May 9, 2013My Grandmother’s Glasses
By Sara In AZ
My Grandmother is an enigma. She has many stories to tell, but keeps most of them close to the vest. It’s not until you start prying and questioning do you really find out the juicy tidbits from the past. I suppose I am guilty of this myself…..always wanting to know more than I want to give. Maybe I inherited that trait from Grams? Maybe it’s buried deep, deep down in my DNA from long ago. One trait I know I did not get from Grams was my collecting trait, but more on that later.
My Grams has many, many fabulous stories about the war years. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a young adult in the mid 1940s…..both terrifying and exciting.
My grandmother and her girlfriends went out to California in the Summer of 1944. They decided to go to the San Francisco/Oakland area where her girlfriends were going to get jobs as riveters…..yes, just like Rosie The Riveter! Her friends went out to California a bit early to get training, while Grams stayed behind and finished teaching her classes for the semester. Since Grams already had a teaching degree and was under contract she knew it would be fruitless to go out and train to become a riveter, only to have to return back to her teaching job in a few short months.
Grams finally made it out to California and joined up with her friends…who were now riveters….but now she had to find a job too! She likes to joke about how she only lasted one day on the job at some unknown pancake house – where apparently, as a waitress, she mixed up every order she had……why am I picturing some variation of a wacky I Love Lucy episode here??? hee! Poor Grams, I’d probably mix up every order too.
Grams finally found her summer job at Cico Chimes Supper Club, where she said she made FAR more in tips that summer than in her whole year of teaching…..so I guess teachers were under paid even back then! She told me she had wanted to stay in California, but her Father sternly reminded her that she had already signed a contract to be a teacher and that if she did not get her butt back home, well……..he would come out there and get her and bring her right on back. And you KNOW she did not want that to happen!
I tried to look up Cico Chimes (hope I have it spelled right! – I asked Grams and she verified that was how it was spelled, but it kind of sounds out like Seeco), it was on Lake Merritt in Oakland, but I cannot find any information about it anywhere so it must have closed long ago. If anyone out there has ever heard of it I sure would like to know!
Grams speaks very fondly about the summer of 1944. Below are Grams (far left) and one of her girlfriends at Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland where she says they danced the night away every single night. Wow! What a blast they must have had!!!
It looks like Sweet’s does still exist, but it is now called Tropicana.
Here is a vintage ad for Sweet’s from The Styrous Viewfinder blog, he has a nice post on Sweet’s too.
My grandmother did finally come back from California and she finished out her teaching contract. She went on to get her Master’s degree and was a school psychologist for many, many years. She worked her entire life outside of the home, which I guess was a bit atypical of a married woman in the 50s and 60s.
Which brings me back to the original reason I started this post in the first place……my grandmother’s glasses. My grandmother is not a very sentimental person…….perhaps one of the least sentimental people I know. I don’t say that in a mean way at all, just as a matter of fact. She is a very ‘out with the old, in with the new’ kind of person and does not like clutter of any kind…..at all. Grams even went so far as to throw out her own wedding dress because she said it was “yellowed”. I was SO sad to hear that (years after the dress was gone) because I would have loved to have that dress. She does not draw an attachment to things or objects like I do – which, I think, in a way would make life so much easier sometimes.
I remember, from long ago, seeing these starry little glasses shoved in the way back recesses of her cabinets. Every time I would go over to her house I would nervously make sure that the glasses were still there…….wondering if she had finally decided they were cluttering up the cabinets and, feeling no real attachment to them, had decided to get rid of them. Every time I went over to her house I would implore her to never, ever get rid of the star glasses and if she wanted to toss them into the trash, or to donate them, to PLEASE let me know.
One day, after Mike and I had done some work for Grams around her house, we arrived at her home to find a box and a card on the table. The card read:
Sally, one of my students at Hillcrest School, gave me these glasses for Christmas in 1956. She was a very nice young girl from a wealthy family.
I am happy to give them to you as I know you will take good care of them and enjoy them.
And inside of the box were these………………
Now you can probably understand why I was SO adamant about her NOT throwing them out!
I sometimes wonder how these insanely retro glasses made it through so many years with Grams…..especially with retro NOT Grams style at all. I guess Sally must have been a special student to her? I will have to ask her about that one day, because surely as a teacher she would have received many other gifts – but I’ve never, ever heard her talking about anything else that remains in her house as a special gift from a student long ago.
I know it’s hard to tell from the pictures, but all of the design is done in silver….and it is all pretty much perfect! I really do not think Grams ever used these at all.
Really, they look like they probably did when they were pulled off the store shelf in 1956.
I put napkins in the glasses so you could see the design a bit better.
Seriously, my favorite glasses ever!
I don’t know how these glasses survived all these years, through all the moves, particularly because my Grams does not really like “retro”. Whatever the reason I’m sure glad they finally found their way to me. So thank you little Sally for your fabulous taste in atomic glasses way back in 1956, and thank you Grams for entrusting me with them…….I will love them always.