Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Way Back Machine


The time: Circa 1963
The place: Northern Illinois

This is my grandmother's friend Martha. You remember her, she's the dramatic one. What am I saying? All of my grandmother's friends were dramatic.

This is obviously a staged photo with Martha sitting at her small folding leaf dining table. Why do I say it was obviously staged? Because her place never, ever, EVER looked this neat and orderly. Her apartments were always packed to the rafters (literally) with books, magazines, patterns, fabric, trims and everything else imaginable.

She was insistent on one thing though. There was always a spot carved out of the chaos that was her dining room table and in the midst of the crazy clutter was one perfectly arranged place setting of beautiful china, crystal and sterling silver. It was her way of staying civilized in her jungle of possessions.

I notice that she's wearing her white uniform. One of the many accomplishments in her life was the fact that she graduated from nursing school. She was also a renowned milliner in Chicago and towards the end of her life she was an expert on herb gardens and was the curator of a garden at a local college. She never ceased to be excited about learning.

Like I said she was quite a character. Was your childhood populated with colorful characters? Inquiring minds want to know.


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Yes. Many. But none quite as colorful as Martha. Oh wait, there was a rather wealthy great-aunt who wore fur stoles, beautiful suits, hats, and, my personal favorite, silk gloves with rings over the top. She was fascinating.

Judy said...

I like characters...they make for great stories! And Martha sounds like an amazing woman..'character' and all. I quite enjoy your 'way back machine'!

Anonymous said...

No one like Martha. Dad introduced 5 year old me to our new neighbor(in the days when adult neighbors were addressed as Aunt or Uncle). Neighbor belched/burped accidentaly just at that moment. Thereafter he was called Uncle Burp. Poor man! Guess it was payback for bad manners.

Tammy said...


My childhood was dull and drab wasn't until I met my Hubby's family and then later on my Red Hat group that zaney things!

I have a friend with the nick-name Dipsey Doodles...what does that tell ya ;D

Pieceful Afternoon said...

Irma Neal - that name just makes me smile when I hear it. She could play the piano like an angel - any song - any time - just give her a piano. She would pound out those songs. Her hands were ravaged by years of hard, hard work, yet she always had gorgeous fingernails - painted bright red. She wore big bulky muu-muus - and RED, high top, lace-up men's sneakers. Her hair was dyed a fiery orange and she clumped about in those sneakers - but set her before a piano and she was a genius. She had studied piano in Vienna when she was a young girl - I wish I had seen photos of her at that time. Heart of gold and fingers of magic - that was Irma Neal.

They went up to the fire towers in the summer and spotted fires - and as soon as she would get back she would head for our piano (she didn't even have one of her own by then) and play for hours.

Pieceful Afternoon said...

And speaking of Irma Neal - I bet she never would have believed that her memory would be running about on the internet for world wide viewers to read about. She would have been happy - and would have played a few songs for you all if she could.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

My mother-in-law was always proud that she was a nurse. She graduated from one of the Chicago hospitals (I think they still have a nursing school but I don't remember which it was) before WWII.

As for characters, hmmm... most of my family.

lifeinredshoes said...

This brings back memories of the ladies my Mom played bridge with. The smell of cigarette smoke, gin and tonic, mixed nuts and Jergens Original. I can close my eyes and go there.

Farmchick said...

We have a few "characters" in my family, but then again who doesn't! I love your "Way Back Machine", keep them coming.