Celebrating a California Christmas in the 60’s

Aluminum Christmas Tree 2.jpg
Mother’s California Christmas Tree Photo from the Kansas Historical Society

Christmas morning I was laying in bed listening to the rain. John was snoring beside me and Susie was still asleep in her bedroom next to ours. I quietly slip out of bed and slowly head for the kitchen to make the coffee:The smell of coffee perking in the electric percolator was welcomed on this dreary morning. I was expecting my second child the end of January and Susie will be three the fifth of March.This pregnancy was easier than the first, I was able to work in the beauty salon up to the week before Christmas.

As I sat by the window and watched the rain splatter on the cement driveway, I was overcome with sadness. I’m missing Vermont this morning, and I would of been watching the snow drift softly to the ground instead of hearing the rain hitting against the window pane.  

I snap back to the present as Susie shuffles into the room in her sleepers snuggling her favorite blanket. She ran to the tree for her presents that John and I had stayed up the night before to get ready for her. Okay, it’s time to wake John up. Susie – go jump on Daddy! That got him up.

After opening presents and finishing putting the tricycle together (which was too much of a challenge on Christmas Eve), it was time to get ready to go to my mother’s house for Christmas dinner. My mother was now married to Joey, who was an accountant. They lived in Redwood City.  My sister Peggy, her husband, and baby Sharon would be there also.

Sharon was two years old and Susie was almost three. They could be a little rambunctious at times which didn’t set well with Joey. After a few cocktails he would mellow some. The turkey was in the oven cooking and It was getting warm in the house, so we opened some windows and a door. The rain had stopped, and the sun was shining. Temperatures were now in the high 50’s. Some of the neighborhood kids were out on the sidewalk riding their new bicycles.

Dinner is ready and as the tradition goes Joey carved the turkey.  During the meal he would get weepy and tell us that he won’t be around next year. But yet– when the next Christmas rolled around–there he was!

After dinner, we would all sit around Mother’s aluminum Christmas tree to open the presents with Joey continuing to be his difficult self.

Vermont Christmas is just a memory in my mind!

Until we meet again!




A Creepy Rainy Night!

Much to my relief my work day at the beauty salon  was almost over. There was chaos from the moment I stepped through the door that morning. The phone was ringing and a lady was sitting in the waiting room that said she had an appointment at 9:00 AM. She was not in the book.   

My 9:00 o’clock was late so I said I would take her. All the operators were busy working on their patrons. I shampooed and started to set her hair when my regular patron showed up. clearly dissatisfied that she had to wait. That was the beginning of a stressful day.

I drove home and parked the car in the driveway.  I walked over to the neighbor that was taking care of Susie,who just had her second birthday. we walked back to our house together.  As we approached the house I could hear Caesar barking in the backyard, he was happy we were home. I fixed his food and took it out to him, and for once he didn’t pee on my shoes, which he always did when he was happy to see you.

Now it was time to cook dinner. Mac and cheese and a side dish of peas were Susie’s favorite; that was a quick meal and I went with it!  After we ate dinner it was bath time for Susie which she loved and then into pajamas. I laid her down in her crib kissed her good night and closed her door ever so gently.

A 50’s movie was on at 8:00 PM. that I wanted to watch “The Father of the Bride” with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. I had enough time to take the ice cream out of the freezer and scoop it into a large bowl, then I poured hot chocolate over it and topped it off with whipped cream. I set my bowl of ice cream on the coffee table while I adjusted the rabbit ears to get a halfway decent picture. It’s was a little snowy, but that was the best we could get until cable came along.

In California we had a rainy season instead of snow in the winter. It had rained off and on all day. Now the wind was blowing and the rain was beating against the window pane. The movie was just starting as I got comfortable on the couch. Time for my delicious sundae I scooped up a big spoon full of ice cream when the phone rang.  I said hello and on the other end came a man’s deep voice that I didn’t recognize. He quickly went on to say he was a television repairman and had made an appointment with my husband earlier in the day. He was to come over that evening to fix a problem we were having with our television, The set was on and it was working fine.

He was very persistent that he was to come over at 8:30. He went on to say my husband had given him our address. He knew my baby would be asleep and it would be a convenient time.  I was really getting scared! John worked nights at United Airlines as a mechanic in South San Francisco and wouldn’t be home until 1:30 AM.  During the day  he studied and took lessons on a Flight Simulator to eventually obtain a commercial pilots license.

In the early 60’s there was no caller ID. I hung up the phone and proceed to dial my neighbor Ben one digit at a time, I was nervous and messed up the  number and had to start all over again! After what seemed a long time, Ben answered the phone. Ben and his wife Barbara Jean were the first couple we had met when we moved into our new house. I managed to blurt out my episode of the disturbing phone call to him, with the impending worry of the unsuspecting “anonymous electrician” arriving at any time. Ben and Barbara Jean’s house was next to ours, so he could see if a car pulled up in front, he said he would keep an eye out if anyone should stop.

I bought Caesar in from the back yard for protection. This disturbing night also brought back memories of living in San Francisco and being eight months pregnant with my daughter. I was home alone that night. Caesar was laying beside me on the couch when he heard a noise and jumped off the couch… I looked around and saw a big brown work boot coming through the window. Before worry would set in, Caesar tore the venetian blinds off the window and grabbed the man’s pant leg. Surely, the perpetrator took off running. That was the night that Caesar saved me and my unborn child from potential great harm.

Back to my movie, well, my ice cream was melted and my movie was almost over. The show that was on next was the “Twilight Zone”, and I too felt like I was in it. I got up and turned the television off. (Yes, in the good old days you actually had to get up and walk to the TV to shut it off or change channels!)

I was sitting in the dark and was startled every time a branch brushed up against the house. I was waiting for John to come home when the phone rang it was going on mid-night. I finally gathered up enough courage to answer it. Ben came on the phone and was laughing all the while he explained that the previous caller was him, and that he was just having some fun and knew I would call him.

To say the least I was furious with him!

I thought I’d moved to a safe neighborhood, Now I had a creepy neighbor, When John home from work he got an earful about his friend Ben. John thought it was funny and that Ben was just playing a harmless prank.
I didn’t see it that way I was frightened.  I didn’t like either one of them that night. I didn’t feel safe being alone at nights with just my daughter. John had two guns and I was thinking I should learn how to use one. I didn’t  like feeling so vulnerable

Until we meet again!


Back Home and Safe on the Ground!

After the horrific plane trip with my 14 month old baby back from Vermont to California, I was grateful that we were safe and settled in our San Jose home.

Flight Simulator similar to what John used.

John is furthering his education to become a pilot for a commercial airline. He was taking lessons on a Flight Simulator. I remember it was very expensive for the half hour the simulator was in use. I don’t remember the total amount but I did realize it was time for me to look for a job .

There was a modern  beauty salon a couple miles from where I lived. One afternoon I stopped in and spoke to the owner about the possibility of an job for a hair dresser. We spoke for a while and then I was introduced to the other employees. They were friendly and the beauty salon was bright and cheery.

The job was mine if I wanted it! Now I needed to make arrangements for someone to take care of Susie while I worked. My schedule would be three days a week Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That was the busiest days for the salon.

We had made friends with a neighbor couple that had teenage kids. Fortunately Lee, my new neighbor and friend, said she would take care of Susie who was now a year and half. I was happy to be styling hair again and enjoying the chance to be with people close to my age.

John had some friends from work that lived in San Jose. They were young couples with children and we often got together to play cards, charades, and other games. We would take turns having these gathering at each other’s house. This was a time before electronics and cable television. I remember spending an evening with rabbit ears trying to get a decent picture to watch a show. At that time we had three snowy channels. Not always worth the trouble!

alison-marras-323013-unsplash (1)
Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash

Our entertainment  was enjoying other people’s company. As we became acquainted with other couples they were include in our get together. The ones hosting the party would provide appetizers and highballs which now we call cocktailsThat was the early 60’s when chips and dips were popular and one of the favorite appetizers served. I remember in the late 50 s my first experience with dipping a Utz potato chip into a sour cream onion dip it was surprisingly good. A new concept at that time and still a favorite snack today.

There were a few happy years with many friends and companionship. But circumstances change and life takes you on another path not always a happy one.

Until we meet again!





Fun Times at Lake Tahoe

The year 1955, I moved in with my two new roommates, Carole and Phyllis. The apartment was only a few blocks from San Jose State college where Carole and Phyllis attended. My mother decided to move to a YWCA downtown, which was close to the library where she worked. It also relieved her of cooking and cleaning, she never did like ether one for that matter. She liked having a career,this move gives her more time to study.  We visited every week, I was her main hairdr

Mainly I lived in Vermont until I turned 18 teen then my mother and I headed for California. That was her idea to make a career change, I didn’t want to leave Vermont and my friends. The young people I met from here were very friendly and soon I made friends. I never did reveal that my mother and father had been ministers, that was a deterrent in making friends.

It wasn’t long before I adjusted to the many different cultures that lived in California. I quickly adapted to eating ethnic foods.To this day Mexican  cuisine is my favorite.      


On a Wing and a Prayer!

This is how we boarded the airplane in the 50’s and 60’s.

As I climbed the stairs into the airplane I stopped and glanced down at John who was waving goodbye to us. Then I entered the dimly lit cabin. The feeling of being alone hit me; I’m flying for the first time on a commercial airline and traveling with my 14 month old baby girl. We were flying from the San Francisco airport to the Bradly airport in Connecticut.

The stewardess walked us to our assigned seats, she was very friendly.  Susie was sitting on my lap when the pilot announced that we were to fasten our seat belts for take off. Reality set in that I’m buckled in for my safety and it was only my arms that were around Susie would keep her safe.

Eventually I relaxed and enjoyed a lunch we were served. It wasn’t wonderful but it was handed to me fully cooked and I didn’t have to wash the dishes. Susie ate some of my food and a jar of baby food. The next experience was changing a wiggly baby out of a wet cloth diaper as we bounced around in the tiny bathroom. That was the time before disposal diapers! Who could even imagine such a thing. Don’t ask me what I did with the wet diapers, I have no recognition of that.  It was just something we dealt with.

After many hours in the air and one stop over at Chicago airport where we changed planes, the pilot’s deep voice came over the laud speaker “we are approaching  Bradley airport and will be on the ground in 10 minutes. ”  When the plane came to a stop I hurried down the stairs and stepped on to the hot pavement. Running over to greet me was Jenny, my childhood friend, who was holding her little baby in her arms. We hugged each other then walked to her car and catching up with our lives.

How times have changed. In the 50’s and 60’s our friends and family were allowed to meet the plane as it taxied closer to the airport. Now if you saw your friend Jack in the waiting room and you hollered “Hi Jack” you would be wrestled to the floor and thrown in to the interrogation room!

The babies were tried when we reach Jenny’s house and they needed a nap so we put them both in Lori’s crib. Later that day Jenny’s brother came to visit. The first thing he did was to look into the bedroom at Lori and Susie, who were standing side by side holding onto the crib. Dereck couldn’t tell which one was Lori, his niece, who he had seen since her birth. That is how much the girls looked alike! When we were in public people would remark “what adorable twins.” We had fun with that and dressed them alike. Now they don’t look anything alike.

The next day Jenny drove me to Vermont to visit  my father. He had rented a cabin on Lake Champlain for us to stay.  I had not been back to Vermont since I left five years ago.

The two weeks that I planned on staying in Vermont were going by fast. I spent a few days visiting my sister Ellen and her family. After making the rounds of other relatives and friends it was time to drive back to Connecticut.

The next day Jenny drove us to the airport to catch our early morning flight back to San Francisco. I was anxious to be back home, but I knew I’d miss Vermont, my friends, and my family. I was already planning my next trip back. Since John worked for United Airlines, family could fly on a free pass.

Once on the plane I enjoyed my second cup of coffee that day. Susie had fallen asleep in my arms. It would be a couple of hours before we landed at O’Hare Airport where we would change planes and then go onto San Francisco and home.

The weather prediction was calm and clear, no storms in sight. We could look forward to a smooth flight. I had a wonderful time on our trip and Susie seemed happy most of the time. Either I’m delusional on that fact or I blocked out any negative activity.

The transition from one plane to the other went smoothly. I was tried and glad this was our last trek before home. We were in the air about a hour when the pilot announced he had turned the plane around and was heading back to O’Hare airport.  I remember thinking it looked as if the plane had turned around.  The sun was in a different place.

He told us the stewardess would come around to each person and prepare them for a crash landing. She came around with a pillow case and said. “any thing that is on your person that could fly through the air goes in the pillow case.” That included eye glasses, false teeth, shoes etc. I had a pair of high heeled shoes and a hat on that went in the pillow case.

Now the bone chilling instructions came. The landing gear was malfunctioning and could not be released to let the wheels down to slow the plane as we came in for a landing. The sad news is the plane would have to land on its belly at a high speed. The stewardess talked us through what to do if the plane could not stop before running out of runway. If the plane tipped over, it would catch on fire.

The Shute would open up and we could slide down it. There was silence for a moment then the babies that were onboard begin to cry.  No one showed emotion.  It was eerie!

Then the stewardess instructed us to tighten our seat belts and bend so our head was between  our knees and hold on to our ankles. I was frightened for my baby. what was I to do?  The only option I could see was to wrap her in a blanket and hold her on the floor by my feet which I did.

The plane hit the runway with a load thud.  The pilot continuously applied the breaks and let them up.  The screeching of the breaks was deafening as the plane rocked back and forth. The seat belt would tighten as we were thrown forward and felt as if it would cut into you. Then the pilot would apply the breaks again, the plane would rock violently until he let up on the breaks. The plane went the length of the runway and finally came to a stop. I instantly picked Susie up and looked her over, she had bruises on her upper body where I held her so tight and on her legs from hitting the  seat in front of us.

The pilot did a great job of keeping the plane upright.

People got up from their seats and headed in single file to the exit. The stewardess stood in the door way with the open pillow case so every one could retrieve their belongings. I sat for a bit longer then slowly moved to the door and collected my shoes and hat. As I looked out the door of the plane the severity of our situation struck me. Lined up along the runway were firetrucks and many ambulances, also the runway had been foamed.

I was really on my own now no one, not even the stewardess, asked me if my baby was all right. I continued following the passengers as they were directed to another airline only to find out that I was not allowed on this flight because I was on a pass from United Airlines.

I went back to the lobby to look for a clerk that could  make some change.  I wanted to call my husband to let him know I wouldn’t be on that flight.  He wasn’t home so I called our next door neighbor Kenny. Susie was in the phone booth standing on the floor beside me. Once more I called the operator deposited my coins and to my relief Kenny answered the phone. I was holding up pretty well until I heard his voice then I started to cry.  “Our plane crashed. They wouldn’t let me on another airline. There isn’t any restaurants to buy food and I don’t have much money!” I cried out.

There were not many people in the terminal during that night. It was a little creepy. Susie slept some but mostly she wanted to run around. I didn’t sleep at all as I needed to keep an eye on her. There were two flights going to San Francisco during the night and I stood in line both times only to be turned away because the flight was full.

Back to the terminal to wait for the next flight out which turned out to be in the morning.  When it was announced that another flight was leaving for San Francisco I got in line, was almost up to the entrance of the plane, and once again was told the plane was full. I turned around to leave when an older couple stepped out of line and told me to take their place. In all my years I have never forgotten their kindness. It taught me to more mindful of other people who might need a helping hand.

Susie and I were literally dragging our way to the lobby when I spotted John. He  had waited all night at the airport to be sure he would be there when our flight came in. At the sight of John I was overcome with relief. He picked Susie up, then walked to our car and headed home. I didn’t need to be in control any longer! I could now have a good old fashion meltdown!

Until we meet again!