Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

C: MawMaw’s Place

littlerockcapital When I was a girl, V and I spent many Saturdays in our town’s “downtown.”  Going downtown in the late 50’s and the 60’s was a fairly-big deal, as we lived out in the suburbs.  Back then, one “dressed” to go downtown: I remember my mother putting on a dress, stockings and heels to go.  We kids never wore our play clothes to go downtown.  This photo to the left is of my hometown in the late 50’s.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the women were all in dresses or skirts with hose…no jeans or even dress slacks on women downtown in those days.

There was a ritual for most of my trips to town with V; always on Saturday, and sometimes several times in one month.  V’s mother never learned to drive.  Her father, a newspaper printer by weekday, was a pool shark on Saturdays!  He spent his Saturdays in the pool hall downtown, so either he’d take us to town or (more often) he would drop V’s mother and us kids off at V’s aunt’s house, where we would gather V’s grandmother and catch the bus into downtown.

Once there, we would deposit “MawMaw” in the ladies’ lounge at one of theladieslounge4 finer department stores, where she would wait all morning for us to return to get her for lunch, after which she would go back to sit in the lounge until we were ready to catch the afternoon bus back to V’s aunt’s house. V’s father would pick us up there for the return ride home. 

Try as I might, I could not find a vintage photo of MawMaw’s lounge, but the ones scattered through this post give you an idea of the ambience.  These pictures were all found by searching for “ladies lounge” so, apparently, the concept was widespread.

The “lounge” was actually an anteroom to the ladies’ restroom.  You got to this place by going through the ladies’ lingerie department, all the way to the back.  There you would find an expansive room furnished with comfortable couches and chairs, with magazines displayed across the little ladieslounge3tables; with reading lamps on the end tables.  There was a pay phone conveniently placed.

To the back was the entrance to the white-tiled “ladies’ room.”  The bathroom area had its own little anteroom with a vanity table and chairs to pull up and “fix one’s face.” 

This entire area was securely buffered against males by the lingerie department: it was exclusively a female domain.  Far from being irritated at the ladies who gathered there all day, the store encouraged it—the room was furnished expressly for these women.

As I looked around the web on the subject, I find that this was a common facility provided by banks and department stores.  When I first began to practice law in 1979, our “ladies’ room” in the Courthouse had a similar arrangement.  There was a lounge area with mirrored vanity tables and couches.  This is long since gone in favor of “better” space use and a “unisex” bathroom with child-changing area to complement the “Men’s” and “Women’s” rooms. 

On Saturdays MawMaw’s lounge would be occupied by a collection of ladiesloungewicker older ladies who had gathered there simply to “visit.”  MawMaw had her little coterie of friends who frequented the lounge on Saturdays.  Need I say that they were all white? 

So far as I know, this was the only time MawMaw saw these women, but she looked forward to sitting for hours, comfortably ensconced with a sparkling bathroom nearby, and chatting while we traipsed around downtown with V’s mother, shopping all day long (and that all-day shopping thing is a whole ‘nother “weirdness” post). 

fainting1 This “lounge” concept seems to have gone out of style with the idea of feminine frailty and the “fainting” woman who requires afternoon rests and tender care… sheesh!  I love the company of other women, but the idea of just sitting and chatting for hours each Saturday bespeaks to me of a group of women with little else to do. 

V and I have our own little group of women friends and we try to meet regularly, although we fail in that because of our schedules.  Still, our meetings are over Margaritas and dinner and, while we can spend hours talking, in MawMaw’s case, we’re looking at six hours or more.  Each week.  How did they do that?

Still, the idea of a women’s “refuge” like this is somewhat appealing.  It just needs to be a bit different…like with a Margarita machine and nibbles.

As I write this post, it occurs to me that these Saturdays were a deep depiction of the segregation of the genders (not to mention races!) during that time.  There was MawMaw, in her feminine domain; V’s mother and us girls were doing the womanly activity of shopping; while V’s father spent his Saturdays in that bastion of maleness, where no lady dared enter: the pool hall. 

Bye-gone days? C

14 comments:

Vickie said...

Yes, I remember those times myself, C. We always had my grandmother in tow to go downtown, and you better believe it - we had our "nice" clothes on, too.

One of my big gripes today is the fact that most people look like they're "slumming" when you see them out in public. People just don't dress up anymore - for practically anything! Even weddings, funerals and church services are much more relaxed and casual.

Now, I like to be comfortable, too, and don't know that I'd wanna go back to dressing up all the time, but to me it shows a lack of respect. Guess I'm old fashioned, but I am about alot of things.

I love looking through my mom's old photo albums in the 50's and seeing all the lovely women in dresses and heels and the men in suits lookin' all spiffy. Much more glamorous. My mom had shoes, purse and even gloves and jewelry to match all her outfits, and my MIL always had a pair of tres chic sunglasses - they just all looked like movie stars - and they didn't have much money.

Which tells me that one can still look nice even on a budget...

Good post!

Vickie said...

Me, again C...

Went back and read my post - I took a different tangent, didn't I? Ladies' lounges were the subject right? I remember those, too...

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I do love this post! It's like taking a little trip back in time! The mezzanine at Gus Blass Department Store where there was a tearoom, and the Ladies Lounge with the sofa and the little old ladies visiting and resting their tired feet on the 2nd or 3rd (?) floor. V.

KathySue said...

Funny, I am just a few years younger but I don't remember the details of the "ladies lounge"...just that you went through it to get to the bathroom. I looked forward to those trips to the bathroom because it was a break from the incessant shopping! Yep, now I remember how I came to hate shopping without purpose. I am, for the most part, a "purposeful shopper"! A product of that "weirdness" you describe in your post and I can't wait until you write that one!

However, the Saturday trips were a break from the everyday and there was some anticipation in riding a bus. I actually liked riding the bus, especially near Christmas because I would get to look at all the wonderful displays in the shop windows with fake snow, lights, candy and toys and then the decorated homes along the way. That was quite a treat and remains a wonderful memory! The other Saturday treat was getting to go to the "drugstore" and perhaps having a coke float or soda and getting some rock candy and a banana carmel for my Dad when he finished playing pool (his escape from the everyday:) Glad you wrote about those old Saturdays!

kath001 said...

I remember the shopping trips to the city (a 45 mile trip for us), and I remember a swanky department store with a mezzanine. But I was never taken into a lingerie department, so I have absolutely no idea what lay ensconced past it. My mother was a career woman who didn't have time to sit, and wouldn't want to plant that seed in my impressionable mind, I'm sure. I was allowed to sit with the ladies in the craft/fabric department's classroom and work on my needlepoint, knitting, or embroidery, because no matter what, our time had to be occupied by something that we would have to show for it later.

And as for that bathroom that lay beyond the ladies' lounge? Who was allowed to use a public restroom? If you couldn't hold it till you got home, it was a sign of personal weakness. LOL

Debbie said...

My, things have changed. I miss that era of decency and the atmosphere of class and respect. The feminist movement has done both genders such a disservice in removing things that promote the good differences in men and women. I enjoyed your contrasts. Good post.

Anita said...

Hi girls, love your story and adore the photo's, they're just great. Kind regards, Anita.

AshTreeCottage said...

Okay you Stick Horse Cowgirls ... I like your grit!! I am following you now too!! Gotta love girls who can wear white gloves and change a tractor battery!! I'm on your team for sure!! You remind me of the girls "Fried Green Tomatoes"!!

Lots of love and some grit too,
Susan and Bentley

Kathleen From Eggs In My Pocket said...

Oh, I just loved reading this! And yes, times have changed...........so much! blessings,Kathleen

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra said...

I loved your reminiscing about our old downtown! My sister and I rode the bus on summer days and spent our time in the "dime stores". At the lunch counter, we would split a malt and a "downtown" sandwich--toasted bread cut diagonally (fancy!)and cocktail toothpicks holding each half together. I remember being puzzled by the "Whites Only" signs near the restrooms and fountains. Two black girls could not have shared a lunch there and today would have a whole other set of memories.

Jody Blue said...

I would guess that in a time that didn't have at your finger tip communications the ladies lounge was one way to let out what had been held in all week due to the busy-ness of daily life.

Joy said...

This made me think of a pet peeve of mine... you mentioned how the lingerie department was off limits to the men-- okay, not that I have a Victoria Secret body, but I get a bit uncomfortable going in VS and looking around and standing there next to the thong display is some highschool boy with his girlfriend while she's picking through them... how awkward--for me! (and maybe him?). What the heck is he doing in there? I think I might have to blog about this one--more to say. got off on a rant there. I remember being with my grandma doing some shopping--of course, she always wore a dress.

Joy said...

oh, and on my comment (above) I didn't mean me and grannie were in Victoria's Secret, we were just shopping in a small town at various stores.

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