Archives for posts with tag: nostalgia

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to lots of magazines, and I read all of them through and through. Many are gone today, but there was Look, Life, Readers Digest, Ladies Home Journal, Newsweek, McCall’s, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, kids’s magazines like Highlights for Children. One of our favorites was the Saturday Evening Post. The Norman Rockwell covers were something to look forward to, knowing they would be something we studied carefully for all the clever details. We were used to his work as an illustrator for ads for Colgate, Kellogg’s, and other companies, instantly recognizable.

In 1999, my son and I took a day trip to Mark Twain’s hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. We were fortunate to arrive during an exhibition of the original paintings for Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for Tom Sawyer. I remember they were large paintings and so much richer than the flat pictures we were so familiar with in our day to day life. They were amazing works and their beauty stayed with me.


Yesterday, I went to see the Norman Rockwell exhibition of over 50 of his paintings and 300+ of his Saturday Evening Post covers at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR. I’ve not a professional art critic, even though I studied art history in college and worked in an art museum for over 7 years, but I do know that Norman Rockwell is a great artist. As is typical for artists in their own era, his work was scoffed at in art circles as too sentimental, too idealistic, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that myself. There are many great artists who included humor and sentiment in their works throughout the ages. An artist in his own time, alas…

The gallery was packed yesterday, mostly with older people (and I have to include myself in that group, shockingly), but it was a Monday. I watched their faces as they listened to the audio guides, studied the paintings. There were tender smiles, chuckles, pensive thinking. The main thing is that everyone was relating to the paintings. What more can art do?

Here are some of my favorites and the reasons why…

This one just made me laugh. It was Rockwell’s take on the recent idea that small towns should use speed traps to raise revenue…


This one also made me laugh and smile and study the details…the grandmother in the back who never changed expressions, the tired parents, the kids in various stages. Who can’t make up a story with these images?


Saying Grace is so sweet that you are silent with them, you want to bow your head. Then you see the details in the curtains, the clothing, the grandmother’s rear sticking through the chair, the grandfather’s cane on the floor. Another story for us to all fill in the extra lines…


My love of Santa is well known and there were some lovely Santa portraits along with all the Christmas covers of the Post. This is still one of my favorites for all of us who keep believing even knowing the evidence…


A Day in the Life of a Girl is so fun, so sweet, with elements that all females will remember. The boy version wasn’t on display, but it’s just as great…


Rosie the Riveter is part of the museum’s collection and a whimsical look at the women who worked at home during World War II. This was a bonus after the travelling exhibition.


Besides the fun, sweet portraits of America as we were at times and would always like to be, there were powerful portraits of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and two of Rockwell’s most important works during the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition had preliminary drawings and different drafts of his painting of 3 Civil Rights workers for a powerful, haunting, not-so-pretty picture of a moment in America’s history…


The iconic The Problem We All Live With was so beautiful in person. It was so familiar, such a powerful statement. But, the thing that struck me so strongly was the beauty of the painting, of the work itself. Norman Rockwell was a fabulous painter. His work is so real, so detailed, so skilled. The concrete wall behind the girl felt like real concrete, making me want to reach out and touch it. I didn’t of course – I know my museum manners. But, I’ve been up close to many of the world’s great paintings and these were as good as any I’ve seen. That’s to my untrained eye, but I do know what I’m looking at and it’s honest, thought-provoking, greatness.


Rockwell’s self portrait is so famous that you almost go by it, having seen it reproduced so many times. Looking at the details, I was taken with not only the cleverness, the originality, the self-deprecating humor, but also the skill. On his easel, he has small paintings, homages to some of the greatest painters, all painted beautifully. That’s not easy to do either.


I recommend that you find the closest place to see this exhibition or go to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts to see more. It’s such a treat for those of us who grew up loving him and for those just discovering his incredible legacy. I think that future critics will be kinder and hopefully, recognize his important place in art, American history, and the American heart. I understand his personal life was not always as rosy as his portraits of life, but that’s what being a human is all about. We thank him for the vision of our country that he shared to make us think, feel, smile and laugh, remember, care. There should be more geniuses with a sense of humor, shouldn’t there?…

A friend asked me to write a blog about Annette Funicello, who died earlier this week. We met her on TV when The Mickey Mouse Club first aired in 1955. It’s hard to describe to generations who always have had TV and have multiple 24/7 channels what this show meant to us back then. It was in black and white, or gray, as my kids used to call it, because we didn’t have color TV yet. Amazing, isn’t it?

The Mickey Mouse Club was on every day after school and we waited eagerly for it every day, like clockwork. If you missed it, you missed it. No videotape or DVR. Probably not even reruns. This was a variety show for kids in the days of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle and numerous adult or family variety shows. This one was just for us. We also weren’t as sophisticated as 9 & 10 year olds today. Unless you had older brothers or sisters, you weren’t really exposed to the teenage things. By some odd coincidence, almost all of my friends were the oldest in their family, so we were pretty much kids. We didn’t hit puberty as early, we didn’t dress like small adults, and we didn’t talk about adult things very much.

The Mickey Mouse Club was part of the magic that was Walt Disney. It was a world of imagination and fantasy and innocence that we loved. I found this photo online of the Mouseketeers from those days.


It seems so silly today that these kids clowned around with mouse ears, singing and dancing for us. Annette was adorable, a sweetheart both inside and out. You always knew that. She stood out from the rest from the beginning.

One of my favorite things on the show were the serials, continuing “dramas” featuring Annette, Tim Considine, Tommy Kirk. We couldn’t miss an episode of “Spin & Marty,” “The Hardy Boys,” “Corky and White Shadow.” The serials were fun, starring kids our age or a little older. They were the perfect way for us to have star crushes. Who didn’t think Tim Considine was just way too cute and Tommy Kirk was so funny and fun. And then there was Annette. I’m sure there were boys our age who were still watching The Mickey Mouse Club long after they had outgrown it just to see her. This Mousketeer was blossoming and it wasn’t hard to see what the boys were watching. She graduated on to her Beach Party movies, where that fully developed body and her singing were on full display. But, before that, she was the Mouseketeer all the boys loved and all the girls wanted to be. Always sweet.

We all outgrew the show and moved on to the boys and girls in our real lives, but those days with The Mickey Mouse Club are special memories. Who doesn’t hear that music start up and begin to sing…M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. We really did have sweet childhoods way back then.

Here’s some Spin & Marty for you…

When you’re watching your grandchildren grow up, you can’t help but compare their lives to yours at the same age. It’s always jarring to look at a picture of yourself and realize you look as old fashioned to them as your grandparents did to you. You only hope that they can look past that and learn from your infinite wisdom, also hoping you have any.

When I was in 7th grade, junior high then, most of us started social dance classes. Other communities had similar places, but, in Tulsa, we had Skilly’s, where we first learned etiquette. They seated the boys on one side and the girls on the other and the boys had to learn how to walk, not run, across the room and politely ask a girl to dance. That was palm-sweating, nerve wracking, embarrassing and, yet, we all learned to be gracious. Not only did we learn to dance – fox trot, waltz, swing, cha cha – in the basic class, but they had dances for us to get real practice. This is me in 7th grade at one of the dances. Since I started junior high at 11, I must have turned 12 by this time, probably wearing my first heels, strapless dress and petticoats.

Karen at Merry Maids Dance 1958

We had lots of dances in junior high and high school. It seems like there was always something going on. We also had social clubs in junior high and high school for both boys and girls. The clubs had dances, the school had dances, there were dances after football games, friends had dances in their homes where we played our stacks of 45s and 33 rpm records. And rock and roll was growing by leaps and bounds, so we had great music, lots of local bands, and plenty of opportunities to practice our skills. We danced fast and furiously and we danced a lot. At least I did back in the 50s and 60s. New dances came out all the time. The Twist was our new favorite my senior year.

As with most things, there was good and bad in the clubs, which excluded some kids and involved voting on members, not all of which was pretty, kind or fair. But, we learned to organize and plan events under the helpful eyes of our mothers, we learned to invite people out, and we started dating. Dating started with dance school, social club and school dances with your parents driving. There was the giggling with your friends at school while you eyed the boy you wanted to ask you out. There was the cringingly painful waiting by the phone, literally waiting by the phone since we didn’t have either portable or cell phones, and there was the horror when someone asked you out that you didn’t want to go with. And, finally, there was the joy of having the right boy call or ask you out, followed by the awkwardness of being together and getting to know each other. No wonder so many couples went steady, which was when you were supposed to be exclusively with that boy or girl. At least you didn’t have to wonder about the dance.

There weren’t just dances. We dated a lot. There were coke dates (casual dates to go get a coke and either get to know the person or just be together), movies, football games, basketball games, picnics, church events, and anything else we could come up with as an excuse to go out. Once you were going with someone, it wasn’t so much a date as deciding where you were going to tell your parents you were going. One time my future husband and I toured the Wonder Bread factory on a Friday night for a cheap date. I didn’t ever lie about where I was going, but I did end up other places, too. There was a lot of time until our Midnight curfew for most girls. I got to stay out until 1:00 when the dances ended at 12.

We hung out with our friends, too. I spent a lot of time cruising with my girlfriends and even groups of guys. Nobody seemed to ask where we were going on those nights, so we just cruised all over town, laughing, listening to the radio, and looking for whatever Friday night would bring. American Graffiti was the story of my high school days, music and all.

Anyway, I digress with lots of memories here. By the time we got to graduation, most of us had been on lots of dates of various kinds. Here I am at what was called the Southern Ball, a high school sponsored dance, my senior year. I had the dress and heels, had been to the beauty shop, because I know I could never have gotten my hair to do this on my own, and we were headed out. Rockin’ and rollin’ in the big heels and big hair. I think I still had my braces on – they came off right before my prom.

Scan 13

By the time we got to college, we were prepared as much as you can be to jump into the craziness of campus life. Here is a picture of my husband and me at a dance at Oklahoma State University a few months before we got married, my senior year. I love his high water pants – he had gotten out of the Navy that summer and grown a few more inches and his old civilian wardrobe needed some updating. But here we were, engaged and out on a date, going dancing as we had since we met.

Karen's engagement picture

My grandkids don’t date as much. They have a few dances, which they hate because there are so many drugs and the dancing isn’t as much fun. At least we knew how to do close dancing as well as do the newest ones and anyone drinking was thrown out. Movies are expensive so that isn’t an every weekend option. There don’t seem to be places for all the kids to hang out and they don’t attend the school sporting events like we did. It’s a new world. I don’t blame their parents for sheltering them more, for keeping them home where there are movies and video games to entertain them. I don’t blame parents for anything. We all do our best to protect and raise our children and who am I to say what I would be doing today. I’m just an observer, looking through the lens of what was and what is.

The word dating has a new generation meaning. Parents go on Date Nights, where we used to just go out with our husbands. The word dating is almost a euphemism these days. I never know for sure what they mean when adults say they are “dating.” It has shaded differences, for sure.

I’m being nostalgic as I remember the fun we had, blocking out the bad dates that also came with the experience. I hope my grandkids date with more than texts and emails, explore meeting different people and falling in love in the best of ways, not matter what they call the process. It’s all about learning to be in relationships where we feel the most comfortable and loved and have the most fun life can offer us. I wish everyone finds that, at least once in their lives.

Here’s the kind of conversations I get into with my friends…one friend was looking for spiced peaches to serves and she couldn’t find them at the store.  We started talking about how special those were when we were kids and how our mothers served them to guests.  She thought it was a southern dish.  A real treat to us as children.  Then I was with some other friends and mentioned the spiced peaches.  None of us had thought of them in years, so we started talking about how good they tasted.  And about canned pears with cottage cheese, which ladies served at luncheons.  And we moved on to the absolute childish joy of fruit cocktail.  And how there were too few cherries in it, so you had to try to get one in your serving.

We all know about trends in foods as well as other things.  Today, all those fruits, along with the canned vegetables (canned corn, green beans) we loved before there were frozen vegetables, that were staples of our diets way back when, have been found to have too much sugar or salt.   Today, we can get fresh food easier than we used to be able to in the cities back then or cans with less sodium, less sugar, and so on.  Companies like Del Monte have been around since the 1880s, so they have always been around in our lifetimes.  They were timesavers from the days of growing and canning your own, a help to the modern housewife of the 50s and 60s.

I’m all for the health trend, but we all know what happens when you remember the taste or smell of something from your childhood.  My friend and I had looked online to see if they still make spiced peaches, which they do.  I was supposed to look for them at the store, but I kept forgetting.  Today, I was just about to check out and decided to walk back to the fruit section.  There were spiced peaches, right there in front of me.  I opened the jar as soon as I got the groceries unpacked to see if they taste the way I remember them.


Yum!  Yes, they do.  Not only do they taste the way I remember them, but now they are flavored with the memories of childhood with every bite.  I may never eat them again, but today I had a sweet taste of my childhood.

This one’s for Patsy, who reminded me about paper dolls.

I played with all kinds of dolls when I was little and paper dolls were one of the best.  I had a box I kept them all in after I carefully cut out the dolls and their costumes.  It’s kind of amazing to think that I did that as I didn’t exactly excel at scissors.  My kindergarten report card gave me a low grade in that area, so maybe I was trying to compensate in my later years.  I’ve always found that to be so funny.  I was a very good student, but I’ve chosen to focus on the fact that I was a little weak in scissors when I was four or five years old.

We got books of paper dolls, but what I remember the most is Betsy McCall.  My mother subscribed to all the ladies magazines, including McCall’s.  Each month, they featured a page with Betsy with a story and new paper dolls and clothes.  It was something to look forward to.  I had to wait for my mother to read the magazine and then I could tear out my page and start cutting.


I also found some pictures of old valentines with paper dolls.  Those were a special treat in our decorated shoe boxes of valentines from our classmates.


I remember spreading all my dolls out and dressing them with the various outfits, bending the little paper tabs that kept the clothes on the doll.  I think we used to paste the dolls from magazines onto cardboard to keep them strong enough to stand up and be in the stories we made up about the lives of these paper people.  We got cardboard from our daddy’s shirts when they came from the cleaners.  We used those cardboard pieces for all kinds of activities.

In this fast paced world, it’s hard to imagine kids sitting for hours cutting those very intricate little pieces of clothing and patiently standing up the dolls to show off their newest outfit or making up a story for them to act out.  The other day, I was watching my granddaughter play with a Mickey Mouse iPad app where she dressed him in different rock star outfits.  Pretty cute, but not the innocence of Betsy McCall.   When she gets older, I’ll try to explain about paper dolls.  She’ll listen, wide-eyed, and wonder about that old fashioned world her grandmother grew up in.  Or, if I wait too long, she may just roll her eyes.

Sometimes I have to admit what an antique girl I am.

I must be starving for hamburgers.  There are lots of great hamburgers in the world and we’re lucky to still have some of the ones I grew up with here in Tulsa.  They’re probably still my favorites, maybe because they come with a side order of memories.

Van’s was great, but Van sold his location on Peoria to Claud’s long ago.  It’s nice to know he was passing it along and it still is owned by the family.  I love the tiny space where you can watch the whole operation while you wait.  Nice to get a bag of burgers and fries just like the old days.

38 and peoria 1950 c


Across the street is Weber’s with its unique history.  Dating back to the 1890s, Mr. Weber made his own root beer and invented the burger.  That fact was validated by the governor of Oklahoma and I love the fact that it’s still owned by the family and they use the same grill he used way back when.  They still make their root beer and their onion rings are awesome.  That little orange building has moved a few spaces since I was a kid, but it’s a welcome sight…gives me sense of stability to see those two families still in business at 38th and Peoria after all these years.


Hank’s goes back even further, 1949.  Nothing has changed in there, for sure.  Still a great burger, great fries and a malt like I remember them.  Way out on Admiral, but fun for an occasional fix.



My husband was a big fan of the original Ron’s on 15th.  He would head over there on Saturdays to pick up his burger with chili.  I miss the little diner, but at least we can get the burgers at all the locations now.


I discovered Ted’s, over on Edison, many years ago while doing volunteer work in the area.  Great hamburgers.


Brownie’s started as root beer stand, according to a friend who lived in the area when we were kids.  It became a hamburger and root beer place way back when.  My husband and I spent many a weekend lunch or dinner in there.  We loved the staff that had been there forever, the atmosphere with all the little toys on the shelf, pictures of customer’s children lining the check-out and the food.  When Brownie died, it floundered a little, but a young couple bought it and it’s as good as ever.  My favorites are the hamburger and fries with a frosty mug of milk.  And the pies…I try to resist the chocolate meringue but that’s always a weakness of mine.  They make a lot of pies and they even have a food truck now.



And then there’s Goldies.  It first opened as Goldies Patio Grill at 51st and Lewis with a par three golf course adjoining.  My dad was invited to the opening and set the first course record.  Their steak is a great bargain, but it’s the hamburgers, the Goldies Special being my favorite.  Whatever the secret spices they use are, you can’t mistake that flavor.  The quality has been consistently terrific through the years.  I forgo the fries and get the slaw, unique for it’s creamy dressing.  And there are the pickles.  Where else do you get a pickle bar?  Where else do you sit and munch on a bowl of pickles while you wait for your order?



I guess that’s my tour of my favorite local burgers with memories fried in.  There are lots of great burgers, but I like mine the way I remember them.  Who knows how long these places will be around…I’m going to start taking my grandkids.  A little Tulsa history with a yummy burger thrown in.



On my list of things to have with me on a desert island are hamburgers – not the most practical or healthy choice.  Hamburgers are comfort food, loaded with memories.

When my grandmother would stay with us, she would cook hamburgers and make french fries.  We would get little cups of ketchup, just like going out.

The first hamburger place I really remember was Van’s.  They had more than one location eventually, but the one I loved was on 15th Street, east of Lewis.


On special Saturday nights, I could go to Van’s with my Daddy.  We stood in line, waiting for our order, listening to the waitress with her droning question, “do you want onions on that?” The guy who cooked the hamburgers was an artist with his spatula.  He had long dark hair, combed back under his hat.  Watching him take a ball of ground beef and throw it on the well used griddle, where he proceeded to flatten it, shape it and turn it, was an endless fascination.  He worked like lightning with skills that I still admire.  When they were done, the burgers were wrapped in wax paper and the fries were placed in the little paper envelope.  Riding home with that greasy brown bag of burgers makes me drool even now.

But Pennington’s was the place where memories of the food mingle with all kinds of rites of growing up.  Pennington’s Drive-In Restaurant was on Peoria and was the heart of my life for many years.


I started going there with my parents, but caught on easily that this was a cool place to be.  We would order our hamburger in a basket with either onion rings (Pennington’s were uniquely thin and delicious) or fries.  Whoever invented the basket for hamburgers deserves a place in museums of industrial design.  Those colorful plastic baskets have never been improved on for ease while eating in the car.  Our order would come with a stack of baskets of chicken, burgers, shrimp or any of Pennington’s favorites.  Early on, the carhops were on roller skates, when that was the newest thing.

As I grew into junior high, Pennington’s became the hangout for Tulsa’s teens.  When you’re not quite teen-aged, it was embarrassing to be there with your parents.  Soc Row was the middle row, with pole position being the spot at the end near the restaurant.  Here you could wave and honk at your friends as they cruised through, looking for a parking place and everyone could see that you were there.  I confess that Daddy thought this was hilarious and I can remember him parking in the prime place, yelling “Whee” as the teenaged girls giggled by.  I, of course, was sitting on the floor of the car, mortified and sure that my future life was ruined.  Daddy, Daddy.  Silly Daddy.

This was my home away from home all the way through high school.  We raced to get there and back on our 30 minute lunch hour.  If I ran an errand for my mother after school, it involved picking up a friend and stopping at Pennington’s.  We went on dates that began or ended there, we piled in cars after football games to drive through, honking our school honk.  We decorated our parents’ cars with our social club colors and drove through during our annual rush of new pledges.  In the summer, we cruised Peoria in the evenings, looping through Pennington’s as we searched for our other cruising friends.  It was where you could see who was with who and you could be seen.  Reputations were made there!

We knew the Penningtons, Arch and Lola, and could see them inside behind the counter.  Sherry was everyone’s favorite carhop and I’m sure she got more than her share of cocky teenaged boys trying to show her how grown up they were.  We weren’t allowed to get out of our cars, for fear of being approached by Jake, the security guard.  It was a time when we listened to the rules, although some tried to push him to his limits.

Pennington’s had great food, but my hamburgers, dinner rolls, vanilla Dr. Peppers, black bottom pie and onion rings are interwoven with the memories of first dates, special dates, cruising through with cars full of friends just to see who was there or who could see us, and, even the times with my parents.  I miss the old places…