Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Driving Force

Like most new drivers, I volunteered to do any and all errands that involved driving.  One of my favorite drives was to the Miracle Mile in Manhasset.   Every Christmas Eve, my parents hosted a buffet dinner at which one of the dishes served was "beef tartar".  This was raw filet mignon ground like hamburger and served with crackers.  It was delicious.  Available only in Manhasset at a deli I no longer remember, I would drive the twenty miles or so, pick up the beef which had been ordered well in advance and was tenderly wrapped in brown butcher paper, and head home.  I could never resist sampling it as I drove back.

I loved the drive to Manhasset and made it frequently.  Garden City girls shopped at Altmans, Peck and Peck, Lord and Taylor, Bonwit Teller and A&S...all solid retailers on the mile.  Lord and Taylor sold the most beautiful leather wallets imported from France.  They came in gorgeous colors like; turquoise, daffodil, navy or scarlet.  Each wallet was embossed with a gold fleur de lis and sold for $5.00.  I bought a new one every year.
Another favorite destination was on the south side of the island.  The Pappagallo shoe outlet was in a downstairs "hole in the wall" that I went to frequently with my round the block friend, Gail.  Pappagallo made the most beautiful leather flats in a rainbow of colors and styles.  Marked down to $5 or $8 a pair because of some tiny and usually invisible flaw, by the time I went to college, I had over 24 pairs of these beauties, each in their distinctive black box with "Pappagallos" written in turquoise across the box top.  Some had lattice tops, others had floppy blossoms, some had shiny reptile-like vamps.  Pappagallo flats, pearls and Bermuda Bags were the uniform of the day in the 60's to be accompanied by Revlon's Naked Pink or Barely Beige lipstick.  Another popular lipstick was the fragrant Tangee - orange in the tube, it turned a different shade on your lips.

The Bermuda Bag was nothing more than a muslin bag with a wooden handle and several small buttons on each side.  We would collect "covers" in colors and prints to match our outfits and usually received the monogrammed covers as gifts on special occasions.  One bag - many was all in the Bermuda Bag!

We wore our flats with tan hose and I can clearly remember making the transition from the old garter belt and seamed stocking of the 40's and 50's to the first pantyhose sold in white plastic eggs appropriately named "L'eggs".  We girls were moving into a modern age!

"Mustang Sally"....NOT!

By the time I was sixteen, I was driving.  Since daddy worked in Manhatten (the city) he and thousands of other men like him commuted in on the Long Island Railroad.  As the car didn't need to sit in a parking lot all day, I often took him to the train station in the morning and then drove on to school.  The first car I drove was a little white Pontiac LeMans convertible.  It was a sweet car but didn't touch how I felt about the next one, an absolutely gorgeous rusty orange Firebird Convertible the color of autumn leaves.  It had a black top.  It has always been, by far, my favorite ride.

I took it to college after graduation and depended on it to ferry me back and forth from Hackettstown, NJ to the North Fork of Long Island.  I got two tickets in that for driving faster than was posted on a four lane out of Jersey and the other for "drifting" thru a stop sign on Shelter Island.  It was the car I drove from the island, across the ferry and over to Westhampton for classes in the summer of 68.  It even became the sanctuary for some illegal stuff when a friend I had offered a ride to hid his "pot" in the glove compartment.  I very rarely, if ever, drove that car without the top down and a wide brimmed white hat on my head.  While I didn't even resemble "Twiggy", the hat became my "signature look".

Unfortunately, driving that car from New York to Dallas and back again a couple of times, wore out the transmission and my father wanted to replace it.   Knowing how much I hated to give it up,  he told me that I could pick out whatever I wanted.  Hmmm....well, I asked for and got a royal blue GTO with a baby blue racing stripe.

My, my!  That car was the envy of a lot of guys.  While not a snappy convertible, that car could move but it never did replace my beloved Firebird.  My dad and my brother, Steve, drove it down to Dallas for me in the summer of 1970.  It took me on to Atlanta where I went to graduate school in 1971 but I don't remember it lasting too long either because I ended up with my mothers yellow Buick with the brown vinyl top which my husband Allen and I drove until we wore a hole in the floor board and could see the lines in the roads beneath us.


"Openings" was the name we gave to the weekend on which the bars and restaurants, closed for the winter months, re-opened. Usually on Memorial Weekend, many of the public schools would soon be closed for the summer and families were packing up and re-locating to summer homes all over the eastern portion of Long Island. Our retreat was located on a magical island accessible only by ferry boat. Shelter Island, called "the Rock" by some who did not appreciate its isolation is located in Peconic Sound between the North and the South Forks of Long Island.
With "openings" the summer would start in earnest and the season would be in full swing. Summer friends would re-connect and old timers would begin sizing up the new additions to island property owners.
Down at the Yacht Club, cotton sails would be unfurled and laid out in the grassy yard to bleach in the bright sunlight. Meanwhile, sailors and would be sailors alike, stripped, sanded and re-varnished the beautiful little dinghys we called "Wood Pussys". Unassuming crafts, these were the boats we learned to sail on. They had only one sail and because of their wide beam, they were rarely in danger of capsizing.
Long since replaced by fiberglas and dacron, the wood pussy was standard issue at the Shelter Island Yacht Club. It was not unusual to see two dozen of these little boats navigating the buoys set out for the weekly races. Racing would be an all day affair what with preparing the boats, setting sail, navigating the course and later, making a mooring and laying the sails back out to dry. Cotton sails required
thorough drying to prevent mildew and dry rot. The grown ups kept a sort of watchful eye on their offspring and waited for the sails to dry by passing time at the bar and sometimes moving on inside for dinner. The younger generation drank Cokes out of green bottles and chased each other around the docks. In an effort to entertain us and perhaps keep us out of trouble, the club ran endless screenings of John Biddle sailing adventure movies. These were celluloid, black and white films of sailing races around the world designed to excite, inspire and maintain interest in the activity and in keeping the concept of a real yacht club alive.
Wandering the docks of the club to which I did not belong but often frequented as the guest of friends who did, I remember being awed and transfixed by a world I somehow sadly knew would soon be ending for me and for so many others. These years, the mid and late 60's, were our "Golden Age".