staircase that stole my grandmother’s heart. She fell in love with its free form and my grandfather had no recourse but to sell his lots on Broad Street and buy the house for her. There has been much family lamentation about how valuable those lots later became but they served their purpose, providing the perfect retirement home for my grandparents to live in. And for us to gather at for Christmas and Easter.

To the side of the living room and through another generous pocket door frame is the family size dining room. You can access the dining room from the hall too through yet another double pocket door framework. Those wide sliding doors with their detailed framing provide an airiness to the entire downstairs. They are always left open but we kids love to close them to make separate rooms for our fashion shows and productions whenever we can get away with it.

Adults eat dinner in the dining room. Kids eat in the huge kitchen which is also where a never ending breakfast complete with seriously strong coffee (long before it is the norm), red eye gravy and fresh biscuits starts everyone’s day. In the dining room there is a working servant button under the carpet near our grandmother’s foot. It is for summoning the kitchen help of which we have none. But Mother Leigh’s foot still presses that button regardless, mostly out of habit from when she did have a maid, but now never to any avail. She is always totally unaware until someone points out, “Mother Leigh, your foot is on the buzzer.” She blushes a bit and moves her foot.

My father is in the Air Force so we move a lot but land in Ohio for those Christmas in Richmond years. One year at Mom’s request we stay in Whitehall for Christmas. She wants to decorate her own tree. It is just not the same. Even Mom has to admit that she misses fretting over crushing the bows on all her pre-wrapped Christmas packages. Mom prefers to arrive in Richmond ready to party. She is all about the bridge games the adults engage in practically non-stop day and night. My aunts take turns playing a hand or two before heading back to wrapping presents. Sometimes they draft me to help with their wrapping. I don’t mind. Being the oldest cousin and betwixt adult & child hood I cherish being included in any adult activity even present wrapping. I am not experienced enough to play bridge but I can cover gift wrapping like a champ.

My cousins and I all bunk in the huge upstairs master bedroom where our grandmother has single metal beds made up in air dried linens ready for each of us. We have our own tiny turf, a bed and a few drawers in a shared dresser.

As much as I love my family and all our Christmas activity, I do have my own social life in Richmond, thanks to a since kindergarten friend (we lived in Richmond then) who always keeps me in the loop. Dad has not put the parking brake on before I am on the phone dialing AT8-7637 to check in with Patsy. It is usually mere days before Cotillion and she always insist that I attend. Far be it that they all have been learning social graces and dances for months, I still need to be included. She gives me her practice nosegay, Mom digs up something dressy for me to wear and off I go into Richmond society.

Patsy too sees that Sally Gabb has a highly sought after invitation for me to her traditional slumber party. Sally also lives in a magical house. Hers is located at the bottom of Old Mill Road, not far from 6416. There are four sisters in her family and one brother, the baby, whom they all fawn over. I love that one of Sally’s sisters gets disgusted living with her closest in age sister and moves into the so tiny (only room for a bed and a door) not in use kitchen maid’s room. The Gabb’s have a free standing phone booth in the kitchen for their real phone. (In summers they put on elaborate plays in their oversized garage.) Mrs. Gabb has beautiful German Christmas candies and she cooks fresh pizza pies for midnight slumber party snacking. We all play games and struggle to not sleep all spread out in every imaginable space in the dining room. This is where I fall in love with the game Mr Ree, a real all nighter.

Our Christmas always has it’s traditional moments. My uncle rounding up everyone for a trip to Miller & Rhoads for shopping and visiting Santa. “Meet me on the balcony,” with its lounge like atmosphere that overlooks the entire first floor of the store is always our battle cry. Adults take turns waiting in the endless Santa line with the kids so others can shop. Sometimes we even score a table in the oh so popular Tea Room for a bite to eat. My uncle bringing home a scruffy but tall enough to reach the 14′ ceiling cedar for us to decorate. My aunt insisting that all tinsel be strung on the tree one piece at a time, the end carefully wrapped around a branch so the long silver strand can shine brightest, that is until someone thankfully calls her away and we all quickly sling the rest onto the tree.  An adult trip at midnight on Christmas Eve to the only all night drug store for batteries with a requisite coffee stop at the Toddle House. My aunt taking over the entire dining room table for her wrapping quarters. Our grandmother making her reluctantly move everything for dinner but once the meal is over back out comes the loot and fixings. She barely finishes before Santa makes his appearance.

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Presents for everyone from everyone

On Christmas morning all kids assemble on the upper stairs while my uncle goes to see if Santa has visited. We truly are never quite sure what report he will bring back. When he tries to trick us we don’t know what to believe. How could Santa skip us? My uncle is quick to assure that he must be mistaken and then he goes to take another look. This time he comes back with a much better report. We all tumble down the stairs to our designated spots. Mine is the piano. Santa never wraps presents. He just tosses them off the sled and somehow they always land in perfect piles for each of us.

Then comes gifting each other. There are so many presents that it takes all morning to unwrap everything. Everyone gives everyone else something and with fourteen people that’s a lot of packages. They are simple gifts but so heartfelt. This is the age when the depression is but a faint memory, the war with all its heartache and rationing over, and the middle class coming into its own. It really is a time of Christmas magic. And we were there.

 

 

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Mom, We NEED A Swim Team!

team on boat

My heart sinks a little bit at Emily’s request. I know just how much work all of it involves. But I know too that she misses the swim team activities that we engage in when we live in Richmond. There we’re an east end team newly welcomed into the immense James River Aquatic Club that also includes big money clubs such as the Country Club of Virginia. The league is one of the largest in Richmond. We are Anirav. Varina spelled backwards. We are small. We barely win any meets but we are in the big leagues. (Still going strong Anirav won the JRAC Sportmanship Award for their division in 2014).

I know nothing about swim teams. As a teen, I once consider joining the newly formed team at my neighborhood pool, Swimland, in Whitehall, Ohio. But when I find out the practices are early mornings before the pool opens and how absolutely cold the water is, I quit before I start.

At Anirav five year old Emily is in swimming lessons with a friend whose brother is on the team. Missy is a powerful swimmer but she does not yet swim the length of the pool without stopping. Neither Emily nor I realize the significance of the feat but when she accomplishes this in her test to pass the class, she immediately gets drafted by Missy’s mom to swim on a relay team.

It sounds like fun. We agree. It’s an away meet at Sandston. Emily does her part but she is very slow. Still she completes an otherwise incomplete relay team. They win points and ribbons. And we’re hooked.

championshipAs the years progress I find myself team mom, creating a team name, gathering monies for t-shirts and accessories, and attending JRAC meetings as our pool representative. The league is divided by size of teams and so we are put together with our own kind. At the end of the season every member team joins in the championship competition. It’s days of heats and heats of swimming, camping out under any available shade to await your turn after hours upon hours of waiting. But you dare not leave, your parking place will be eaten up.

Win your heat and you advance. The best Emily does is come in 9th over all in butterfly her last year before we move. Not bad for a summer league only swimmer. Many of the summer league kids also swim in the winter and keep their skills at top notch level. That’s 9th out of hundreds the girls in her age bracket. Just a bit higher and she would have gotten a place ribbon.

lewisThen we move to the Outer Banks in the mid-eighties and settle into our new life. We have a great community pool but it lacks youth activities. And is so casually run! Our Inlet Court neighbor, Tom Piddington and I both volunteer for the board of directors at the same time with the same purpose in mind. To make the pool a safer place. He has come from northern Virginia and a strong community swimming pool lifestyle. We don’t know each other at all. His kids are all grown. But we hit it off. We become the official pool committee. We write guidelines. The board publishes them and every member gets mailed a copy. This takes an entire winter of our lives.

As summer rolls around I take charge of hiring a staff. I get my WSI certification and schedule swimming lessons. And we begin Emily’s swim team. The first year I watch. The next year I decide to coach. I have seen enough. I know how this works. Scott Zincone has come on board as a lifeguard for the pool and jumps in to co-coach.

rick & scott

Rick Gray from Duck Woods Country Club has also heard the calling, this time over beer and conversation. He’s in it too for his kids. Both pools have actually had teams in the past but neither in recent history. Being a willing rookie Rick follows my lead. We pattern our match ups using the JRAC footprint. We plan meets. Surprisingly to me Colington proves to be the power to beat.  Emily & Donald are used to the low on the totem Anirav team. So much that when a meet that the Argonauts can win is scheduled during our OBX vacation time, we voluntarily travel back to Richmond to help out and back to the OBX to finish our ‘hope this never ends’ vacation.

Duck Woods is our only competition. Okay to be accurate back up just a step. Nautics Hall in Manteo does join our adventure one year but after we organize the first (and only) Outer Banks Swim League Championship and they end up in third place Manteo fades from view.

hawk powerAnd so for years we compete weekly against Kitty Hawk neighbor Duck Woods. Our team is huge. We have a big pool to draw from. We get more points in the age for age, stroke for stroke match ups. But the real victory of the meets comes down to which team can take the blue for the all age mixed free style relay. We win most of the time but when DW does win those bragging rights they are elated. I can relate. Small team roots run deep.

Emily insists that we have team suits. Parents are willing to pony up for this matching uniform. I collect size information, monies and order suits. We pick a team name. I create a design. We get Hawk Power t-shirts made. We bake snacks to raise money for ribbons and team accessories. Through the marching years to stretch our dollar, I screen print swim caps. Hats. We get towels embroidered. And gear bags. And backpacks. And always more t-shirts. We are a team. We are the Mighty Seahawks!

 

 

 

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I Was a Fifth Grade GYPSY

My classroom was on the top floor in the back corner overlooking the playground

My classroom was on the top floor overlooking the playground

Almost. I really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to be a gypsy. They have a small camp near my school, Main Street Elementary, in Whitehall, Ohio. The kids keep to themselves in school. I give them wide berth, they are fascinating but odd. It is when the girls  come to school with mecuricome stained threads looped through their freshly pierced ears that they get my full attention. I want pierced ears too. With red colored loops keeping the holes open until they heal enough for the real deal. But it never happens. Mom is aghast that I even aspire to such low depths.

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Sandy Baker (Finn). Note stockings top. Pantyhose yet in the future.

 

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Better shot of the wallpaper. It was a love/hate relationship.

And then in college I decide it’s time for action. But I don’t know any gypsies. And nobody but nobody has pierced ears, except gypsies. “I know someone who will pierce your ears,” good friend day student Sandy Baker (Finn) tells me.  She says to buy some gold post earrings and meet her at Thalhimers where she works part time in Hosiery. Imagine. A entire department for stockings. You have to buy your choices by size, color, type of fabric. No such thing as stretch. Or cheap. Much of my money goes into keeping a supply of matching hose with no runs. Sandy recently told me that she worked in Lingerie but Hosiery fits my story line better, so I’m leaving it. After all bras are still bras although girdles, a must in our world, have thankfully turned to Spanx.

I do as Sandy says. She introduces me to her friend who tells me to follow her into the empty ladies room. She is on her fifteen minute break. Her directives are simple. She doesn’t have much time. “Sit.” There is a small vanity table, mirror and chair. “Hold this ice cube on your ear lob. Be still.” And then. Oh my god. The unexpected pain.

“Don’t move. Or the holes will be uneven. Give me your earrings.” She stalls. “These have screw backs.” That I didn’t know anything about buying pierced earrings became very clear.

“Here use mine. Sandy will trade off after your ears have healed.” I pay her the dollar an ear she charges. She has ten minutes of her break left.

Friends are impressed. They want their ears pierced, too. I have started a trend and a little business. One dollar a lobe. They line up. All through college I rake in some easy beer money.

Finally a gypsy! At least that’s what mom calls me when I tell her what I’ve done. But hey, I live in a room with hand painted French wallpaper. Hand painted. French. Look at it. Huge red, white & blue decorative plumes. On all four walls. Picture a night of bingeing surrounded by this as you swirl to sleep.

The gypsy life has come to me.

 

 

 

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