Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."


June 2014

Dolls Who Do Nothing

I went to a local Mexican restaurant the other night with Bill, because it was beautiful outside and I wanted to eat at a place with a patio. Eventually, a family came in, grandparents, parents, a boy and girl, but all the umbrella-covered tables were taken, so they sat in the sunshine.

The heat wasn’t the problem. It was that the boy couldn’t see the screen on his computer game. We found this out over his whining, “I can’t see.” He couldn’t play anything.

My cousins and I had similar problems when we were kids, sitting on a broad front porch in small-town Ohio. Our dolls wouldn’t DO anything. Unlike the dolls of today, who come with their own storyline, sets of furniture, period costumes, their own pets, and even musical instruments, ours came in a box (which we fashioned into their bed), a layette, and sometimes a plastic pacifier that fit into a neat hole in their little molded plastic mouth.

There we sat, sticky and warm in our play Keds, and determined what to DO.

We scolded the dolls for imagined misbehavior. Picked them up and patted them awkwardly on their little plastic backs when they were colicky.  Made extra blankets and diapers from leftover fabric.

At one point, we thought it was a good idea to birth them, so we went upstairs to the bathroom, took turns sitting on the closed toilet lid, made grunting sounds, while others took turns being doctors and nurses to help with the “delivery.”

And, then, we decided it was time to feed them. With applesauce.

Naturally, we knew that milk would curdle and smell, even if it came out the hole that was on their opposite ends. What could substitute? Why, watered down applesauce that would go into a little plastic bottle. Time to eat!

You can see where this is headed – applesauce, summer sun, dolls left abandoned on shaded porches in favor of a game of baseball, or running in alleyways after the ice cream truck.

But we weren’t stopped short by a toy that wouldn’t play back with us.

I wonder if we’ve done our children any favors.

By the way, the applesauce was homemade. We were forever “putting things up” back then, including the apples that fell at the end of my grandfather’s dirt driveway. The process went something like this.

Homemade Applesauce

One bushel of apples (probably 25-30 medium)
Boil large stock pot of water. Drop apples into boiling water, cooking 10-15 minutes. Put into strainer w/ pestle and grind away skin and seeds. (You can also peel and core them, boiling a smaller size in your own sauce pan…but we were dealing with a lot of apples, at the time.)

Finely mash apples (which we preferred, although you might like chunky applesauce). Add any of the following ingredients or all:
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 t. cinnamon
4 T. lemon juice (use fresh)

This sauce freezes well and will provide a burst of summer all the way into the bleak winter months. Do not feed to your plastic baby doll. She’s not hungry.

1960s marlon baby susan doll





Ripping Seams


Do you know that this is? Have you used one?

If you have, and it’s a seam ripper, I’m sorry.

In fifth grade, I became closely acquainted with the tool during a long, hot summer trying to complete my first 4-H sewing project, the dreaded tote bag and scarf. Why was it the first? It required sewing long, straight seams. Straight, because your project went to the county fair, where its seams would be judged by 4-H kids much farther along than you and by a team of sharp-eyed judges.

This was at a time when “home economics” was an industry. Everyone knew that a well-run farm, economical household spending, and thrifty home projects would save you money, but also provide the pride of a job well-done. At least, that was the theory, although somewhere in the 1970s, with the Vietnam war, civil rights riots, and burned bras, it was harder for too-tall, raw-boned eleven year old girl to care about her scarf. Or her tote.

I was interested in rides at the fair, midway exhibits, food at the fair, and last (but not least) boys – possibly other 4-H boys with livestock showing for blue ribbons.

But until my scarf and tote bag were done, those tantalizing sights and sounds were far away. And my mother was the “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” a Simon and Garfunkle throwback, which was often on the radio of the laundry room, where I sat in agony, soap suds swishing about in a front-load washer (before they became trendy again).

My mom had gone as far as one could go in 4-H. I’m still not sure what that means, except to note that she blue-ribboned at the Ohio State Fair for a fully lined winter coat in 1954. This craft, its objects and aims, were going to be passed down to me, come hell or high washing machine water.

Sew a side of your scarf (which you really couldn’t see ever wearing, anyway – who came up with these projects, anyways). Have it deemed crooked. Grab seam ripper. Remove stitches.

Sew a drawstring pocket. See your own crooked stitches (by this time). Don’t even hand it over for preliminary judging. Remove stitches.

At some point, you become so adept at ripping seams and stitches that you no longer need the snappy Singer sewing tool, using a strong needle and your agile fingers.

Repeat. And get a blue ribbon at the fair. Run from the pavilion, delighted, ecstatic, and go to find guys with prize pigs.

To this day, I can cut straight like a boss and sew a straight seam.

Why two pairs?

It’s a place to get started.

And it’s about balance. I miss it. So many days, I feel like the world is heaving one direction or the other. If only the scales were weighted evenly, like in a simple shoe purchase.

Back in the summer, my mom would order two pairs of white women’s Keds for me: one for dress, one for play.

Dress Keds went to family reunions. In rural Ohio in the 1960s, there were more relatives than types of potato salad.

My favorite dish was Caramel Bananas:
1 c.   brown sugar
2 T.   all purpose flour
Stir together. Add:
1/2 c.   water
2 T.   butter
1 t.   vanilla
Cook until thickened over medium heat in sauce pan.
[My mom wrote: “5 minutes, softball, cool.” I’m pretty sure that means soft ball stage, as in candy making. We were a big softball family, but that would be ridiculous.]
Slice 6-8 medium bananas in “pennies” when ready to serve. In bowl, pour caramel over bananas and sprinkle with 2 c. chopped salted peanuts (better with the oily kind, not roasted).

Sigh. [Calories galore.]  Anyway, that’s why the dress Keds.

Play Keds were for everything else. They were for hours on a bike, in town, around town, to friends, up and down the cemetery driveway, to the movie theater, to Dublo’s, away from Kiddie Land and the crematorium, out to the reservoir.

Play Keds rarely made it past the Fourth of July. Then your dress Keds became play Keds, and mom grudgingly called Sears & Roebuck for one more pair.

This isn’t about nostalgia, although there will be some history, because I want to write it down for my kids. I wasn’t the parent telling about the old days and now I wonder how to translate what they might want to know about the past.

It’s about balance. It’s about understanding how current culture and the media has begun to control how we react to our surroundings to the point where there isn’t any.

And I like to write. For now, get out your play Keds.







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