If you had a dollar for every social media meme you’ve seen since this global pandemic began, you could buy yourself a very nice present. First, it was the toilet paper conundrum, followed by social distancing. Soon the meme themes shifted to hunkering down at home and packing on those pounds referred to as “the Quarantine Fifteen” … now the meat shortage memes have begun to surface. One thing is for sure … those funnies have served the purpose of lightening the mood and passing the time during our stay-at-home daze.
For years, before our eyes ever encountered any pandemic-type humor, I’ll bet your inbox had a few of those vintage-type e-mails that featured a collection of remembrances from the 50s, 60s or 70s.
I got such an e-mail recently that began “you will enjoy this if you are over 60 years old.” Well, I could hold up my hand, since I am in that category. The gist of that e-mail was recounting products we enjoyed back in the 60s. There was a treasure trove of memories in that e-mail and I found myself nodding my head, while scrolling through those trends which ranged from food and drinks to games and clothing.
I lingered for a long time looking at games from back in the day. Oh yes … I played Jacks, Allies (a/k/a Marbles) and Pick Up Sticks.
Yep, I remember shaking the cereal box to see what prize was in the bottom, or begging Mom to let me order “Sea Monkeys” (which she called “plain nonsense”), so I moved on to some other distraction.
That particular e-mail was like taking a trip down Memory Lane. I could recall many of those items, not only because I ate, drank, played with, or wore them, but because of the TV and radio jingles as well.
But, as I scrolled on and on, suddenly my eyes alighted on an image of Evening in Paris cologne, a popular scent back in the early 60s.
That image stopped me in my tracks and instantly resonated with me, as I recalled a fond memory about that cobalt blue bottle with the pointy gold-toned cap.
I was a wee nipper wearing ankle socks and Mary Jane shoes …
Some events in our young lives are easily forgettable, but some have become golden memories. Today I want to reflect on a special Mother’s Day, circa 1962, and a special teacher named Mrs. Deakon.
This is a picture of our Grade One class and the beloved Mrs. Deakon.
I’ve written about this exceptional teacher a couple of times in the past. For kindergarten, a teacher is more or less a babysitter for our first time away from the comforts of home. There was not a whole lot of angst in kindergarten. Heck, school was a half-day session with naptime and cookies and milk. But Grade One – wow, this was big kid stuff. You removed your own galoshes, hung up your own coat and warm woolens in the cloakroom, sat at a little wooden desk and learned the three Rs and French too. Mrs. Deakon was exceptional – she helped us be creative and made learning fun. Like writing this story about our pets.
Of all the teachers I have ever had, Mrs. Deakon was my favorite. (Even though she didn’t give me a 10/10 on my story about Co-Co.) 🙂
Celebrating Mother’s Day back in ’62.
Mother’s Day was just around the corner and with that calendar date creeping ever closer, Mrs. Deakon helped us students create cards for our mothers, which we fashioned from construction paper and a whole lot of love. We drew a stick figure in crayon representing Mommy with a dress, maybe a chunky necklace, (the likes of garb and jewelry worn by TV cartoon character Wilma Flintstone), and, of course, we were standing next to Mommy, a much-smaller stick figure. A few flourishes of flowers and hearts were added, then we painstakingly printed our names and lots of XOXOXOs.
Mrs. Deakon admired our handiwork, then helped us make envelopes for our creations, which we sealed with more Xs and Os and mucilage. (You do remember mucilage from your childhood days don’t you?)
But our good deed for our respective mothers did not end with that simple card. Mrs. Deakon said she would let us “go shopping” for a special present for our Mommies. She wanted us to ask Daddy for a quarter to buy a present at school. I don’t recall if she sent a note home with us to give to him or not.
So, let the shopping begin!
When we arrived for class the next day, Mrs. Deakon had cleared off the top of her desk and set up a collection of small gifts that she had brought in for us to buy for Mother’s Day. When I think back now, I don’t know if our kindly teacher brought in her own gifts (thus she would simply be “re-gifting” them to us for our respective mothers, though I doubt that term was around back then), or, perhaps she had bought this assortment of items with her own money. It’s a sure bet that our classmates’ collection of quarters were not enough to cover the costs for the array of gifts displayed in our classroom, nor the gift wrap and ribbons either.
The only gifts that I recall being on display were one bottle of Evening in Paris cologne, some bubble bath and a slew of knitted items. The latter I recall as Mom loved to knit and often made matching cardigans for my dolly and me (and later, knitted outfits for my Barbie dolls).
Well, I was drawn to that bottle of cologne – perhaps I’d seen it advertised on TV, or on the glossy pages of Mom’s Good Housekeeping magazine. Maybe I just liked that pretty blue bottle, but I decided that would be the gift I chose. I never recalled Mom using cologne or perfume – she smelled of Lifebuoy soap and baby powder. I know money was dear in those days and cologne was probably considered a frivolous purchase. (Yes, I heard my parents talking, even arguing, about money and I was always warned any of their discussions overheard should never be spoken of outside the house.) My parents never went out for social events as they didn’t want to leave me with a babysitter and my maternal grandparents lived 25 miles away. My father only gave Mom practical gifts through the years, like pajamas, or a soup pot – one time he got her a griddle so she would make pancakes for Sunday morning breakfast.
My quarter yielded more than just a pleasant scent to dab behind Mom’s ears.
After we chose our gifts, Mrs. Deakon had even brought in some tissue paper and a little ribbon. She let us wrap our presents, making a bit of a mess as we grappled with Scotch tape and tissue paper that may have torn a little as we struggled to conceal our chosen gifts and make them pretty for the big presentation on Sunday.
On Mother’s Day, I remember I presented my card and gift and Mom had tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug and a kiss, then put my card and cologne on display. But, when her tears had stopped and she could speak again without the emotion of the moment choking her up, she asked where I got the gift.
My father, having witnessed this sentimental exchange, told her the story and I filled her in on the details of what Mrs. Deakon had done.
On Monday morning, after the school bell rang and we sang God Save the Queen, we were permitted a few minutes to tell Mrs. Deakon how our moms liked the cards and gifts. I will never know what possessed this teacher to do such a kind deed, but I am sure I am not the only one in that class, nor their mother, who has fond memories of Mother’s Day 1962.
There is a postscript to this little tale …
I presume I got a small allowance growing up, though I really don’t recall what I would have spent it on. We had no stores that us neighborhood kids would walk to. I wasn’t allowed to eat candy, so I guess I just hung onto it? My allowance was supplemented by the occasional dime from my grandmother, or money left in exchange for a baby tooth tucked under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy … hmm, I wonder what the going rate was, maybe a penny, a nickel or a dime in those days?
Mom’s gift made such a hit for Mother’s Day 1962 and by Christmas that year, I was in Mrs. Jamieson’s class, so there would be no more opportunities for gift shopping at school courtesy of Mrs. Deakon. I saved my money and scraped together the equivalent of a quarter and asked my father if he would take me shopping for a Christmas gift for Mommy. He probably thought it was a dumb idea and what could a kid get for a quarter if you were not relying on the kindly Mrs. Deakon? But I had it all figured out beforehand and told him we could just go to the grocery store. Once in the store, I searched up and down the produce aisles until I found what I wanted … the biggest Spanish onion in the bin.
It’s funny what you remember when you’re a kid – in fact your parents might even have joked that you had “selective hearing” (yes, you’re smiling and nodding your head).
My parents were 30 years old when I was born and I was an only child. So, with no siblings to distract me, I listened and observed a lot. Yes, I was mindful of what happened around me. Before I started kindergarten I trailed after my mom, watching her do what most other housewives did in the late 50s/early 60s … cooking/baking, cleaning, washing and ironing.
One time Mom made us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch.
She had a huge onion and carefully sliced it onto the cheese before grilling it. She said “Mommy bought herself a treat when we got groceries. I got this sweet onion besides a bag of cooking onions and I’m going to slice some of it onto this sandwich.” That onion idea didn’t much appeal to me, so when she asked if I wanted a taste, I shook my head “no” then remembering my manners, said “no thank you.”
That conversation stuck with me, like that mucilage … so that is why I asked my father if we could go to the grocery store – that onion would be my first Christmas present I bought for Mom. I asked Mom for some paper to wrap up her present, and, on Christmas morning, when she unwrapped it, just like the bottle of cologne, Mom got tears in her eyes. I’m sure she remembered our conversation.
Mom was never big on flowers as a gift. Oh, I remember picking dandelions or buttercups and thrusting them toward her saying “Mommy, I picked these for you!” She’d be gracious about it, but she really loved oddball things like those onions … or Red Rose Mixed Sweet Pickles and tomato relish. That’s because she grew up in a household where, during the growing season, her parents “put up” green or red tomato relish that they called “chow-chow”. In late Summer, every weekend my grandfather was busy peeling onions in the basement, while my grandmother was stewing tomatoes over a hot stove. My grandmother didn’t like to cook or bake (I have her genes), but she rolled up her sleeves, tied on a big apron and really got into this project, just like her own mother did for years. The result was many Mason jars of green or red tomato chow chow that were lined up on fruit cellar shelves and they could slather it onto ham sandwiches, or eggs, or just plain toast. My mother did no canning or putting up pickles or preserves or chow chow, but she used to talk about how she enjoyed those treats. Whenever we went to a fruit and veggie stand while out on a Sunday drive in the country, she’d always be scanning their wares for a similar product.
One time I went to pick up some holiday goodies at the Honey Baked Ham store and saw they had red tomato chow chow. On a lark I got her a case of 12 bottles for her Valentine’s Day birthday. It made her smile and became a regular staple in this house until they stopped carrying it.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone to whom this greeting applies.
Let me leave you with this quote: “Everyone has those random memories that make you smile.” ~ Anonymous
[Images from Pinterest. The rest are my own.]