Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There are a whole bunch of people in the world today who won't know what an Eisenhower jacket is, which is why I have put a picture of it on the blog today. So before I start, I want you all to know what I am talking about.

In late August of 1952 my mother and I set out to buy me some school clothes. I was going to be a senior at Long Beach Poly and since I had grown two inches during the summer I really needed to supplement my wardrobe. Mother pretty much let my sister and I pick out what we wanted to wear, but since it was going to be a major undertaking this time, she went with me.

We headed for Walkers Department store in downtown Long Beach, a store that fit our budget to a T - not as pricey as Buffums or Desmonds but a step up from Sears and Penneys. I had no sooner walked into the young women's department than I spied the most wonderful and glorious outfit I'd ever seen. It was a maroon two-piece fine-wale corduroy outfit - a stylish Eisenhower jacket with 3/4 length sleeves and a long pencil skirt with a fairly smallish slit on the side. The floor model had a white scarf tucked in at the neck and white Joyce shoes and anklets on the feet. The outfit shouted my name and I told mother that I needed this whole outfit, from top to toe.

I know she thought it was attractive, but being a wise and practical woman, she reminded me that because we always had such blistering hot weather in September (mainly Santa Ana winds that sent the temperatures in the three-digit range) that it probably wasn't something I should think about wearing until maybe November.

I didn't care when I wore it as long as I could have it. It wasn't the only thing I bought that day but it is the only thing I remember.

And I can remember exactly how I felt when I walked out the door that first day of School in September of 1952 dressed exactly like that floor model. Not only would it be the first day of my senior year but also the first day of my first-semester reign as Editor of the school newspaper "High Life." I felt totally dressed for such an occasion and since I loved school so much this whole day is imprinted in my mind.

My dad took my sister and me to school each day because our first period class began at 8 a.m., but we always walked home since dad had to go to work and we were a one-car family. It was a lovely, clear day. As I got out of the car I felt really well dressed and important.

By 10 a.m. a hot wind had kicked up, and by noon we were in the middle of a full-blown Santa Ana condition. The temperature was zooming past two digit and into the low 100's. Clothed in corduroy, I started sweating. Since the Eisenhower jacket took the place of a blouse, I certainly couldn't take it off. The only thing that came off was the silk scarf around my neck.

In those days the Santa Ana winds were very dirty, because they travelled west down Santa Ana Canyon where there was no development whatsoever to help hold the dirt down. As the sweat ran down my legs, my neck and even my scalp, the dust stuck to my body. Trying to brush it off just smeared it around. I kept running into the lavatory to wipe the dirt off my face and neck, but it didn't do much good. I felt horrible and looked even worse.

Finally 3:10 came, the hour school was over for the day. The idea of the mile-walk home heading east into that wind was just almost too much to bear. I tied the scarf around my face like a bandit mask, hoped no one would recognize me and turned the corner of the building to head home.

There My father's car sat next to the building, and he stood outside, signalling me to hop in. My little sister was already in the car and I crawled in beside her. I was never so happy to see anyone in my whole life! When we got home he dropped us off and headed back to work. Mother didn't say a thing like "I told you so." She just grabbed the clothes as I peeled them off and took them directly to the back porch where they would be washed, ironed and hung up until the cooler weather arrived.

I can remember that day as if it were yesterday. So many lessons in it, not the least of which is to listen to what you mother tells you!

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