Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
Bowling, circa 1940's
Bowling. Sure it's social, pleasant, shining alleys, some of you own those special shoes and gleaming balls, you can join a league...but once upon a time...in the 1940's, it was different:
"No!" Julie, my friend, knew that 'nice' girls didn't go to bowling alleys. "How can we sneak out and do such a thing?"
"It's daytime. Safe. I want to go bowling. This is almost the end of 1940's, Julie, not the olden days of woman's bondage." I remarked pretending to be 'cool' before the word 'cool' was even defined this way.
I started walking fast. Julie ran short steps to catch up. "Okay. Bowling. Better not let our families know. I'd get killed." Julie, who had just turned twelve, found my stride and walked in rhythm.
We crossed a wide boulevard and continued down a narrow avenue until we came to a storefront that said 'Bar, Grill, Bowling, Pool'. I pretended to be comfortable going inside; Julie was nervous.
The inside had no windows. On the entry level was a bar with a few men having glasses of beer. On the lower level, one step down, were two bowling lanes. Between the lanes was a chair; a boy, about our age, sat there. His job was to re-set the pins each time they were knocked down. Large circles, where the pins got placed and formed the traditional triangle, were painted on the hardwood and polished lanes.
"I don't see the pool table, Lois." Julie whispered but was glad she didn't see it. She already felt she'd walked into an Edward G. Robinson gangster movie.
A man lit a cigarette and offered it to us. I joked, "Not until after dinner" and held back my shaking by feigning humor.
"What's it going to be?" The bartender leaned on his elbows. His wide bow tie had polka dots.
"Bowling." Julie whispered.
"What say?" The bartender stretched his neck further out.
"Bowling. Bowling." I tried to sound adult and assertive.
"Bowling." The man moved back, stood, and walked to the large metal cash register. "Ten cents a game. And tip the pin-boy."
I reached in my purse for a coin.
"You know how to bowl, girlie?"
"No," I flushed, "but I'll learn."
Blowing smoke right into my face, the man with the cigarette offered, "I can show you, baby."
"Thank you. We'll manage." Julie tried to stay calm.
"Good going, Julie," I whispered. "You tell him."
"Let's get out of here, Lois," Julie breathed the word into my ear. "Please. I'm scared."
"One game. Then we'll go. Even if we have to run fast. We can outrun that old guy; he's probably thirty!"
The sound of the register's bell startled Julie. "Here's your coupons. Give them to the pin-boy and he'll set you up. Balls are in the gutter."
"What's the gutter, Lois?" Julie knew the word meant the sewer grate in the street.
"I don't know. Maybe the pin-boy'll tell us."
Almost touching eachother, we walked to the lower level. The pin-boy rose and walked up to take our coupons.
"Could you tell us how to bowl?" I looked straight at him. His hairless face gave his age away, but my pre-puberty chest must have indicated that teen had not yet happened to me either.
He began to explain as he handed each of us a heavy black ball that had been sitting in a scooped out area alongside each lane. "And just watch what you're doing. Don't throw the ball if I'm still on the lane."
"Can I use two hands and not these finger holes?" Julie's fingers felt uncomfortable stretched to fit.
"Yeah. Yeah. Anything. Just watch out for me. I don't want to get hurt." The boy walked back down the lane and set up ten pins.
"Looks easy. Big pins. Big ball. Want to go first?" I played appearing confident.
"Okay. Here goes." I bent my knees and tossed the ball from my right hand. It began to roll on the lane but tumbled into the gutter. The pin-boy rolled it back up to me.
"Don't you get another chance?" Julie thought it was funny and yet didn't want to laugh.
I reddened. I didn't like embarrassment but did want to try different sports. I threw the ball harder. It rolled slowly, slowly, and finally knocked over one large pin.
The pin-boy got up, replaced the pin on the black circle, rolled the ball down the gutter. It was Julie's turn.
"Sure you don't want help, chicky?" The smoking man lit still another cigarette as he shouted. He made the sound of kissing.
Julie held the sphere in both hands. She bent from her waist, swung the ball between her legs like the old game of Roly-Poly, then released it. It seemed to travel in slow motion and she didn't move until it reached the end. One pin fell and hit another which also dropped. "I got two. Two." Julie was surprised and excited.
"You get another turn." I couldn't believe anyone who bent over and looked like a kid rolling a rubber baby ball could knock over anything, no less two pins on the first try.
"Want a beer, kid? You must be tired from knocking down two whole pins." The man then put his fingers between his teeth and whistled.
"I won't pay any attention to him, but, Lois, when we leave, let's run as fast as we can so he can't follow us." Julie was enthusiastic about playing a new game, but scared being in the alley.
The bartender wiped up the wooden surface of his long counter. "Leave those kids alone, Mac. They're not like the babes who come in here late at night. They're just kids who want to bowl. Save your hooting for tonight. Don't scare those two."
A snorting sound came from the nostrils of the smoker. "Yeah, yeah. Oops. Another gutter. They want to bowl? If that's bowling, I'm a jelly roll." He laughed loudly and long.
The pin-boy returned the ball up the gutter. Julie and I continued for ten frames.
"Forty-eight!" Julie was delighted. "I got forty-eight."
"Remember," I said, not thrilled with forty-four, "let's walk out slowly and then run fast."
"What'll you tell your mother?" Julie asked as she didn't know what she'd tell hers.
"My mother probably won't ask." I really knew I'd tell her where I'd gone if she asked when I got home, if not, I'd eventually tell her anyway. "Ready. Walk slowly. Then run."
We waved to the pin boy. He sat slouched knowing he didn't have anyone else for awhile and really needed the tip money. He nodded his head and watched us walk up the step to the next level before going outside.
published July 1998 Rochester Shorts
Sugar dots and bobbins
“That’s a purl stitch.” I showed my younger sister, Joy, the ‘back’ of the item.
“Doesn’t look like a pearl to me,” she shrugged, “and it isn’t too different from the other side anyway.”
“Pearl,” I spelled out the letters, “isn’t purl. And they’re not the same. See how nubby the purl is compared to the knit side.”
“They both look knit to me.”
I pushed the needle tips into some of the already rolled up wool to secure them, then followed Joy into the next room. “Want me to show you?”
“Nope. You like doing stuff like Mom does but I’d rather dance my ballet steps or read.”
I did like the creative things my mother showed me how to do; she made some interesting looking sweaters-matching hats with knitting needles, and pretty blankets with only a single crochet hook which seemed fascinating as I hadn’t yet asked to learn that technique. But I realized I was going to hand-do things I’d never ever seen her make. I’m a teen and can think for myself! And I even had a friend who was a boy! Not really a ‘boyfriend’ but I had a thought for a gift for him: I’d knit argyle socks, so popular, but mine would be my color choices. I had no idea how hard that was going to be.
A diamond shaped, multi-color pattern, with about 68 stitches I’d have to cast on the metal needles... Knitting was important during World War II as family said soldiers’ feet got cold and hand made warm socks were good items to send overseas. Same with sweaters, which my mother did and sent to her brothers. Now that the war is over, they still wear them. None were complicated argyle, however, nor multicolored and needing many colors that I’d have to constantly knit; those separate yarns were called bobbins. I could not ask my mother for help, and, in a way, this pleased me as only I could do this and not the ‘teacher’ in her! Perfect for my new-teen sense-of-self.
I took 26-cents and walked to the candy store, that also sold newspapers and magazines, and bought an issue which would show me how to knit intricate argyle socks. “Solid color diamonds, and bisecting but diagonal lines.” Why does this sound so difficult. I picked up another magazine with directions and the language was more suitable. I gave the quarter-coin to the cashier and left feeling incredible. I didn’t even use a penny on my favorite-as-a-child sugar dots candy affixed to white long paper strips! I really was engrossed in creating a pair of argyle socks. The instructions told me how to join the many colors I’d be using and create strength in that union so the strands would not separate as the wearer pulled up his socks many times. I felt quite excited.
First thought was that I’d be using one knitting needle that is semi-circular but has tips on either end; after all, socks are round. No. I was to knit with two from the top down and then sew the seam but make it quite invisible. Hm. Complicated. I like complicated and can do this!
By college, I’d become so efficient that I could make any argyle size and color combination I wanted and give as gifts to friends who were boys or actual boyfriends. Since drinking beer, for many of them, was a sign of adulthood in an era where one could not register to vote until age 21 but could be drafted into the armed service at age 18, I found a pattern to knit beer mugs design into the socks and use fluffy angora wool knit in to create the foam. Patterns were still 25-cents: I needed #1 size needles and bobbins in small quantities. Well I knew that. Cast on 72 stitches, keep the tension constant, pare down after the 36th row to knit the heel. In between there was the instep that had to be counted, and so forth. Reinforce the heel using purl stitches. I laughed out loud remembering my sister and the word purl vs pearl.
Yes, I carried five courses each semester, plus two mandatory years of gym that gave zero credits, did extra-curricular activities. There’s always time to create! My mother mailed me 100% French angora yarn that was the fluffiest available. Even though I’d been ‘showing her’ that I could go beyond cable-stitched knit sweaters and such, she didn’t envy but was proud. Imagine that.
The angora felt silky and when this pair was completed, I put them in a drawer. My dad had already died and I’d once knit him plaid socks, and that type was intricate, came out perfectly, and I never did plaid again. I realized I wasn’t going to do ‘trendy’ again either as I associated education with the look of the library and all the books that held words/ thoughts/ history/ philosophy; the big mums being sold at entrance to the outdoor football stadium for dates to buy for the girls; what I’d learned that I already knew would never be wasted –such as chemistry as I understood how fabrics were made, as an example. I didn’t drink even beer as all alcohol smelled like cough medicine.
When I became engaged before grad school, my fiancé was still in medical school. I took the knit socks from where I’d kept them in my mother’s house, and gave them to him. Eventually, in 1974, The Smithsonian’s Division of Costume accessioned these, angora still quite fluffy, displaying such in its “Suiting Everyone” exhibit as these represented an era.
Joy never learned to knit and her pearls encircle her neck. Machines churn out argyle pattern sweaters or hats from acrylic yarns. 25-cents doesn’t even buy a candy bar. Those childhood sugar dots are available online, retro candy, for $2.99. In my thoughts, I am often where I’d bought my first how-to-knit-argyle-socks magazine, a quarter coin plus a penny secure in my pocket to exchange for the printed matter, yet being so excited I didn’t use the cent to pick up the sweet treat.
Thank you for booking your room with us and for doing so on your voice-activated home cylinder. We are delighted the system worked so well for you, as customer service is so vital in this competitive market. We are a hotel that truly considers each visitor a special person, and also understands that 21st century technology is part of life. Yes, old people do have a somewhat difficult time, but they are no longer part of the future, and there are still accommodations for them at existing, outmoded places.
Your transported message had the ‘cloud’ dropping down your particulars, and we see you have been with us in the past. While we don’t offer perks for repeat stays, we have made some wonderful alterations since you’ve been here.
The lobby no longer exists; it has been transformed into a bar and a delightful gathering place for the generation we seek. Any seating, therefore, even just to wait for someone, will be in a leather chair with a high seat which allows you to reach the granite-top counter, and drinks are mandatory if you do claim a chair. You will love the aroma of fine alcohol and beer. Those lobby-urns with fresh flowers that decayed within days and left an odor are no longer part of this structure.
We've made some exciting changes to each guest room. Our showers, which caused you concern (as you noted in a survey), now require a thumb ID as the doors are made by an iPhone company. Since the company hasn't quite gotten the sensor corrected yet, it will take three thumb touches to open the shower door. An update ought to be coming soon to fix this problem. Once inside the shower stall, please remember our jets are concealed until voice activated. Just tell the tiled walls what you want the water to do and the temperature you want. The shower door will open from the inside without you having to use your thumb ID.
The deep and free-standing bathtub is a visual delight. Definitely for the younger generation, as you must know if you have one of these modern fixtures in your home. An agile body can easily hoist one leg up and over into the soothing tub and just as easily get out; hand rails or steps are just not available. Only very few rooms marked ‘handicap’ have bathing things from the 1950's, and, of course, no parts are available should anything break. We would never consider giving you such a room, so do realize that your on-cloud profile is important to us.
Our state-of-the-art toilets come from the area of China where only Mandarin is spoken. Had you seen an article in The Wall Street Journal on toilets, you would have read that a Chinese company has acquired American Standard Brand; so you are really getting our finest. Note, above the commode, there is a transliteration from Mandarin so you can command the toilet to warm the seat, lift or lower the seat, and also to flush. You must use these commands to activate the mechanism. We’ve noted that the ability to use some Mandarin words is most helpful in business, and many of our concierges are fluent in that language.
Enjoy, as always, your stay. Had you been interested in buying our Penthouse apartment, sadly, it is no longer on the market. The $50-million sale was completed since your last visit.
Copyright © 2017 Front Porch Review
“Where does the Tooth Fairy live?” I wiggled a tiny protrusion affixed to my upper gum.
“Not so far that she can’t get here when that tooth comes out,” my mother replied.
“Hm. Good.” I made short movements with my tiny fingers to hasten the ejection. “What happens if Santa comes the very same night as my tooth is under a pillow?”
“They won’t come at the same time,” my mother answered and nodded her head noting she was positive.
“Well I am going to stay up all night and see Santa, but I’ll hide a little so he won’t see me and leave too quickly. I’ll sit on the stairs and listen for him. Then I’ll just peek into the living room and run up to my room before he sees me!”
On Santa night, I sang songs and did twirling dance-steps I made up. My mother played the piano and we gathered around that also. The crepe paper outfit she’d designed allowed me to feel quite special, and I was able to wear my Mary Jane patent leather good shoes. All of the relatives ate food it took her all day to prepare, and we celebrated her twin brothers’ birthdays on the 24th of December. They didn’t comment about my crepe paper, but liked my dancing.
My flaxen hair had been cut very short as the barber said that would make it grow in thicker; there was not enough to clump up to hold a crepe paper big bow. I didn’t like being propped on a board in that man’s shop, and I think he was used to boys’ hair anyway, and the big cape covered almost all of me Older sister had hair thick enough to braid. I don’t think she had to go to that barber shop!
The kitchen had so many dishes and pots piled up; would my mother be up all night washing and drying them and Santa wouldn’t come because she wasn’t asleep? Maybe Santa’s helpers would magically wash and dry and leave only piles of clean plates and silverware! If he had enough elves, that wouldn’t delay getting to the next house now, would it, I wondered?
The twin uncles opened their birthday presents. The little sterling things my mother polished that held cigarettes for everyone was getting lower; my dad, who didn’t smoke, got up and filled it. I had candy shaped like a cigarette and the tip was even colored red as if it were real even though the whole thing was sugar.
Why won’t everybody go home so Santa can get to our house before he gets too tired.
My baby sister was already in her crib, so didn’t all the family think they should leave! Finally I was sent upstairs to get into my pajamas.
Some neighbor said Santa doesn’t exist. How would she know just ‘cause she didn’t ever see him for real. I turn a button on the living room’s big radio and voices come out, sometimes talking ones and sometimes singing ones. And if I don’t like what I’m hearing, I can turn a button next to the ‘on’ and a different voice or music comes out at me. I just can keep doing that and when I’m tired of hearing anything I can turn the thing the other way I first did and everything inside that box gets quiet. Isn’t that magical? I don’t see these people in that radio but they exist. Exist. That is a really grown up word. Daddy’s car also has this magic radio and it is right inside the car by the front!
Sitting in a a great room my parents said was a theatre, I saw a man pull a real rabbit out of his hat. And when he pulled a scarf from his pocket, more and more and more of those just kept coming out. It was real. Tooth fairies are real. Santa is real. Don’t grownups know anything you can’t see is real.
I woke my older sister so we could sit quietly in the middle of the staircase; we weren’t so far down that Santa could know we were there, and weren’t too far away from our rooms if our parents heard and we had to run to our beds. I don’t think I fell asleep but I never did see or hear Santa sliding down our chimney. When I tugged my older sister’s arm and we tiptoed down the rest of the flight we could see filled stockings hanging from where we’d put those very same ones empty, and the floor in front of the fireplace filled with wrapped presents.
How did I feel when I found out that magic was an illusion, the tooth fairy had been my parents, and Santa wasn’t an actual human who could service the entire world in one night: privileged I had the chance to believe that for a brief time in my life.