childhood memories

NPR: Pretty, Plastic Barbie: Forever What We Make Her

Barbie is turning 49 this year and so am I. Too frightening — really. She still looks better in a swimsuit than I ever did in my lifetime. NPR has a great podcast and accompanying article. Here are some interesting excerpts:

The first version was based on a German doll named Bild Lilli. She, in turn, had been inspired by a cartoon character with a fondness for sugar-daddies.

“They basically copied the face,” Blitman explains. “So it’s very hard. I mean, this is not the face of a 17-year-old. This is the face of a 40-year-old woman who’s seen a lot of action.”


Orenstein thinks the fact that Barbie is stubbornly amorphous may explain one of the more common activities that children engage in with Barbie: torturing her.

Orenstein says a friend told her about a child who lined her Barbies up in the driveway, then had her mother drive over them.

“And she was really gleeful about it,” Orenstein says. “I just can’t imagine another toy where you, first of all, take the time to do that … and where you would be so happy about it.”

I don’t remember torturing Barbie but I did stuff one of her dresses to make her look pregnant.

My first Barbie wasn’t a Barbie at all but her best friend Midge (she had red hair). My older sister got the blond Barbie. I was jealous even though Midge looked friendlier. I remember having a Twist-n-Turn Barbie with bendable legs – that’s the one that got pregnant.

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Pullman Porters Helped Others Reach Their Destination –

So much cultural meaning is packed into the figure of the Pullman porter — racial pride and racial guilt, the faded glory of the American railroad, a level of customer service now extinct — that it seems beyond mere mortals to inhabit the myth.

Three avatars of the age did just fine yesterday, nevertheless. They were the best-dressed gentlemen in Union Station: Not in the starched white jacket, bow tie, pressed trousers and blue caps of their old profession, but in sharp business suits, each man displaying — and they did not plan this — a colorful pocket handkerchief.

But then, of course. A Pullman veteran knows everything there is to know about self-presentation, about working a room, about coming out on top in the daily status wars — maintaining one’s self-respect without threatening the status of those who think they are superior.

“A certain profile of man was successful out there as a sleeping car porter,” says E. Donald Hughes II, 53, who put himself through the University of Maryland making beds and shining shoes on the railroad. “We could think on our feet, and we could turn things around to our advantage very quickly and make you think that you were in control when in fact, you weren’t in control.”

My dad worked for several railroad companies throughout his career. As family, we did most of our travel by train. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I was a teen since none of my friends ever traveled this way.

My favorite memory is having my 7th birthday on the train while we were traveling from Baltimore to Montana. We were having dinner on the train (full service with lots of linen and silver) and I was a little grumpy that I wouldn’t be home with the cake and presents. Just before we were to order dessert, the waiter brought out a lovely birthday cake. I’m certain my parents asked what could be done and at a previous stop, someone went and bought a cake for me. Everyone sang Happy Birthday and I felt so special.

My parents always taught us to be respectful to the porters and waiters. They were not babysitters or playmates – they had work to do and we should respect that. We always said called them “Sir” and said “please” and “thank you” when they helped us.

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An Extra Hour of Halloween Daylight? Thank the Candy Lobby – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog

The candy lobby has a long history with Halloween and “saving”
daylight. By 1986, a year of great Congressional debate on the matter,
candy sales had suffered a sharp falloff as trick-or-treating was
hammered by

“The candymakers were so desperate for this that, beside lobbying
for years, they went and put pumpkins filled with candy on the seat of
every senator in America,” Mr. Downing said.

I knew there was a conspiracy somewhere! The best part of Halloween was being out in the dark. We were truly afraid of visiting certain houses and lots of people installed great displays that needed to be seen at night.

Now the kids come around demanding candy and not even bothering to dress up in costumes. I’m sick of the high-school age kids thrusting forward their opened backpacks and grunting – no “Trick or Treat”, no “Thank you”.

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iWon News – `Hairspray’ Returns to Baltimore

The original Hairspray (1988) is one of my favorite movies and not because it stars a lovely fat girl (Rikki Lake) or because it takes place and is filmed in my hometown of Baltimore. It was released when I was living in Brussels and really missing home. To hear all the great Baltimore accents and see all the locations was wonderful for a homesick American.

I’m sure John Travolta makes a great Edna Turnblad, but Divine was the thing! No one will replace Divine in my estimation. Big hearted and big bosomed, worn but warm, Divine’s Edna is a great mom.

Will I go see the new Hairspray? Probably. But I know it was filmed in Toronto and I bet very few of the actors will do that accent.

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Otterbein’s Fabulous Cookies!

These are the cookies of my childhood in Baltimore. The sugar cookies are the thinnest, crispiest, not-too-sweet morsels I’ve ever tasted. I remember being with my mom and once she got her order, the counterlady (they were all women then) would give me (and my sister if she were along) a lovely sugar cookie just for being a good girl (small wonder I have food issues). I remember being in a bakery but it could have been the Giant Food store.

What brought this on? I finally drove out to the Wegman’s grocery in Fairfax VA and they had the cookies in little red bags – sugar, chocolate chip, lemon, and ginger. I recognized the sugar cookies immediately – even the shapes were the same – so I had to buy the sugar and the chocolate chip. One bite of the sugar cookie and I was instantly transported to 1960s Baltimore.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that some things are really as good as you remember and you can still enjoy them, too. I having a party in June. Guess what’s for dessert.

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