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HOLLENBECK: Remininiscing on fashion, footwear, fun from past

April 21, 2011

People of a certain age share memories of special things that the current generation has little or no knowledge of. Nor, it seems, do they want to.
(Yes, I know I ended two sentences with a preposition. Not good writing style, but nothing else said it the same way.)
Case in point: Teenage interests of my generation compared to those of my grandchildren. The two are light years apart.
Today’s teens claim to enjoy whatever their leisure-time diversions happen to be, and I hope it’s true. But I wish they had had the opportunity to live in a simpler time when life in general was just a lot more fun and friendships more lasting.
It’s hard to explain this to someone who wasn’t part of that period. They think you’re a little addled or maybe just idealistic when you talk about it, but basically they just don’t get it.
Friend Mary Kay and I were reminiscing about this sort of thing the other night. Her early memories are from Benton and surrounding areas and mine hail from Cotton Plant and parts east, west, north and south of there, but they’re basically the same.
“Can you imagine kids today sitting around in their capris and flats listening to records and occasionally getting up and dancing but altogether just having a wonderful time doing practically nothing?” Mary Kay pondered.
Well, no, I can’t, because that’s not the way things happen today. This generation is much more action-centered than ours was.
In the first place, if you described that scenario to them, most of them wouldn’t even know what a record was. Those relics of the past were long gone by the time this generation came along. It’s their loss, though they were privileged to be born into the CD-DVD-DVR-TiVo age.
I won’t ever forget how proud I was of the record player — nay, the portable hi-fi — I got my senior year. It was turquoise and white and I was so excited because it was going to go to Fayetteville with me when I started my freshman year there.
We used it for the dances we had on Saturday nights on our screened back porch. We would dance for hours on end to Elvis and all the other rock ‘n’ roll entertainers of that period that others have tried to emulate but usually fall short of. (There’s that preposition again.)
Regarding my record player — I never heard anyone call it a turntable then — I was so proud of it. Turquoise was my favorite color at that time and I incorporated it into everything I could. Hence, the hi-fi.
It was about the same shade as my favorite shoes, which were my turquoise Capezio penny loafers that came from Kempner’s, Little Rock’s finest shoe source for generations. Sandra, Sally and I bought ours at the same time. Sandra’s were hot pink (she always went for pink), Sally’s were yellow, and I, of course, got the turquoise. We thought we were the coolest gals in shoe leather. Literally.
Kempner’s was the only store I remember that had one of those X-ray machines that you could use when trying on a pair of shoes. You would put your feet into the slot and look down to view your own bones inside the new penny loafers or your spiffy flats.
In the late 1950s, the color rage was pink and black. I heard about a girl who wanted pink and black saddle oxfords but couldn’t find these anywhere. Since the only pink thing in her house was Pepto-Bismol, she polished her shoes with it, becoming the talk of her school.
And then it rained. She said it was a great trick while it lasted.
That’s the way times were then. You had to use your imagination to create the things that turned out to be such fun.
There were some moments from our fashion scene that I wouldn’t want to repeat — like all the petticoats we wore to make our dresses stand out. A lot of times these were net and they always scratched a lot right, especially after they were washed and starched. (Could it be that’s why I developed a hatred for starch?)
In spite of Arkansas’ summer heat, if we wore a full skirt — usually gathered — we layered on the slips to pouf it out, especially when we were dancing. Sweat literally rolled down our legs, but we were “in style” and having a ball.
It was contrasting, but also around that time we wore what were called “sack dresses,” more properly known as chemises. These were straight-styled dresses with a very low waist that came down around your hips and then a belt was usually tied around the hips — sometimes with a big bow in the back or at the side.
I don’t why I can remember this when I can’t remember a lot of more important things, but when I was at Girls State I wore a pale pink sack dress the day we went to the Capitol for our mock legislative session.
That’s as clear to me as what I wore day before yesterday.
I thought I looked sophisticated, which is probably one of the biggest jokes of the century.
Girls today start wearing makeup when they’re barely able to dress themselves. This wasn’t the case in my day. I didn’t get into the makeup scene until I was in high school and then my mother saw to it that the situation didn’t get out of hand.
She advocated the “pure” look, which is rather hysterical when you think about it, but that was Mamma’s way and Mamma was definitely in charge.
You can’t go back, but it really is nice to remember those earlier times when the most serious problem we faced was deciding what dress to wear to the dance. And just for the record, I never wore one that cost more than $30 — and more were around $12.95.
I recently looked at the price tags on some prom dresses and it caused my blood pressure to soar. If I had had to buy one, I would have needed a swig of my mother’s “nerve medicine.”
But that’s a whole other story.

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of the Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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