Sunday, November 10, 2013

Basketball Season's on the Horizon.....

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit.....
….basketball is upon us and I am again reminiscing with my friend Mildred over a cup ‘o tea. Although I never myself played, I vividly remember my father following the sport. Always the liberal, and a huge fan of women in sports, I recall his outrage in 1929 when women’s b’ball, as they call it these days, had its "low low’s" and "low high’s". Most people in the states, especially in the East, were largely concerned with finances and jobs; the button business certainly dipped along with the clothing industry in general, but the family business carried little debt, so we were able to limp along without laying off at the plant.

Sadly, sports fans in Colorado were also robbed of women’s basketball, when the Colorado Medical something or other decided that sports were bad for women’s health and all girls competitive sports in the state were canceled. This was the “lowest of the lows” according to my father. (I know I quote my father a great deal, but he did have a way with words….and I fear I’ll entirely alter the essence of the conversation if I change his words……….)


That same year the national championships were revived in Kansas, adding a beauty contest to the event. At the time, I was 17, and found this quite exciting. My father, on the other hand, applauded the new life to women’s sports, but thought the beauty “thing”, as he called it, watered down the sport. He also thought it was a smack in the face to women’s athletics….this is what he called the “low high’s”.
I now understand. One step forward, a half step back…but I suppose one does what one must to advance the position for women….after all, it was nearly the 30’s….soon it will be the 30’s again, and I hope we can look back on a century and be proud. The states have done quite nicely, but I fear much of the world has a long way to go.....astoria
By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I once belonged to the Palm Beach Cinematic Society......

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit.....
I once belonged to the Palm Beach Cinematic Society, a collection of socialites and eccentrics dedicating their time to the sharing and enjoyment of “all things film”. What really happened was we gathered at each others homes monthly to discuss films we had recently viewed. Now, what really, really! happened was we introduced the film “assignment”, chatted about it for a few minutes, and proceeded to eat, drink, chat, gossip and share vast amounts of knowledge of other subjects, including (but certainly not limited to) foods, travel destinations and updates of children and other friends and acquaintances.

Palm Beach Fashions
 I just adored these get-togethers, and I adored the ladies who frequented them. Such a collection of eccentric and loyal friends….there was Lorelei, the artist….most widely known for her photographs of insects, and weddings…..and perhaps insect weddings. Then there was Nora, the teacher and lover of nature….this year her assignment to her students was for them to take home frog eggs and watch them hatch in their bathtubs! Can you imagine!...weeks and maybe months of bathing out of the sink and then the slimy creatures might hop right out and into your beds! 
Movies of the time
 Anyway, Nell was involved in organizing the local youth to do “good deeds” and spent her off time like Katharine Hepburn, gallivanting around jungles and climbing mountains…imagine! There was Kate, our own resident “Martha Stewart”; Tuppence, who was studying to be a Lawyer (imagine that!); Lula, who loved to adopt lost animals and find them new homes; and of course Miss LaFontaine, who always showed up wearing exotic Asian robes and such; and in the midst of all of our lavish, stone mansions, she lived in a woodsy and charming home made of logs! Can you imagine! She was such a rebel!
Secretly, Vivian was designing and assembling ornate and scandalous garments, and Rose was her fit model… and the two would gather on occasion, trying on the pieces late into the wee hours, and drinking way too much wine! Sally always hosted the Christmas bash because she had the most gorgeous tree, and put it up the earliest. I also happen to know that she secretly dreamed of becoming a “long haul” truck driver, and was quietly practicing on another friend’s large vehicle. Seems whenever the group got themselves into trouble, Sally was at the heart of it….and, Annabelle always managed to get us out….she could dig a mean snow trench, and I once saw her directing traffic in a pinch!
Cybil was the proper one of the group. She had come over from England and was always trying to improve our manners….she occasionally made us wear hats and raise our pinkies, but I know that she was really from Pittsburgh and secretly owned dungarees! We played along and loved her all the same. Daisy possessed daring wit, something we shared, and she always made me chuckle, especially when she told jokes in English, but delivered the punch lines in Spanish….imagine that!
Several of the ladies came and went, some joining for a while, when in town, and others who just retired from us or simply found their lives changing and moving on. There was Jane, who was off having babies; Joan, who had taken a position with the Postal Service, efforting to improve their logistics; and of course Violet, who decided she liked books better than film….last I heard she had joined a Book Club! Imagine that! 

These were the ladies of Palm Beach…the heart and soul of the community…and my friends….what would our town have been without them…..certainly a lot less interesting!.......astoria
For the top 50 movies of the 1940's see:
For more on Palm Beach in the 1930's-1950's check out :



Astoria might have worn one of these lavish "ladies lunching" jackets to one of the Society meetings.......jackets available at




Friday, March 1, 2013

The Most "Manly" Race of All......


As you might expect, I was not the only one to chronicle our various adventures. Below is a page from my beloved Archer's old, well travelled, leather journal. The cover itself brings tears to my eyes. Worn, touched by his hands, stained through the oil by his perspiration, it was an old and trusted friend who kept close company with the man I loved.......
Laralu, Siobahn and myself (right) 1935
I suppose most men have a “need for speed” of some sort. While Astoria never quite understood the quest for bigger, better, faster…she still enjoyed the wind whipping through her hair as the speedometer needle crept ever upward…to a point.
So it was not unusual that whenever we were in the wide open spaces of the great Southwestern United States or the winding, windswept, empty roads of the U.K. that we should seek out a motorcycle. My preferred motorbike was always a Norton, but we’d ride whatever we could find…sometimes an Indian, occasionally even one of those wonderful Italian Moto Guzzi’s.
It was no wonder then that we were drawn helplessly to the TT Race on the Isle of Man. It was the perfect combination of speed, fumes, adrenaline and oh yes, evening after evening of outrageous celebration and parties!
The “TT” stood for “Tourist Trophy” and it seems everyone who participated and filled the tiny island had to be a tourist, because no one in their right mind would ever live in such a remote place. Every year though since the race began in 1907, they’d close down the public roadways for a few days and watch the competition grow and grow.
In the 30’s when we rode those tiny, snarling, snake like roads I think the grand event was really coming into its own. Astoria would round up her girlfriends and gloriously ride the countryside and down along the shore, with scarves and hair flying behind them.  My chums and I were far more serious preparing our bikes for the sometimes lethal racing on the real course.
In the early days the racers were pleased with speeds approaching 40 miles an hour on their old single cylinder machines, but we could get up in the 70’s ever reaching for that elusive 80 mph mark through tiny villages with names like Castletown and Ballacraine. We would fly through the mountains on the Manx Course past the fans lining the tiny roads, in places like the deadly Birking’s Bend.  You’d often be close enough that you could touch the fans if you dared take your hand off the controls and some riders did!
 I always found a Norton to ride in those days. In ’35 they took the dreaded “hump-backed” bridge out at Ballig, and we hoped for good weather that would have us flying down the roads faster than ever. Some of the boys at that point were playing with super chargers on their engines, but I always felt the key to winning or at least surviving was in a machine between your legs that just handled better.
That year my old chum Stanley Woods surprised everyone and jumped over to Moto Guzzi. A tremendous racer, known for his daring, Stanley skipped his final pit stop for fuel and blasted right on through the grandstand area to capture the title over Jimmie Guthrie by all of four seconds! Poor Jimmie would die just two years later on one of our beloved Nortons, while racing in Germany, but God…35 was a great year to be alive!
 As for myself in ’35, I survived the race and the celebrations afterwards with dear Astoria thinking I’d all but lost my mind for the pleasure I found in embracing two wheeled speed, almost as great as the pleasure I found embracing her.....Archer
The TT race continues today. Some call it the "most dangerous race on earth", some say it's a "dangerous addiction". I think it looks like great up to 200 mph through idyllic's going on my bucket list....check it out...........


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ginny was a Copa girl.........

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit.....

My friend, Ginny, was a Copa Girl…..she danced at the “Copa”. Gin had been a model in New York, primarily showroom and runway modeling; but, while having cocktails one evening at the Copacabana, she was “discovered”. She was outfitted in pink and plumes, and lined up with a group of other beautiful women to create probably the most famous review in New York, if not the entire country. The Copa in the 1950’s was known for its Latin Reviews….thusly, the popular logo of the Copa Girl with the fruit on her head (I still think she looks just like Lucille Ball!)….the club became known as the ”Copacabana, best club North of Havana.”

Archer and I used to visit the club and Gin whenever we spent time in the City. We always stayed next door at the “Hotel Fourteen”, with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the like. One night, when Archer decided to stay in, Gin invited me to join her, while she had “after the show” cocktails with the entire cast of a popular Western TV series..... We had Manhattans with Michigan sour cherries stuck on frilly toothpicks…..I’ll never forget.  The fruit theme was everywhere!....we teased Gin until she actually added a few to her costume.

Copa Girls
Of course I’ll never forget Gin’s account of the big brawl at the Copa in 1957 when a fight broke out involving Mickey Mantle and a pack of Yankees during a 10 o’clock Sammy Davis performance. Gin popped some rich businessman in the chops and spent the night in jail.


Shortly after, she wound up moving on to Vegas, and I stopped visiting the Copa after Barry Manilow popularized his famous Copacabana song. The whole new era of disco changed the place….I just couldn’t make the transition to mirror balls and disco dancing. Give me Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Jimmy Durante; give me Latin performances by Ricki Ricardo (Desi Arnaz)……babalu!


Astoria might have worn one of these jackets to the Copa!



By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Panama City Beach, Florida

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit......

Me in PCB, 1940
.....We were in search of shells, for our buttons of course. What better excuse though to stroll a place known as “The Worlds Most Beautiful Beaches?” How had I not found this place before? A tiny yet bustling coastal community along the beautiful blue green Gulf of Mexico. While Archer and I had ostensibly come here for business, on the suggestion of a colleague, it turned into one of our lifelong haunts.

27 miles…yes miles, of white sand beaches line the coastline here, and the water is the most beautiful emerald green. Archer always said it reminded him of my eyes…such a sweet man…

The shells here are wonderful. The ones we collect, the ones we eat from (oysters!) and the ones we buy for the trade. We were always so lucky to be able to combine our passions with business and travel.

Panama City is nothing if not about fishing, and my dear Archer is always about anything in the outdoors. Here it’s fishing in the bays for flounder, drum and sea trout, or out on the boats in the Gulf where he would haul in great red snapper and grouper along with the occasional tuna. Each day that he would head out on the water in those rickety old wooden boats I would joke with him that he reminded me of our friend Ernest down in Key West…the other “old man and the sea!”

Oh but how he loved it there, as did I.

One of our favorite private places was far out of town off the beaten path, a place called Phillips Inlet. It seemed like it would take all morning to get there, but it was well worth the effort. We would pull off the beach road and park amidst scrub and the most wonderful white sand dunes, then stroll our way back through history. Wandering through the windswept dunes on our way to the beach we would look for pottery shards left here by the Indians who lived on the point for the fishing, hundreds of years ago. Occasionally we would also find remnants of the old Confederate salt works that were later built on the site. All of it covered over by the shifting sands of time, and periodically uncovered for our delight.
Archer and I would make love in the dunes, and swim in the gulf, then build a fire on the beach with drift wood. Evenings were fresh fish from the embers, a bottle of May wine, firelight and warm breezes. Eventually we would have to pick our way back along the paths to our car and make that long desolate, quiet drive back to our cottage closer to town. It is the memory of evenings like these that keep me warm in my now colder years........astoria

By the by, for vintage images of Panama City Beach

By the by, speaking  about shards of treasures, I recently stumbled upon this article on  up to 10,000 shipwrecks being newly unearthed and explored under the sea in Indonesia….time capsules, wrecks, including  9th century ceramics, imperial quality gold boxes, jewels, and more……….if you think there’s nothing left to find……….start exploring!

By the by, no one paid tribute to the Florida waters like Esther Williams….enjoy videos of Cypress Gardens skiing,

.....and for other vintage videos, view  the “Tilda” blog

Astoria might have worn these jackets with beautiful jewels, the color of the sea..........

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tilda was an oddball............

.........but she was my friend.
Tilda had a secret….a deep, dark secret.
Tilda was not her real name…she wouldn’t tell anyone her real name….not even me.

I suspect it had something to do with her family, perhaps something extraordinary that she was trying to get out from under, or something shameful from which she was hiding. I may never know…..If she does confide in me though, I’ll never breathe a word…..

Tilda left her name behind and married a very wealthy man, from a moneyed East Coast family….she adopted his last name….after all, “you don’t need to look back if you never plan to go that way”, she used to say.  His family had made their fortune in fashion.

His family frequented Grossingers, a popular resort in the Catskills, and they invited Archer and myself to join them there one summer.

My first view of the property was of the enormous pool, with diving platforms and waterfalls. In the evenings the “water ballet” beauties would perform, with light shows and symphonic music. An enormous mirror allowed us to view their water dances from above, swirling in and out of geometric shapes and splashing and flashing colors…..with all the floral swim caps it often looked like giant flowers being blown in the wind, dancing and swaying with butterflies….doing a sort of “pollinating dance”, Alan used to say. 

In the nearly 400-seat dining room, we enjoyed prime rib with potatoes and spinach. We also had shrimp cocktail, the appetizer of the day (I think you call them “apps” these days). Anyone who was “anyone” ate shrimp cocktail….I once saw Marilyn posing for the photogs while eating shrimp! Of course then Eva, Jayne, and the rest had to follow suit and voila! Everyone is eating shrimp cocktail, in champagne glasses, of course! And, yes we did have the bubbly on occasion, but we generally spent the evenings drinking bikini martinis, gimlets, and the occasional Singapore sling.

There was a lineup of comedians at the nightclub, some of the better known headliners were Henny Youngman and Milton Berle, preceeded by many young “start-ups” who spent much of their time serving us our dinner, but just to be among the “big stars” was well worth the “waiting”.

Tilda and I tittered and chatted well into many nights while the men smoked cigars and shared tales of big game safaris and Paris burlesque…maybe someday Tilda will share her secret…..Astoria

By the by, I watched Eddie Fisher marry Debbie Reynolds at Grossinger’s, as shared in Joel Siegel’s you tube video showing “those were the days”…..

By the by, for more on my favorite 1950’s cocktails,

                                                      By the by, fabulous for cocktails:

                                                    By the by, wonderful for shopping:

A tribute to Tilda


By the by, for the hottest stars of the 1950’s,

By the by, Tilda’s friend, Babette, organized this
1950’s swimwear fashion show

By the by, if you ask me, no one could master the water in the 1950’s like Esther Williams….she certainly must have visited Grossinger’s!
If you like underwater art at it’s best, check out Million Dollar Mermaid

By the by, my niece recently showed me this music video with Esther Williams and “Indie” music….I prefer Big Band, but it does take me back to the Beatnik Bars of Amsterdam!

And for my favorite, you can’t talk water art without going to Cypress Gardens! Hold on! This is a wild one!

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to, 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Orleans has been called many things.....

...the "most wicked city of its day, "the city that care forgot". It's also been called the "Queen City of the Inland Sea" and, as I prefer to call it, "The Paris of America".
It was 1937, and I was 25, traveling the country in search of new materials and methods of making buttons and findings. My travels took me to New Orleans….we were told of exotic woods in the bayous, mostly cypress. But I also found a wealth of African woods available there….Black Limba, Cocobolo…..being used by the locals to craft musical instruments! The mysteries in this city would intrigue me for many visits, and its heritage no doubt peaked my interest in both Africa and France. The voodoo, the Mardi Gras….and let’s not forget the chicory “coffee” and beignets! I still remember the morning I was sitting in the French Quarter, enjoying my “favorites” when word spread that Amelia Earhart’s plane was missing! The radio reported it for days, weeks, months, even years. It still remains one of the great mysteries! Every time I visit New Orleans, I think of Amelia........astoria
By the by, I recently read that new information has surfaced that might aid in the search for Amelia Earhart’s plane. The AP reports that “The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will launch a new search in June, 2012 for the wreckage of Earhardt’s plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro”. For more information on this, visit:

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

By the by, my tribute to Amelia:

Friday, June 1, 2012

As you might expect...........

I was not the only one to chronicle our various adventures. Below is a page from my beloved Archer's old, well travelled, leather journal. The cover itself brings tears to my eyes. Worn, touched by his hands, stained through the oil of his perspiration, it was an old and trusted friend who kept close company with the man I loved.
This excerpt was written while we were staying at that oh so strange hotel in Colorado.

Estes Park, Colorado-June ’51.

While Astoria and B were off traipsing after photographs of flowers in the high mountain meadows, Gerard and I decided to go kill something and put some meat on the table.
This French “Mountain Man” was more like a mountain goat when it came to stomping up and down the rocky high ground. He damn near wore me out!
He carried an old Enfield in 30-06, while I was carrying a new Remington bolt action in .270. Somehow he seemed perfectly at home with that wonderful old ball bat of a rifle (which I knew perfectly well he could shoot accurately out to a thousand meters!).
I was happy to be slinging my much lighter, more streamlined modern shoulder weapon across the valleys and scree sided mountain slopes.
We were in search of Mule deer, those wonderful mountain dwellers with the wide, beautiful racks. I needed another such mount for a particular spot in my lodge room, and Gerard seemed just the fellow who could help me.... not only help me shoot one, but pack it out as well!
We started early in the morning sitting on a scraggy mountain top glassing the opposite side. At those great distances, it was amazingly easy for something the size of one of these large animals to hide in the shadows and brush. Antlers turned to twigs, and their 200 pound bodies became just another shady rock…but finally there he was.
A fine specimen, sitting and watching the valley below......the wind in his nose and the safety of the mountain to his back.
Gerard and I quickly came upon a plan to circle far to our right, downwind, and try to cross the valley in such a way that we would end up behind and above the old boy for a shot.
It took a couple of hours to make the transition, but when we finally poked our heads up he was still there waiting for the afternoon thermals to shift and move him off his hillside perch.
I steadied the fine new rifle across my pack, settled the cross hairs, drew a deep breath and slowly squeezed the trigger. When the smoke cleared Gerard and I stood to see the old boy hadn’t gone but 10 yards before dropping. We whooped and hollered and hugged in the manly way that hunters will to celebrate a job well done. I must say it seems the French take such things a little too far, but then it somehow seemed a bit of alright to be doing it there in the mountains with no one else around! For a brief moment I imagined the women watching and Astoria thinking we had lost our minds! Then the work began.
We made our way down to the deer, assessed his marvelous wide rack and main beams, then we got out our knives and got to work dressing him down to manageable quarters and parts that we could load on our packs and carry out on our backs.
When we finally made it back to the horses, which had been tethered in a meadow, we were dirty, dusty, and exhausted.... inspired though, knowing the end of the trail would hold a blazing fire, roasted mule deer backstraps, whiskey, fine cigars and a wonderful story of men and the mountains to be shared with our appropriately impressed wives.

By the by, to hear about the Stanley Hotel and it's "oh so" strange happenings, check out the blog at,

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May Festival……whatever is that?


.was my first thought as I read the letter from my old friend Gwendolyn. She was inviting me to Cincinnati to hear her daughter, Percylla, sing in their May Festival, a very large choral event.  It was 1948, and I had just returned to Pittsburgh from Louisville, after a week of festivities at the horse races, the Kentucky Derby, they called it. I was nearly exhausted, having spent many evenings drinking mint julips and hosting fund raisers, or is that “fun” raisers, at the Brown Hotel. But, Gwen was a dear old friend from Pitt, and apparently this was a special year for not only her daughter, an upcoming graduate of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, but for women in general. It was the Diamond Jubilee, and a woman was to lead one of the performances (only because a man had become ill) ….and a High School teacher no less…one brave step for woman-kind! The event had taken place for decades, much to my surprise, and Archer could not believe, with my fond interest in music, that I had not heard of it….Gwen says  it’s because I’d been off gallivanting around the world too much!

So, I hopped on the Pennsy thinking…. if I wanted to, I could always hop right back on in Cincinnati and continue on to Chicago…..I knew I could have a wonderful time in Chicago. After all, I had heard much about this city, but not much about the music.

To my amazement, Cincinnati had the most beautiful train station ever, rivaling Grand Central to be sure. Gwen sent a car that took me to her home near the University. Gwen had married a watchmaker, and with her family’s backing, he had created an empire in clocks, bell towers, and other timepieces. This, and much more, was told to me by their driver, and quite the talker I might add, George, as he went on and on about “Miss V”.

More about my Cincinnati trip later, but I will say the city did remind me of the lovely river towns in Germany, with all the green hills and beer…and yes, it seemed everyone was named George!

The May Festival was performed at their “Music Hall”, a most extraordinary piece of architecture…..with the most amazing “wallwork”, and crystal chandeliers! It was not as though I had never seen such a place….the larger cities in Europe were filled with such buildings, but they were much older….I always think of our country as being so very young…and this city was quite a bit more apace with New York than I might have expected. I was quite taken with it.

The performances…..which were conducted by a New Yorker, I might add, were impeccable…all except for the one with Gwen’s daughter, Percylla. She arrived late to the performance and actually walked on stage in a gold lame dress with an amethyst tiara….and her hair as wild as a jackalope….whatever was she thinking! Everyone else was in black…..her mother said she just liked to “stand out” in a crowd…… but I know, from my conversation with the “talker” George, that she was having a bit of a fling with one of the string players and must have been in his company to the very last minute!

That aside, the event was the “bees knees” and I shall spread the word all the way to Pittsburgh!

As a side note, and mum’s the word, I heard they were having a bit of a financial problem with the festival that year, so I wired $1,000 to them upon returning home….Prys alone made the event worth that to me….....Astoria

By the by, to see my treasury in honor of Music Hall and the May Festival:

By the by, for “what to wear” to the event, you must consider this jacket:



By the by, I returned to Cincinnati a few more times, only once for the May Festival, but I have heard that it is still as popular and respected as ever. For more on May Festival:

By the by, unfortunately the Music Hall building did not fare so well. It rather began to show its age and wear over the years; however, I am pleased to read that it is getting a complete redo (I believe they call it a facelift these days) from the bottom up!
What is and what could be….

By the by, one of the other trips I made to Cincinnati was to document a “ghost hunt” for a book I wrote in the 1970’s. And, in addition to many underground tunnels and charming old homes, I was taken to Music Hall!
Ghosts in these halls……….

By the by, Cincinnati continues to be a leader in music, not only classical, but choral et. al. I recently read an article about an upcoming event there called the World Choir Games!
I wonder if that handsome young man, what is his name, he was in.....what is it called...a boy band?...will be there..........

By the by, for more on the glorious Brown Hotel in Louisville,

By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to: