The final countdown to New Years Eve 1960 had begun. It was a few minutes to midnight and that marvelous World of Tomorrow was nearly here. While my parents New Years Eve party was in full swing, I was down for the count.
Earlier in the evening I had retreated from the boisterous party into the quiet seclusion of my parent’s bedroom. Stretching out on the cool satiny bed, I hibernated under the heavy pile of coats that had been tossed on my parent’s bed earlier by the guests.
Enveloped in a tangle of ranch minks, Persian lamb and camels hair, I faded off to sleep. Although permitted to stay up to midnight to bring in the new year, exhaustion won out over my 4-year-old body.
Despite my best efforts I dozed off.
At 11:45 Dad came in to wake me for the midnight celebration that lay ahead. Out of the darkness, I was gently scooped up out of the warm safety of the furs. Groggily, I recognized my father’s voice , as he carried me into the future.
Smoke Gets In your Eyes
The future looked very foggy, as the living room was filled with a haze of blue cigarette smoke.
The once full cigarette urns were empty. The assortment of Ronson silver plated table lighters shaped like small Aladdin’s lamps seemed to have been given quite a work out.
Mom was scurrying around emptying overflowing ashtrays with the silent butler, that small, silver, oval flip-top garbage can with a long handle that kept cigarette butts safe from tray to kitchen. First rule of hostessing- never allow more than one lipstick-stained cigarette butt to accumulate in an ash tray.
A Glowing Future
All the guests were now dressed in party hats embellished with glitter, and feathers; some cone-shaped cardboard hats, some featuring ruffled crepe paper fringe.
The mood of the party was downright effervescent, as bubbly, sparkling sprightly as the glass of royal -ring-a-ding-ding-crown cola I quietly sipped between mouthfuls of Chex party mix.
Dad’s excellent cocktails were getting down to work. These buoyant bouffant beauties were letting their hair down. Mama loved to cha-cha but Papa loved to Mambo.
With inhibitions sloughed off as easily as they tossed their minks and grey felt fedoras on the pile of coats on Moms bed, normally strictly enforced constraints lessened, conversations not as guarded.
Despite the constraints, and the tight security when it came to any unsightly bulge, these girdle-bound women had more spring in their step as they broke free of their role of mother and became, if only for the night, women.
The gals were all in their after dark glamour, utterly feminine and frothy. It was if June Cleaver had been re-tooled into Elizabeth Taylor, while Margaret Anderson was replaced by Dinah Shore. And was that Anita Ekberg sidling past the clam dip?
The happy housewives were transformed in their merry widows. The securer the undergarment, the less constraint there was in behavior. The tighter the girdle the looser the conversation. As if the containment gave them a new level of confidence.
Auld Lang Syne
An assortment of colorful lithographed tin noise makers of all shapes, were strewn about including drum shaped tin clackers festooned with ballroom dancers, clowns with guitar, New Years revelers, and balloons.
I latched on to a bell-shaped, tin clacker noisemaker with a bright yellow handle featuring many dancers including a Spanish dancer a ballerina, a Black and a White orchestra conductor, (perhaps it was for use in the deep south) and a black man playing the banjo.
The TV set warmed up, as everyone gathered around the Television to watch Guy Lombardo. Courtesy of our new giant 24 inch Philco, the New Year revelers came in crystal clear –no fading, no flickering, no ghosts.
I felt like Cinderella, 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 New Year extravaganza 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 1960 in 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 Dawn of Tomorrow composed especially for the Fair by George Gershwin.
It was also at the Fair that, besides a preview of the year 1960, my parents got a first glimpse of that marvel of technologic possibilities, television, or as RCA explained it “radios newest contribution to home entertainment”.
Mom could recall vividly how visitors to the RCA Building, the one shaped just like a radio tube, would crowd together to watch in amazement, as NBC broadcast on closed circuit television. As a thirteen year old she was tickled when she was selected as volunteer to be televised, she was escorted outside to the cameras and encouraged to wave at the amazed folks back inside the pavilion.
For her efforts she was rewarded with a printed card that certified that “I was televised” as souvenir of her experience. The TV looked different-the pictures were viewed indirectly by reflections in a mirror built into the cabinet lid.
To counter the doubters who thought it might all be a trick or magic, the sets transparent cabinets revealed the inside workings of the picture radio. The television of tomorrow were very expensive so Mom would have to dream of “The radio Living Room of Tomorrow” for another decade.
Television evoked such wonderment, such possibilities – it would be an instrument of learning and beauty.
And now in the comfort of our own living room, we could marvel at the sight of, drunken couples-“those epitome of high-bred good taste and elegance” decked out in their After Six tuxedos and silly hats, dancing cheek to cheek to the sweetest music this side of heaven direct from the Grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.
: “A new world… a greater world… a better world…. come travel into the future!…,the America of 1960!
- High Hopes For the New Year (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Remembrance of New Years Eve Past Pt I (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Remembrance of New Years Eve Past Pt II (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)