Monday, September 29, 2014

Our Family Museum Collections from A to Z – “B” for Baby Toys & other things

This post I was going to write about our albums for the “A” in A to Z, however, since the two albums that are in the museum are from our wedding and honeymoon, I thought it would be more appropriate to write that post in November when it will be our 45th Wedding Anniversary. Until then, permit me to continue this journey of the A to Z Collection, continuing with “B” for Baby Things.

First Keith’s:
For his first Christmas, Santa gave him a toy police car (it probably had a siren that sounded when the car was pushed) and stuffed vinyl lamb. This type of stuffed animal was very popular because mom could wipe it clean after it was placed in the mouth and thrown on the floor. The car is long gone but he still has his lamby.

Years ago, his mom was in a rarified mood when she opened her cedar chest full of family heirlooms. At that time she decided to start passing on the things she saved and by doing so, enjoyed seeing the wonderful expressions of surprise and delight on her son’s face when she gave him his baby shirt. The face on the shirt is of a bunny rabbit, his ears stitched in yellow and blue buttons for eyes and blue stitching for his nose and bow tie. Keith’s thinks his sister did the sewing. As the shirt’s material was fragile, I put it into a shadow box for preservation. I put cotton stuffing in the shirt and sleeves to give it some shape. Keith was thrilled when I presented it to him as a Christmas gift.

A selection of plastic animals, wooded alphabet blocks, his baby shoes and one knitted sock, along with a tin coffee pot and china cup is quite an eclectic collection. Most of these toys were hand-me-downs from his brother’s and sister. Keith loved his two boy dolls; one with the red jacket and black pants handmade by himself with his sister’s help. The little Indian boy and drum with its leather top was given to him by his uncle who lived out west. The tiny log cabin is ceramic as is the log and ax. With Keith’s birthday being the same as President Lincoln’s, he always had a log cabin chocolate cake for his birthday. Though they were not toys, the drawing of the train and the bunny handkerchief were from his first grade school days proudly displayed on the top shelf. 
One of the oldest toys’ in Keith’s collection is the cowboy on his horse. It is a vintage wood and metal toy, circa 1940s called a "Steven Rock-A-Toy." This toy was also handed down to him by his older brother. In its prime, the horse was attached to a long rod with a weighted foot attached. When you pushed the horse, the cowboy would take a rocking-good ride on his horse, his head and arms swayed along with the horse’s head, moving back and forth as he rocked. The rod is long gone and the horse shows some wear-and-tear, but the cowboy is still riding into the sunset.
These are but a few of Keith’s precious toys from his childhood, and as he grew up his toys changed and I will post about them later. Now for my toys . . .    
Compared to Keith’s, it looks like I didn’t have many toys, at least those that got saved. But what I still have is none-the-less precious.

I think all babies born in 1950 got a stuffed vinyl lamb. Mine is a bright yellow with blue and red triangles printed on the shiny vinyl. My lamby also had curly eyelashes. Putting the two lambs’ side-by-side, mine looks like a girl lamb and his a boy lamb. It is truly amazing that we both had the same toy and still do.

I can’t begin to tell you why many of my baby toys were not saved like Keith’s. I can’t even remember having many toys, but I surely must had a few. I do recall a baby doll, but not until I was older. The first doll I truly cherished was my Barbie doll, and I had already told you that story. So on my side of the museum is but a few of the baby items that were saved. Such as my ceramic baby dish.

Of course, I do not remember eating out of it. But I do recall playing with it. Just like my mom did, I put water (not hot like it is meant to have) and pretended to feed whatever baby doll I had. The dish is in excellent shape and still retains its bright colors. I did some research on the dish and found there are plenty to be had. That’s nice but sad at the same time. I am happy that I still have my baby dish, but wouldn’t the many others who also did would still like to have it, too?  
My baby shoes are still enchanting as is my baby hair brush. If I ever needed my hair for a DNA test, there is plenty of it still on the brush. 
This photograph was taken sometime in 1952. My older brother Eddy is next to my mom Dorothy. I am being held by my dad, Bill. My mother use to say she had the perfect family, a boy for you, and a girl for me. Except, Ed was mama’s boy and I was daddy’s little girl. That explains a lot about my childhood. The other picture is of me on Lake Michigan beach. I wish I could remember that day. It looks like I was having a lot of fun!
Finally, my toy kitchen set that miraculously got saved. This vintage 1950s Wolverine Tin Litho Yellow Kitchen Stove, refrigerator and sink is rare, because when I researched this, I never saw the set in yellow. It came mostly in pink. I did see a blue refrigerator and a pale yellow stove, but never a yellow set. This must have been one of the earlier made sets by the Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Company (1903-1950) founded in Pittsburg, PA by Benjamin Bain and his wife. And I think my dad bought it for me because he was from Pennsylvania and visited his brother who lived in Pittsburg. And it is interesting to read that the company closed in 1950, the year I was born.  
So that’s it for baby toys. I am happy that they were saved and continued to be cherished. Another thing that’s interesting is when I need to research a particular item and when I find it, it is quite thrilling. As they say, part of the fun is the thrill of the hunt. Tally ho and the way I go to the next hunt. Fun awaits!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Family Museum Collections from A to Z - "B" for Books

There are so many stories I want to tell about our museum collections, I sometimes don’t know where to start. Then it hit me. What better guide to use other than the alphabet. So I started to make a list and stopped at the letter “B” because after listing several items I was anxious to start writing instead of continuing the list. I do not have anything under “A”. The only thing I could come up with is antique, however, all the things in our family museum don’t qualify to be an antique, at least not yet. And then my lovely husband comes into my office and chuckled at my idea. He said, “There is something that starts with “A”. “What,” I asked. “Album,” he said. And he’s right. But since I spent this afternoon writing about “B” for books, I will write about the albums tomorrow.  

Story on Books, Lizzie’s School BooksSchool. I was not a very bright student. At least that was what I was told. It was much later in life that I found out why. First, my eyesight was poor and I needed glasses which I did got wear until I was in third grade. By that time my reading skills had been sadly compromised. But worse than that, I had dyslexia, a learning disability that was not recognized when I went to kindergarten in 1955. Therefore, school was always a challenge for me but I got through it. Now, because of these malady’s, I was not fond of reading and did not covet books. But my dear dad, always the saver, held onto a few of my school books that I now sentimental to me.

One of the first things you notice when you open an old book is the smell. What is it about that scent that can take you back into another time, another world? Then you feel the paper. Substantial yet now with age, brittle. So carefully you turn the pages. What is even more special is that if the book has color pictures (illustrations) the colors are vibrant and rich. These images are simplistic and innocent. Compared to today’s schoolbooks, I much rather these bygone tombs than the glossy, computer-perfect text and images that are produced today.
So enough of my nostalgic trip down schoolbook lane and have a look at these now fondly and preserved books of my childhood.
Four books. That’s all. Not much when you stop to think how many books have passed through your hands from kindergarten through high school (I did not go to college).  I went to the John L. Marsh Elementary School in Chicago, IL from kindergarten through 4th grade.
Two books survive; the first one was the Basic Reader (1957) titled, We Are Neighbors (1957). The book I had was the revised edition from the Chicago Public Library (1959). When I opened the book again, I was delighted to see that it still had the original Library Card with the earliest date due of Jul 30. Also the library card that was stamped with the due date that stayed in the book; this one dated MAR 21 1961.
The lovely stories in the book all had to do with neighbors and neighborhoods. The sections were divided into storylines: Garden Street Neighbors, Animal Neighbors, Good Times, Story Fun, People Who Work for Us, Round Go the Wheels, and Storybook Friends.  All of these stories with their colorful illustrations made reading fun. I can’t remember if I did, but that doesn’t matter because I enjoy reading them today. One of my favorites is about the Milkman. Do you remember the milkman? As the story goes, a new milkman delivered the milk to the back door when before it was delivered to the front door. Mom found this out when she made a telephone call to the delivery company. All’s well that ends well. Even the cat and her kittens got their milk. When was the last time you called to find out why your milk didn’t come?     

The second book in interesting. Title, All Around Me, it is a work book prepared & published by Continental Can Company as a public service. A public service? After reviewing the 35 pages, the book is about identifying yourself, with little lessons and work pages and music. Part One asks the reader to write “Important facts about Me, What I see and hear around Me, and what I like to do. Part Two asks about “My Home and the people in it, what is Fun at home, What is a day at my house like, Who are helpers for the house, and The way we keep things. Part Three asks about My Town, Facts about my Town, Buildings in my Town, My School, How packaged goods come to my Town (this is most interesting because the Continental Can Company was a major packaging company), and People who work in my Town and who All my Friends are. The last page is a tear-out page with an illustration of a finger puppet with instructions on how to make it. I guess I didn’t care about this because the page is still there, but with a pencil drawing of a lady that I suspect my mother drew. It certainly was not the drawing of a 9-year old. After scrutinizing this workbook, I feel as if it was a publicity tactic to promote the can company’s agenda. And I am sure the book was given to the schools for this purpose. Do company’s still employ such methods? And as for the drawing of the girl jumping rope, I drew this. Other than having exceptionally long arms, I think she looks pretty happy to be jumping rope, something I did a lot when a kid.

The last two books are the legendary school workbooks. Need I say more? Here are two Spelling books, one from fifth grade (1960) and eight grade (1963) both published by Laidlaw Brothers for the Catholic School Spelling Series. (My family moved out of Chicago into the country, settling in a town called Mokena. There, my brother and I attended St. Mary’s School, hence the Catholic workbooks.)

I liked workbooks. At least I think I did. Both of these books taught everything that was needed to learn how to spell; vowel sounds, dividing words, open and closed syllables, vowel digraphs, derivatives, sounds, pronouncing words distinctly, etc. Several pages of spelling tests, and even a dictionary in the back. And every word  was written in cursive. Not one printed letter. Going off the tract a bit, I just read in this weekend’s paper how schools are reconsidering teaching cursive. What? You mean they don’t! I read that kids today are taught how to write in kindergarten (a child’s brain at that age trying to learn cursive when they have yet to know how to read is unreal) and in first grades only. Then they are taught how to type! If that isn’t bad enough, schools want to know what the public thinks. It asked, Do you think children should be taught how to write cursive?   
Back to my books. It is quite wonderful to see that I was pretty good at writing cursive and my spelling ability was satisfactory. However, I can’t say that about myself today. Thank goodness for spell check! As for the Spelling 8 workbook, lessons became a bit more complicated. By this time the student had to know plurals and compound words, how to analyze words, work with homonyms, word origins, suffixes and parts of speech, and of course, more spelling tests. The picture I captured from this book shows some pretty impressive cursive, but what I liked more is that I wrote with purple ink. WOW! I must have lost my blue ink pen. 
I hope you liked this little trip down memory lane. Do you still have any books from your school days? I wish I had more but at least my dad saved these. Thanks, Dad.

Next Post: Albums

Friday, September 19, 2014

Family Museum Room-by-Room - The Family Room

Other than the kitchen, the family room is the busiest room in most homes because this is where the family gathers for entertainment, special events and for taking a long-deserved nap (that’s when it is quite in there).
Our family room is in the center of the house, is fairly large except much of the room is used for passage which means furniture is not allowed in this space. Our family room also has a quirky name. We call it our “Club Room.” We even have a small brass plaque announcing its moniker.
This room, no matter what you call it, is a perfect place for Family Museum collections. As I had mentioned in a past post, this room may have a media center where the TV is placed in the center with perhaps books, nick-knacks and pictures taking up the rest of the space.
Not only do these things in the room represent the family’s history, interests and such, they are part of your family heritage. Perhaps there is a piece of inherited furniture, art work painted or drawn by a family member, or antiques given or purchased. One thing for certain, this room is very much a part of your House Museum. Here are a few pictures of our Family Museum collections.
The paintings were done by my husband's mother Gladys over 75 years ago. They are scenes from her home in Minnesota. The photograph is of her parents' home in Norway.  

As I had mention before, we like to give our things names. This china cabinet is called Caroline's Chest because my dear friend Caroline gave it to me when she was downsizing into a smaller home. The shelves have silver serving pieces and the drawers turned out to be a great place to store winter gloves & scarves. So when someone is looking for a pair of gloves, we say, “Look in Caroline’s chest.”

On the fireplace mantle is a bronze statue by Remington of a cowboy shooting off his gun for what reason I am not sure. I bought it for Keith because he just loved all the cowboy & Indian movies and TV shows from his childhood. His favorite actor was John Wayne.

No, it is not a meteor, though we thought so for a long time until Keith took it to the local planetarium to have it analyzed. It is a bolder of molten rock spewed by a volcano eons ago that landed in his Uncles fields in Minnesota. In fact, he would plow up several of these rocks and used them in his house and barn. Keith remember playing with them when he was a little boy but had no idea what they were. The rock sits on the bar and when we have guests over, they are simply amazed by its weight and gnarly surface. What a great conversational piece.

What are your favorite pieces in your Family Room?    

Next week’s posts will focus on some of the collections in our Family Museum. Until then, have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family Museum Room-by-Room - The Dining Room

Yesterday we visited my House Museum Living Room. Today we will tour the Dining Room. How many of you grew up with having a Dining room in your house? This was by far one of the most important rooms in the house because it was where the family gathered for special occasions. Sadly, this room as been reviewed as an unnecessary room by today’s needs. No longer do families gather around a commodious table and share a special meal.  They are now regulated to the big eat-in kitchen or family rooms where buffet tables are set up to offer the food and then everyone finds their own seat to enjoy the meal. Perhaps one day the Dining Room will regain its importance in the home as well as in the customary practices of family gatherings. But for now, I will gladly share all the pieces that are in my dining room that have be inherited, purchased and enjoy a premier spot in our House Museum.    
The dining room buffet, hutch, table and chairs came from my Italian Grandmother whom I called Nana. As the story goes, she had purchased this entire suite from Sears Roebuck in 1920. It could have been via the mail-order catalog or directly from the store since she lived in Chicago. At this time there was a colonial-revival period of which this extraordinary rich mahogany set was inspired by. Six chairs with Chippendale backs, table with built-in extension leaf underneath, buffet with plenty of storage and china cabinet with Chippendale-pane windows was really something in its time. When Nana passed away, the set went to her daughter, my Aunt Viola. I recall many holiday dinners being eaten at this table and how all the relatives sat around it. But of course, all the cousins were regulated to sit in the kitchen. The furniture traveled among family member and eventually came to me. I had all the pieces restored and feel very proud to have Nana’s furniture in my home.

The English Bone China with its castle motif was also very popular. These dishes were used for special occasions only. Perhaps that is why I still have them. Also because my mother inherited the dishes, then passed them down to me. I was thrilled to have them for the furniture and dishes must stay together.  

Over the buffet is a large mirror my mother purchased sometime in 1980. I love the monochromatic white. The pineapple is a sign of hospitality and what better place to hang the mirror than the dining room.

On the buffet are two lead-crystal art deco lamps I had purchased from an antique store in Chicago. Heavy, you bet. And you wouldn’t believe how I got them back home. Each lamp was wrapped in newspaper and a brown paper bag tied with heavy string. No lampshades; they came later. I hulled these lamps with my on to the airplane and placed them in the overhead baggage compartment. Can’t do that today!   

          On a silverware chest sits an Italian porcelain compote with matching candlesticks. This set was purchased by my mother in 1980 as well. The three-piece set was always in the center of the dining room table. I use to do the same until one day while moving it, the fragile basket almost fell off and gave me a fright, so from now on it sits immoveable on the chest.    
This beautiful sofa has a long story to tell. Again, purchased by Nana back in 1920, it has two accompany chairs that are in my bedroom. This set has been in many homes and by time it came to me, it was in bad need of repair and reupholstering. The only unfortunate aspect of this set is that when it was originally purchased, the sofa and chairs had camel backs. Then one day some ignoble interior decorator convinced my mother to have the set update by cutting off the camel backs, and off they went. Oh how sad is that!
Next to the sofa are a pair of fancy pink French lamps that were given to my mother. She didn’t care for them so she gave them to me. Again, they needed repair and new lampshades and look great next to the sofa.
On the wall is a small painting on wood of a gentlemen sipping wine and reading a letter. I found it at an estate sale and again, it needed a good cleaning and new frame. This scene is so apropos for the dining room. I just love it!
When I started to collect Nippon porcelain, I had no idea that the vase that always was displayed somewhere in the living room had belonged to Nana and that it, too, was a Nippon she had purchased back in 1920. And I also remember the day my father broke Nana’s vase and how extremely angry my mother had gotten. I never saw my dad plead for forgiveness like he did then. That night I watched him painstakingly glue the broken pieces together.  
Somehow this eclectic gathering of many different period styles of furniture and accessories share the same space, giving the room a sense of history and more importantly, family history. How many stories can you tell from what is in your dining room?

Next post will be about the Family room.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Family Musuem Room-by-Room - The Living Room

When was the last time you took a walk around your house and stopped to look at a particular piece of furniture, antique, or artwork and realized that it was handed down to you and your family from a past relative? Or perhaps you found the piece at an antique shop and placed it among your collections? When you take the time to make this trip, you may be surprised to see that your house is a Family Museum.
My daughter gave me this idea. But first let me tell you about a little quirky habit we have . . .we assign our furniture, etc., names, such as Uncle Mike’s Dresser, Nana’s dining room set, Bestafar’s (Grandfather in Norwegian) clock, Joan Hitz’s lamps, Caroline’s chest, Dorothy’s piano. Get the picture. I guess you can say that we get very personal with our stuff by giving an identity to the piece. Not only is it fun, it honors the person from whence the piece came and helps you to keep their memory alive. 
So now, Ladies & Gentlemen, please allow me to give you a tour of my home and point out all the things that truly makes our home a Family Museum.
The Spinet piano with the picture above has always been in the Living Room ever since I could remember. I am talking about for 64 years give or take. My mother purchased both in 1947. The piano is a Chickering and the print is a scene from an Italian Opera. The two have never been separated, other than the time my brother was first given the piano and then later he gave it to me. I always had the picture and had it restored and reframed many years ago.
Standing next to the piano has got to be the most curious antiquity my family owns. I found it an estate auction and just had to have him. He stands about three feet tall, is made of solid wood and painted in luscious Persian colors. He represents a wealthy Banker, as he is holding a gold bag of money. His name is Ish Kabibble.
On the fireplace mantel stand two identical lamps. We call them Joan Hitz’s lamps because that’s who gave them to my mother. However, at that time they were heavy brass candlesticks, not lamps. Not knowing what to do with them, my mother passed them unto me and I had them converted into lamps with fancy silk lampshades. The crystal icicles tinkle when a breeze comes through the living room windows. An unusual magazine table holds a collection of art books. I found this table at an estate sale and had it refinished. The mirror behind the lamp is also an antique I bid for at an estate auction. The others pieces in the living room; couch, chairs, coffee table, sofa table, and carpet are purchases my family have made.      
As your tour your home and appreciate your things, this is an excellent time to create an inventory. There are many types of inventory books, like the one pictured here. There is a section for photographs with a page for listing all the information about the piece; what it is, date purchased and price and current value if you have the piece appraised. You can also create this document on your computer and save it there or on disc. Physical inventories are important to have, particularly for your insurance company. In case of any disaster causing the loss of your possessions, you now have proof of their existence and the value therein.
Tomorrow I will post about my Dining Room. Many precious antiques reside in that room and the stories they tell are priceless.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Vintage Clothes - Men's Leisure Suits

Leisure Suits originated on the west coast of the US in the late-1930s as summer casual-wear for the wealthy, possibly derived from the heavy tweed Norfolk, khaki safari and Ike jackets worn by English sportsmen. Leisure Suits became popular among members of Britain's Mod subculture in the 1960s, but only achieved widespread popularity in the United States when—with the creation and popularization of synthetic materials—an unprecedented inexpensive suit featured contrasting stitching on yokes, cuffs, and elephant collars. Casual enough to be worn out of the workplace setting yet formal enough for business. They are frequently associated with that era's Disco culture. The Leisure suit height of popularity was around the mid to late 1970s, but fell from fashion in the very early 1980s.

When I presented this pastel Peach Leisure Suit to my husband, I think he rolled his eyes. But being the loving husband that he was then and still is today, he donned the suit to many family functions, taking in all the ribbing his brother's could dish out. When we unearthed the suit from one of those many stored boxes, we had a good laugh reliving that time, when current culture and fashion protested formality. Keith tried the suit on but alas, it did not fit. However, it holds fond memories and it never fails to make a visitor to our museum guffaw when a guy sees it and recalls his own experience with his Leisure Suit.

Just as women love to shop and wear vintage clothing, so should men. Check out this website for men's vintage clothing.





Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Vintage Clothes - Hot Pants


Hot Pants were technically defined as a brief and usually tight-fitting shorts for women and girls, first popularized in the early 1970s. But Hot Pants were more than a trend. They were a sign of changing times.

Hot Pants were introduced to the fashion scene by Mary Quant, born February 1934. A fashion designer and British fashion icon, she became an instrumental figure in the 1960s London-based Mod and youth fashion movements. She was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and Hot Pants, symbols of the social movements brought on by the 70s. Women felt that although the inseam was short, it was still an inseam and Hot Pants gave them more coverage than a miniskirt. By promoting these and other fun fashions she encouraged young people to dress to please themselves and to treat fashion as a game.

Hot Pants came in many styles, from conservative short to short-short. The rage of the fashion runways and top models, such as Twiggy, Hot Pants took the world by storm. At first they were hard to accept as clothing to be worn in the work place until Southwest Airlines adopted the style for their stewardesses in 1970. The Hot Pants fad, rage and craze dominated fashionable society. Hot Pants and miniskirts were also a gage on how good or bad the economy was doing. The old maxim was when women's hemlines rose, so did the economy. When they went down, it was a sign of difficult times were coming. Be that true or not today, fashion is still an indicator of cultural musings.

When I modeled, I did my fair share of print work posing in hot pants. From inside the studio to outdoors, it was the fashion. Great when the weather was pleasant, especially in Chicago, but not very warm in the frigid winters. But the boots helped and where an integral part of “the look.” 

The last time I wore my hot pink suede hot pants was in 1982 at an Art Gallery I owned and operated in St. Petersburg, Fl.
Any job in the art world was a perfect environment to wear outrageous fashions. I feel a spirit is lacking in the style world today and that’s why vintage fashion is popular. Not only for young people but all ages, both men and women, who desire to have clothing that is trendy and better still, made in the USA. So next time you peruse a vintage clothing shop, see if you can find a pair of hot pants. And of course, a pair of white vinyl boots to go with them! 
Next Post: Vintage Clothes – Men’s Leisure Suite