Back to the Future
It was a freezing finish to the fifties, that last day in December of 1959, and the exciting “World of Tomorrow” 1960 was less than twenty-four hours away.
The far-off world that had captivated my parents at the New York Worlds Fair in 1939, the very year they had been magically transported to, courtesy of General Motor’s Futurama ride, was now almost here.
Yesterday’s tomorrow was right around the bend.
Unlike my parents who had to endure long lines at the Fair, inching their way to the future in order to catch a glimpse of this new world, all that was required of me to greet “this new world, this greater world, this better world, this America of 1960”, was a long afternoon nap.
Like Cinderella I was going to be permitted to stay up to the stroke of midnight and watch, along with millions of other TV viewers, as Guy Lombardo rang in the New Year. The epitome of high bred good taste, the show was telecast live from the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel located on fashionable Park Avenue, where New York’s glamorous high society would bid a farewell to 1959 and a noisy welcome to 1960.
For one night only, I too would be a part of “those who know life’s more sophisticated pleasures.”
It seemed only fitting to usher in 1960 with Guy Lombardo on television. Along with his Royal Canadian Orchestra, it was Guy Lombardo who on opening day of the 1939 NY Worlds Fair, played a tune composed especially for the event by George Gershwin called Dawn of Tomorrow.
All Eyes to the Future
Not to be outdone by Mr. New Years Eve himself, my parents intended on celebrating it in style, with their own New Years Eve Party.
On the very cusp of the Space Age, they wanted a party that would send them soaring into The World of Tomorrow. The future they had seen twenty years earlier.
Set your Telechron electric clock kids, it was back to the future!
My parents, like most suburban couples, enjoyed entertaining. But this was company unlike my standard family get-together’s, which had more to do with genealogy than congeniality. Neither relative nor neighbor, they were my parent’s friends, not mine.
Here was a constellation of adults mysteriously visible only at night, making appearances at certain times of the year and certain days of the week. Not withstanding the funny hats and loud noisemakers, this gathering was for mature audiences only.
This was no pin-the-tail-on-the donkey- ring –around- the –rosy- Simon –Says- kind of affair.
Strictly Adults, it was a party strictly off-limits to me.
Along with my brother Andy, I was excluded. After a brief walk-on, long enough for cheeks to be pinched and hair tousled, we were vanquished to our bedrooms. The show would go on without us; we were to wait in the wings until we got our cue, to reappear for the third act, the big countdown to the New Year.
Let it Snow, let it snow let it snow
The last week in December 1959 NY was hit with an icy, blustery snowstorm and it showed no signs of stopping. Cars were at a standstill as Ford Fairlaines were replaced by flexible flyers.
Mom and Dad were concerned about their big new years eve party but took weatherman Tex Antoine at his word that the snow would stop by the end of the week. The thoughts of messy galoshes tramping through her house sent a shiver down Moms spine.
As the snow continued to fall silently the weatherman advised everyone to stay put in their igloos. Fortunately for us, we were as well stocked with frozen food as any Eskimo, But with much to do for the celebration, the last frenzied days before 1960 were whizzing by, and my whirlwind Mom was already spinning into orbit.
True to his word, by dawn- just in time for New Years Eve day- the snow suddenly stopped.
New Years Eve Day
As Mom prepared the house for the company, I prepared for my long nap.
Too keyed up to sleep I listened to Mom scurrying around the house, the radio on in the background. It seemed all the commentators talked about was the new year “…as we enter the soaring sixties, at long last we are about to begin the exploration of the mysterious universe that surrounds our planet. At the same time we are confronted by thermonuclear suicide.”
“Ten years from now, life on earth may have been made intolerable by human stupidity. We will all be part of this epic of the sixties. Are you worried, thrilled or indifferent? What do you look forward to in this uncertain next decade. As the fifties fade…..” the commentators voice droned on… and I faded too, falling into a deep sleep.
By the time I awoke daylight had faded, dusk slowly disappeared and night had fallen.
Disoriented, I feared I had missed New Years Eve. The melodic sounds of Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW playing on the radio, filled the house that had, while I was napping, been transformed into the shimmering world of tomorrow, gleaming and shiny and as bright as daytime.
As if a magic fairy had appeared, our house became a dazzling city of light as radiant colors washed over our ordinary walls and furniture. Shaking the sleep from my eyes I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The living room walls became washed in sun gold, the couch luminous in sky blue, the kitchen a garden glowing green.
Giving her decorator’s instinct full reign, Moms ingenious use of GE’s new Coloramic light bulbs turned our home into an Emerald city. These new bulbs were so easy, you could change the color effects in your home as easily as you change your dress.
Though far from the haunts of the rich and fashionable, my little ranch house was as elegant as any ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria.
Warm tones of Dawn Pink light bathed the dining room as I stood transfixed at the table of food a glow with glamour and gracious living. Perhaps I only imagined it but the Chips seemed zippier, dunks dazzled the eyes, the cheese ball remarkably luminous. The table laden with festive party food was an unmistakable message of Americas abundance.
Combining party elegance with practical ease, Mom wisely left the menu up to the seasoned pros at Kraft, Nabisco and General Mills-a vivid tribute to the American scheme of things.
The twinkling of the sterling silver and gleaming copper chafing dishes lovingly polished brighter than new, winking in the light with a friendly greeting that says “I can’t rust or tarnish” seemed an omen for the tarnish free, sparkling future that lay ahead.
No future so shiny and new could ever rust.
For the moment you could suspend your anxiety and be bathed in the warm glow of optimism. All eyes to the future, all eyes to 1960.
- High Hopes For the New Year (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Remembrance of New Years Eve Past Pt II (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Remembrance of New Years Eve Past Pt III (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)