Mom is entering her 4th year of living in an Alzheimer's care facility that she calls home. My childhood home still stands in the East Bay area of California and my sisters and I have slowly weeded through the years of accumulations that become part of a life. Everyone has a role and mine is that of family historian. The scrapbooks and photos from the family are mine to preserve for the next generation. I love pouring through them to deepen my understanding of my roots and fuel the sense of belonging and my place in the family.
Last year I stumbled upon 2 thick scrapbooks that documented the courtship of my parents. It's a strange thing, looking at your parents before they were parents, before they were married, seeing them as people. My father died 20 years ago shortly after the stroke of midnight signified their 49th anniversary, so having access to this part of their lives together deeply moved me.
Mom's scrapbook started out with proof of her schooling: an eighth grade graduate in 1937 from St. Bernard's Grammar School in Oakland, CA and high school graduate from St. Elizabeth's High School, also in Oakland, in 1941. The photo next to the tassle on the page is my father, dated June 29, 1941.
There was evidence of her academic success and struggles held within the numerous report cards there.
Science of Religion A-
Plane Geometry D
Domestic Science C
The romance was just beginning. May I introduce you to my parents, Betty & Enzo?
We've Only Just Begun-The Carpenters
Apparantly, Mom was a bit of a thief! Flatware is taped on various pages of the book as she cataloged each outing with her beau, my father. Next to the spoon she wrote, " Swiped this from The Chimes after the dance. Coming home Enzo wanted to look at the spoon."
Opposite the spoon and out of camera range was another spoon : " Swiped this from Dan's Creamery after dance at California Club. July 12, 1941."
" Went to the show, then Pig 'N Whistle, then window shopping."
May 29, 1941 "Spent the day in San Francisco."
The photo is a bit blurry, but it's fun to see what was the food of the era and prices.
Relishes and Appetizers: California Oyster Cocktail .25, Sweet Pickles .15, Crab Cocktail .25, Canape of anchovies or caviar .50
Steaks and Chops: New York Cut .95, Rib Steak .55, Veal Cutlet .55, Filet Mignon 1.00, 3 Lambchops .65
Sandwiches: Monte Cristo .55, Swiss Cheese .20, Tounge or Sardine .25, Peanut Butter .15, Limburger .20
El Portal Special Sandwiches: Golden Gate Park .60, St. Francis Riding Club .35, Stein Special .40, The Baron Munchausen .50
If one really wanted to splurge there was the Special El Portal Regular Dinner where for prices ranging from .50-.90 you could get a complete dinner that included a glass of wine, soup, your choice of entrees, a vegetable, dessert, and coffee.
June 21,1941. "Ice Follies at Winterland with Harry & Helen, Joe & Carol, Enzo & I."
After playing at Balboa Tennis Club on July 10, 1941 they apparantly went to Daniel's Creamery for lunch. To my amazement, cookies in a waxed package were still intact all these years later.
Sunday, August 10,1941. "Ice skating at Berkely rink. Hamburgers at Fosters after." The ticket at the top of the page and accompanying newspaper article are noted as " July 26. This is the ticket we didn't use from the program we didn't see because of the mob. We ate hotdogs and listened to part of the program from the bleachers outside of the Oakland Civic Auditorium."
Sunday, August 17,1941." Ice skating at Berkeley rink with Enzo and Carol. Wonderful time! Hot dogs at fountain."
August 16, 1941." Saw Charlie's Aunt with Enzo then had a Lime Freeze at Creamery after."
August 23, 1941. " That Hamilton Woman" and "Flight From Destiny" at the Del Mar Theater with Enzo."
Sunday, August 24, 1941. " Barbeque at Nellie's with gang. Golf in the afternoon. So darn fun!"
August 29,1941. "Citizen Kane at Golden Gate Theater with Enzo. Silver Rail after the show."
De Luxe Sandwiches: Clubhouse 3 Decker- Turkey, tongue, chopped liver, olives and coleslaw .60, Musician's Special- hot pastrami, coleslaw,russian dressing, sweet pickle .30, Churchill-Roast beef and swiss .30
The crepe paper ribbons say " Decorations from Cal Assembly Dance Sept. 7, 1941."
"Spent Sept. 8, 1941 with Enzo. Had picnic lunch in Golden Gate Park, listened to concert, visited museum, then Japanese Tea Garden, then boat ride on Lake Merrit."
"Cal Victory Dance over St. Mary's (31-0), then The Chimes after. Sept. 27,1941."
"Surprise birthday party for me at Carol's Oct. 6, 1941. Saw "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" at Roxie Theater before party."
"Oct. 19, 1941. Saw "Smilin' Thru" at Paramount Theater with Enzo. Walked in rain to dinner at Log Tavern."
"Nov. 1,1941. Saw "Sun Valley Serenade" and "Private Nurse" with Enzo. Casper's after."
"Enzo & I attended U.C.Berkeley Symphony Orchestra concert Nov. 16,1941 then went to show. Saw "Sargent York" and ate waffles at Mayflower Shop."
Menu: Crisp Mayflower Fixt Waffle served with Log Cabin syrup and fresh creamery butter .20.
"Harry & Carol, Enzo & I."
This was in the days of dance cards. A little pencil is still attached to the tiny book. I wonder who Floyd Allen was.
But there is no disputing the arms in which Mom spent the night dancing.
And a favored late night meal of waffles.
Mom kept the label from her heart-shaped box of chocolates from Dad.
Movies continued to be a regular form of entertainment on dates in the 1940's.
Jan. 25, 1942 "Saw "Birth of the Blues" and To Be or Not to Be" at Grand Lake with Enzo."
"Blues in the Night" and "The Body Disappears" with Harold & Helen, Joe & Carol, Enzo & I. Jan. 20,1942
"Feb. 1, 1942. Saw "Maltese Falcon" & "Skylark" with Enzo."
Feb. 7,1942 they attended the dance at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
Feb. 22,1942. Mom apparantly was sick and Dad sent her a Get Well bouquet. The rose has survived since it was so well sealed in cellophane wrap.
Mar. 19,1942 they had balcony seats for the opera Lucia de Lammermoor.
This opera was a rare outing that included my father's mother and brother. They had Loge seats April 8,1942. The accompanying newspaper review of the show stated it was the largest audience ever to attend a symphony concert with over 9000 in attendance. Lily Pons, the lead soprano, was described by the newspaper writer Marjory M. Fisher as, "...the most clothes conscious and always the most picturesquely gowned prima donna in the business."
"Easter Sunday 1942. Out with Enzo, Mom & Dad, and Helen to show. Saw "Courtship of Andy Hardy" and "Kathleen". The menu from Hotel Leamington is underlined which I can assume is what Mom ate: $1.50 cover fee. Crab cocktail with Calavo, special dressing, Consumme, Baked Lobster, Neopolitan Parfait, milk.
The Foothill Sportsmen's Club Annual Picnic May 31,1942 was a big outing with her parents, aunt & uncle and cousin, as well as 5 other couples and my father.
This next page in the scrapbook had miniature golf, a visit to a dude ranch, a ride on the ferry, and a surprise birthday party for their good friend Harry. All within 5 days.
Yet another stolen spoon! This time following a trip to Steven's Creek in May followed by a trip to Carnation Ice Cream where one could order a Merry Go-Round Banana Split for .20 or a De Luxe Double Dip Malted Milk Plus Floating Icce Cream for .23.
The 1942 season of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo is described in the program as, "...the saucy and sparkling French sister of Le Bleu Danube."
This photo of the Artistic Director and Choreographer of the ballet was a bit startling. I SWEAR I did not draw those eyebrows on the photo.
In August 1942 the young lovers were busy attending dances at Hotel Claremont in Berkeley, seeing "Ship Ahoy" at The Capitol Theater in Oakland, going to the Russian River with my dad's mother and brother and visiting Larkspur.
That was the last page in this scrapbook. It's so amazing to have this family history at my fingertips. Seeing my parent's relationship at its beginning is such a different perspective than the one I witnessed. It allows me to see them as people outside of the parenting role. It also gives me insight into my father's often foul mood once he was confined to a wheelchair beginning in 1965. A man who had been this active, always on the go with dancing, tennis, golf, boats must have had a devil of a time wrestling with the new confined lifestyle of a wheelchair. And my mom...she probably felt deprived of their life before. In her case, she introverted to the solitary activities of reading and writing. I'm almost 52 years old and I feel like I am just beginning to understand my parents.