A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sunday Serenade: R. I. P. George Beverly Shea

George Beverly Shea died this month at age 104. He was a Canadian-born gospel singer who performed for many years with the Billy Graham Crusades. While his most familiar recording is probably “How Great Thou Art,” I’ve chosen this early sixties rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” because I love the camera shots of the crowd singing. Imagine a whole crowd in white shirts and ties and dresses. Today the stands would be a sea of tee shirts and baseball caps, on men and women alike.

Fashionable Friday: To Bob or Not to Bob?


I drew my hair over one shoulder and stroked it protectively. “Richard says there are more important qualities than beauty. He thinks women should look natural.”
“Natural, my foot,” Dot scoffed, banging the glass on the table. “That may be what he says, but deep inside, every man is a sheik in search of a glamorous sheba.  Oh, come on, Marjie. Just give it a try. You’ll love it—I know you will. Bobbed hair makes you feel so—free. Untethered. Ready to take on the world.” She made some sweeping Isadora Duncan-style moves around the tiny kitchen, then plopped down in a chair. “Tell you what. I’ll march you up to the salon myself on Monday and introduce you to my favorite hairdresser. She works wonders with even the most difficult hair.” She eyed my locks with pity.

“Have you listened to a word I’ve said?” I snapped. “I don’t want to have it cut.”

“Now don’t get in a lather. It’s up to you.” Dot shrugged. “But to be honest, doll, you do look miles behind the times. You could at least put on a spot of rouge and a little lipstick. Try my favorite shade, High Society Scarlet. The world won’t end if you shorten your skirts, or roll your stockings. You’re young, live a little. Give Richard something to look at besides his medical charts.” She slid me a sidelong smirk. “Or maybe it’s not Richard’s eye you’re worried about catching.”

I avoided her gaze. “Nonsense. I’m not worried about catching anyone’s eye.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she purred. “You seemed pretty riled up a minute ago that Peter Bachmann invited you to collect canned goods instead of . . . whatever it was you were hoping for.”

“You’re crazy,” I mumbled, embarrassed at how defensive I sounded. “I’m extremely loyal to Richard.”

“I never said you weren’t,” she soothed. “But didn’t you say Peter reminds you of your old beau? ”

“Yes. The resemblance to Jack is remarkable.”

Dot’s dark eyes sparkled. “Maybe he really is Jack. Maybe the government faked his death and has him working incognito as a spy at Marshall Field and Company. I read something like that in a novel once.”

“Now you’re just being silly,” I said with forced laughter—as if that weren’t exactly what I’d been thinking all along.

“Just be careful,” she warned. “As I told the girls, I hear he has quite the reputation. I’ve even spotted him around Johnny’s a time or two, and not for the spaghetti, if you know what I mean. And if you’re interested in him—not saying you are, but if you were—Peter Bachmann definitely goes for the glamorous type.” She glanced at the clock.

“Well, I should finish getting ready for the club. Have you finished in the bath?”

After she’d gone, I settled in my chair, spread my hair out across my back to dry, and picked up the mystery novel. I tried to concentrate as the hardboiled detective grilled the not-so-grieving widow, but in my mind’s eye the detective looked like Peter Bachmann and the widow looked like . . . well, it was too hot to read, anyway. I threw the book on the table, walked over to the cracked mirror, and wondered how strenuously Richard would object if my lips bore just the slightest hint of High Society Scarlet. And tried to ignore the fact that I really cared less and less what Richard thought.

(excerpt a  hopefully-someday-will-be-published-novel by Jennifer Lamont Leo)

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Date Rocks



Here’s an interesting-sounding sweet treat from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, circa 1917 (that’s an illustration from the book, above). Impress your date with these Date Rocks!

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lard and butter mixed
1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. powdered cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup dates, cut fine
1/2 cup nut meats, cut fine

Cream the butter and lard, add the sugar, and mix well. Add the two eggs, well beaten. Mix and sift thoroughly the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, and cinnamon. Add the dates and nuts. Stir these dry ingredients into the first mixture. Add the vanilla. Mix thoroughly and drop from the end of a spoon upon a well larded and floured baking pan. Bake fifteen minutes in a moderate oven.


Down to Business: Don’t Be a Slouch!


“Conscious assumption of correct posture each morning will be a little reminder of what to watch for during the day. And do remember that good posture is something that must be worked for continuously, not just at exercise time. Nothing adds to the distinction of your appearance more than beautiful posture and erect carriage. The most inexpensive dress can be made more attractive when it is worn by a girl who stands and walks well. No matter how costly a frock may be, it loses its smart effect if the wearer of it slouches her shoulders or has a protruding stomach or pitches her head forward.” (Veronica Dengel, 1943)

What constitutes correct posture? Miss Dengel advises tightening your backside as you “think tall” from the waistline up to the armpits and pull your shoulders back and down and lift your head upward from the back of the neck, not from the chin.

“Gone will be the swayed back,” she promises, “the protruding abdomen and shoulder blades, the slumped shoulders, the pitched head carriage which makes you look so anxious to get somewhere that your head seems way in advance of the rest of you!”

There you have it, ladies. Sit up straight, and when you walk, walk tall.

Don’t be a slouch! Tweet this.

Sunday Serenade: Singing Cowboys

Here’s a sentimental piece from the 1930s called “The Voice in the Old Village Choir.” The Ranch Boys were a radio-based group of singing cowboys that featured Ken Carson, who also sang with a better-known group called Sons of the Pioneers.

Started in the mid-1920s and epitomized by Gene Autry, the singing-cowboys trend remained hot throughout the 1930s and 1940s, spurred (sorry) by the popularity of the Western film, which nearly always included a cowboy song or two. These songs emphasized bravery, honesty, the grueling work and lonely life of the trail, and–like this one–fond memories of home and loved ones left behind. Other well-known singing cowboys included Ken Maynard and Roy Rogers. Even John Wayne “sang” in some of his early Westerns, although his singing voice was dubbed–apparently he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Enjoy a Sparkling Vintage Sunday!

Fashion Friday: The Corsage


“After the Prom”
Norman Rockwell

Do girls still wear corsages? We’re getting into prom season, which is one of the few times a year when the flower corsage gets to make its star turn. As a child, I remember square white boxes from the florist taking up real estate in the refrigerator in anticipation of some dance or formal. The best boxes had clear tops, so that a kid sister could admire the flowers without opening the box and getting accused of snooping or spoiling.

Corsages used to make an appearance on ladies’ shoulders at Easter or Mother’s Day, but I haven’t witnessed that trend in a while.  Sometimes they’re distributed at weddings to honor the mothers and grandmothers of the happy couple. Otherwise the corsage, as a rule, seems to have gone out of fashion, except for proms, homecomings, and other formal events.

For those of you born too late to ever have been given a spray of dyed-to-match carnations festooned with ribbons and baby’s breath (poor you!), a corsage is a small bouquet of flowers meant to be worn on a dress, like jewelry. Traditionally the corsage was worn on the left shoulder (“corsage” is a French word meaning “bodice”), but might also be worn on the wrist, like a bracelet, which also kept the flowers from being crushed if your date held you close while you danced.

Here’s what Veronica Dengel says about corsages, circa 1943:

“Too often do we see a corsage, all tied up in silver or satin ribbons, pinned on upside down! Flowers grow with their blossoms looking up; and corsage blooms should be worn that way. They are lovely enough in their natural beauty without the further adornment of ferns and ribbons. Nor do flowers always have to be pinned on the left shoulder. You can find more interesting and suitable places to carry them, as in your hair or on your wrist for evening festivities. At the V of your neckline, or perhaps at the waistline is often effective. With a suit, your flowers should be more of the “field variety,” but certainly never orchids! In fact, the only orchids that are correct in the daytime are the small green, speckled variety, or a pure white one for the older woman. Purple orchids are for evening wear, Easter parades to the contrary. The young girl looks charming with a cluster of sweetheart roses instead of long-suffering gardenias, carnations, or roses that one sees at school dances. Why not be different?”

Why not be different, indeed? To wear a corsage at all in 2013 would set one apart from the crowd. But before you pin one on, take heed of this warning from Miss Dengel:

“No matter how tempted you are to wear your corsage to the office the day after a special celebration, just to ‘show the girls,’ don’t do it unless the flowers appear fresh. Withered blossoms are as sad as any other dying thing.”

Check out this site for some very cute examples, Vintage Corsage.com. You could even jazz up an everyday outfit by pinning a simple, single blossom to a suit jacket or cardigan sweater. What better way to welcome spring? You even have my permission to pin on a purple orchid in the daytime!

When was the last time you gave someone a corsage, or wore one yourself?


The Great Gatsby Turns 88

great gatsbyAccording to a tweet I received this morning from Mental Floss, “The Great Gatsby was published on this date in 1925. Other titles considered: Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires.”  Oh, the importance of a snappy title!

The main character of my novel, Miss Marjorie Corrigan, wrote about The Great Gatsby almost a year ago. You can read what she wrote over at Marjorie Corrigan’s Jazz Age Journal.

Old Marjorie’s been mighty quiet lately. Wonder what’s going on . . .

Down to Business: At the End of the Day


“Arriving Home” by Newell Wyeth

I love how this painting expresses the sheer joy and relief of coming home at the end of a long, hard day. I imagine the man has ridden the 5:42 home from the city and has just said “So long” to his fellow commuters across the street. He’ll see them in the morning. Until then, his time is his own.

I love how the late-afternoon sun warms their faces, and sense a refreshing breeze carrying the mossy scent of fresh-mown grass. Even Fido is happy to be reunited. The wife looks so fresh and pretty. Maybe she changed her dress, to look and feel better after a warm day of work. I’ll bet there’s something tasty simmering on the stove, and a quiet evening ahead after the dishes are done. Maybe a little gardening while it’s still light out, a cool drink on the back porch to watch the sun go down, a glance at the evening paper. She’ll ask about his day, tell him about hers. Nobody’s snapping in fatigue. Nobody’s whining or complaining.  In this moment, they’re just happy to be together.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to “The Fever” by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes:

“I can remember comin’ home
I see you standin’ at the stove
With the dishes on the table
Dinner ready to go
Or maybe on out to a movie show
Something that you’d like to see”

or “Summer Breeze” by  Seals and Crofts:

“Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom. July is dressed up and playing her tune.
And I come home from a hard day’s work, and you’re waiting there, not a care in the world.
See the smile a-waitin’ in the kitchen, food cookin’ and the plates for two.
Feel the arms that reach out to hold me, in the evening when the day is through.
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”

Tomorrow will be another day, another train ride, bosses, customers, paperwork, hassles. Housecleaning, laundry, cooking, weeding. But tonight . . . tonight is simply bliss.

What are some ways that you can make coming-home time more pleasant at your house?

Another thrilling cameo appearance!

Sparklers, look at this bit of gorgeousity over at Recollections! Love cameos, especially in such a unique setting.

The Vintage Cameo Brooch would be the perfect addition to any jewelry collection. Pair this with your favorite blouse, jacket or even a scarf to give it a fresh new look. Athena

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