Fred Harvey and Me Too

The troubled film producer Harvey Weinstein has pushed millions of women to react and respond to the recent accusations by women in the entertainment field, who have not fared well whatsoever in his presence. It prompted me, in lieu of me too in social media, to say something about coming to Southern California 5 decades past…when I was an ingenue in most senses of that word, and found myself in the midst of the movie industry’s world capital both then and now; good old Hollywood. No matter when that was, there’s a price to pay for being female..and here’s one tepid account. (a fire-y account would be one in which I did not escape unscathed; and those women know who they are, and what I mean)
Go to California I did, and alone. When you arrive in Los Angeles with a small suitcase in your hand, a tiny velvet bow in the center of your teased hair-do, in an outfit similar to Patty Boyd’s in “A Hard Day’s Night”, and though movies was not my goal…..even so, you can find yourself in a situation without even doing anything but stand in one public place. 
My introduction to California was in a setting which replicated a movie set; (and movies have been made there) it was the Fred Harvey Restaurant, inside Union Station in Los Angeles. It has recently been restored in May, 2017. In 1967 the restaurant was finally closed, just 3 years after I walked through it for the first time, it’s now been brought back to the public to everyone’s cultural satisfaction.
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By 1964 I was 16 and had lived in 5 states, and I’d seen 7 schools. Heading West is something young women have done before, including Harvey Girls. They have their own book; and it’s without too many tawdry tales citing their own harassment. As for getting successfully into California, I was not a genius, but I’d learned to read into situations for myself heading West. This mattered more than anything on one particular day in California when I stepped off the Greyhound.
In September of that same year I arrived from Indiana alone and into the center of Los Angeles, off a Greyhound bus at Union Station.  I carried a suitcase about the size of the one Cherry carries in the film ‘Bus Stop’. The suitcase wasn’t heavy, I carried it around with me and discovered as I walked, the magnificent Fred Harvey Restaurant inside Union Station.
Were any further clues required saying I was a new kid in town?
No.
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Fred Harvey Restaurant, Harvey Girls, Union Station
In 1964 the 1930’s Art-Deco Fred Harvey Restaurant was tired and smoke-stained. It had been used up by thousands of travelers…I saw a patina of time and people on it.  I kept moving through the restaurant because I wanted a telephone and didn’t know what Los Angeles phone booths might look like. At the same time, I had little money with me and apprehensive about that; my instructions from my engineering-vagabond-new-to-California-father was to “Call this number when you get in town”.
Ok.
It’s late afternoon, and I’m wandering around Union Station; it’s bigger than any building I’ve ever been inside that I could remember, it was huge and beautiful. I’m in California, though I hardly feel it. I am a born a red-head, and though looking like a young Sally Field, I’m already meaner than spit. My mother had decided to move on from her 5 kids, so I found ways to deal with that by being as observant as the highest-paid technician watching a spacecraft land on Mars from NASA.
I find a telephone, and that important paper with the number to call.
“Uh-huh, ok, sure, ok”…I say to my father’s new wife on the other end of that phone. I’m told it won’t be for two hours toward eternity, in the middle of California where the hell am I ? until I will be picked up. (Whittier is 18.9 miles away from Alameda Street, home of Union Station, what’s their problem?)
I give an ok as a response.
Union Station— I sit, then I stand, then I walk, I fiddle with my suitcase, then I sit. I walk back through Fred Harvey Restaurant, and I suddenly realize a man is standing on this winding Nora Desmond-Cher staircase exuding more Hollywood; and he’s eyeing me. This man is straight out of casting for To Kill A Mockingbird ; no, not Atticus, but Harper’s antagonist that damned Bob Ewell. He is creepy, a drifter maybe. He’s on that stairs, so I move…but he’s following me yards behind; stopping along the way so as to not to be creepy-suspicious. Though that’s exactly what he looked like in reality.
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Restored staircase detail, Fred Harvey Restaurant.
At first I think, this creep, he’s not much; but then I see he follows me every single place I go, even to the women’s restroom. He’s standing right outside, and I swear to heaven, he’s leering at me. When I walk away, I look right at him. I don’t have a plan, that’s for certain…but I don’t shy away, because, what the hell, he’s a creep. I gave him, what I thought at the time was, a  What are you looking at?  kind of glare. The place was loaded with witnesses, what could go wrong? I had no idea men would go to this much trouble to bother the living hell (but he was in for more, I hadn’t known that) out of a 16-year-old female clearly not with this guy on her teen-radar mind in any way. I had mine on The Beatles, that worked just fine, thanks.
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Hollywood’s & Harper’s Ewell
I walk around some more and eventually I begin to realize,”‘Oh my god, this man is following me, and he can see I have no place to go because I’m just here, and not leaving.” Well hell, I say to myself, I have to switch my situation…Now, I’m on the teeter-totter of afraid and/or cautious. I saunter back to that cool Hollywood-ish Fred Harvey Restaurant where people who work there will talk back to you (when you’re 16 and don’t have big bucks, places like this are a bit off limits, you all know that)…but there’s soda-fountain service in the Fred Harvey, I could do that.
I walk across the room to the counter to a chrome-backed stool and sit down, suitcase in my lap.
As if on cue, my shoulders drop a little.
A waitress (and she’s a friendly one, she’s Marge, with black sewing-machine embroidery on her pocket sort of waitress) comes up to me while at the same time wiping the counter and says, “Honey, what’ll you have, you here on your own”?
(In retrospect, I believe good old Marge knew things were getting uncomfortable with me and Mr. Bob Ewell).
I said, “Yes, I am. here by myself”
Marge handed me a menu, I said, “Oh, no thanks, I don’t have a lot of cash on me right now.”
Marge tells me, “Well, honey, we have free cokes on Thursday’s and you’re just in time.” (really, Marge?)
Marge sits  a Coke down right in front of me, in a Coke-shaped fountain drinks glass.
(I’m that close to Hollywood!)
Marge then hands me a folded up L.A. Times saying, “Here’s all the latest…want to read?”
Um, thanks much, Marge, I’ve been wondering the latest, I have…
Marge eventually pulls enough info from me to glean I’m waiting for a late-arrival dad to come get me.
Marge tells me, “Don’t worry, honey, no matter how late people get picked up here at Union, we never close, nice…huh?” 
Yes, Marge, very very nice.
I look over my shoulder; that damned Bob Ewell is just outside the entry to Fred Harvey. I am definitely now bonded with Marge, the fountain-service counter and Fred Harvey. That Bob Ewell creep, was he banned from this place for some lurid act before I even bought the Greyhound ticket?
Seeming out of nowhere, a bright-faced uniformed bellhop walks in and sits right alongside me at the counter saying, “Hey Marge, how you doing today, how about a coffee?” He gives me a big brother smile, and it’s the real deal; he grabs for the sugar on the counter, the only kind he’d grab and you could tell.
At the fountain-service counter of the Fred Harvey Restaurant good forces that will do no harm have gathered round me, and I feel empowered. Marge is checking on my ice for the Coke, the bellhop is nonchalant, but an overseer of the whole place. (And that’s the gist of this story; that people would do that for someone else. They can sense what someone might need at just the right time. It’s grand when things work like that).
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At the counter I’m drinking Coke, and the L.A. Times is unfolded enough to just read the headline… President Johnsonblah, blah, blah. I want to peer over Marge with her perky waitress crown-hat, to the restaurant entrance, just to give a confident sneer to the creepiest man I’d ever seen in my life, leaning against the doorway, but I pass on that, I’m 16 for god’s sake, I want to survive this arrival so I can go to my new high school, simple as that. That Bob Ewell standing over there could see these Union Station-Fred Harvey employees in the heart of Los Angeles in the middle of this massive train and bus station, were not going to let a California fledgling like me get lured off by him.
I can bet 50 years later now, Marge and the bellhop knew this ;lurking Union Station fly’s routine. If not for the people who kept their eyes open, I may have had a very different encounter in Union Station coming through Los Angeles’ portal that September day. Lots of young women and girls have stories they can’t even tell, that mimic mine but with a very bad outcome. It’s on this I think as I write.
The bell-hop drank all his coffee, sunny and upbeat while sitting with me, and when he got up, he held out his hand and said, “Well, welcome to California, kid”.
I said, “Thanks a lot”…feeling reinforced enough so that I could sincerely mean it.
Fred Harvey, Marge and the bell-hop had let me in California’s door that day in 1964 with nothing more than an afternoon at the Counter of My Belonging.
  
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Politically, Apologetically, Incorrect Indians

No one on our mother’s side of the family had a sense of business, except if it came through a pen, a paintbrush or a needle.

Aunt Dorella Kruea was the best to us when we were growing up..
We knew she had been a Becker.
Her mother was Lily, a dressmaker in the census of 1910; a daughter of German immigrants (Kohlbrand), Hamburg/Jewish. LiIy’s mother was a ‘costumer’ in 1909 in Over-the-Rhine district of our city,.
Dorella’s father was an ‘Ornamental Painter’…and between the two of them had a wonderful child we got to call Dorella, a combination of Lily’s two sisters who died, Dora and Ella.

As children we thought Dorella was the best artist ever. Paintings of gorgeous women, artist of sheet cover music, and married to our amazing artist Uncle Charles. They had no children….

Dorella and Charles having no children, their house a stunning art object in and of itself, didn’t stop our mother, raised by these two people, from going to them every chance she could.

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When Charles died in 1952 I’m sure Dorella was beside herself.
Her talent came forward…using Uncle Charles WWI Army flags, his uniforms, epaulets and trim, Dorella made for the 3 of us children the best outfits ever. Her version of Indian outfits. The costumes told of our own Native American heritage, a g-g-g-grandmother was a Shawnee of West Virginia.

 

 

October 12th is the birthday of another favorite aunt; Eva (her in the photo of a child holding the Victory flag). Born on that day we formerly know as Columbus Day, I can see her hand held high now in her kitchen when singing the Marseilles in tribute to her brothers (Charles and Fred) being on the Western Front in France….and reciting outloud patriotic poems she’d learned as a child in the 1900’s.

 

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Those days won’t come again…a 90-year-old aunt showing her strength and Yankee resilience, not to mention, though she wouldn’t have joined, a candidate for the DAR, our other Aunt of Jewish descent, our Native American heritage going up in smoke because we are definitely not close enough to the origins to claim much but through ancestry records.

We’re just a small piece in the complicated genealogy pie, however. We are low on the percentage scale…..though our father’s surname, Williams, puts our family 5th on the list of hundreds of Native names used today in the United States.

Thinking on all this, maybe it’s okay NOT to burn this photo for my granddaughter to NOT see; given the shame our society is going through with this used to be  Columbus Day we can all earn to live without. if we need to.  As I said, I am in hope I don’t need to burn this little photo of the 3 of us kids in these politically incorrect as all hell outfits. All that’s left is the photo, the costumes have shredded from play long years past, and the fact that our hearts remain open with understanding that we’re alike, we’re different and we love that.

MAY DAY, 1843 Devout Cincinnati girl skips school for the fun of it.

Even 170 years ago, Cincinnati buzzed in the spring….a veritable garden from the Ohio River up to Dr. Allison’s Peach Grove and beyond…..that continued to grow fine peaches long after the site of Ft. Washington had been transformed into the epicenter of our city. Mary Jane Irwin, born in 1829 in Cincinnati, took it upon herself to document one particular year , 1843, before she died of tuberculosis in 1847, at 18 years old.
Irwin’s pages are windows into a world and place…losing all sense of time and dimensions, if we pause to think when we read her words in indelible ink tucked away and preserved in her journal.
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That former Fort became the literal front door of Mary Jane Irwin…her father’s house was where the Ft. Washington public memorial stands today. One of Dr. Allison’s peach trees apparently doesn’t know how old it is and currently presents peaches.
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Irwin’s next door neighbor was Robert Buchanan….a popular and busy man about Cincinnati; a philanthropist in the greatest sense of the word. Mr. Buchanan, in 1843, had a garden behind his home on McAllister Street (now the site of Western Southern on 4th St.) He and his nice cronies (including Nick Longworth and Probasco) created the Cincinnati Horticulture Society that continues to this day. Their meetings were in Buchanan’s home, just across the unpaved, frequently muddy Fourth St., across from the Irwin’s where Mary Jane wrote her journal, day in and day out. A teenager, she undoubtedly thought this group to be just one more of her father’s so many associates crowding up the porch rails. (R. Buchanan also founded Spring Grove Cemetery).
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Mary Jane Irwin (her family pew was filled every Sunday at Christ Episcopalian Church, just steps from her home) wrote in her journal about not attending a ‘heathen goddess celebration’, which apparently wasn’t okay to do, according to her instructor Mr. Van Doren and the rest of society, on Monday, May 1, 1843:
“Monday,
As there was no celebration, ANY WHERE, I attended school and received 25 good marks ‘for not being so foolish as to attend a party in honor of a then goddess’. Josey Lytle sent over for me…I spent the evening there, “non est” was quite amusing.”
By Friday the outlook was 100% better for Mary Jane and her socializing for spring.
Here she tells us what developed later that week; when she skipped school!
“Friday,
I did not go to school, as I wished to attend Miss Comstock’s “May Party”. Anna Hewson was Queen…and in the afternoon I went to Schnetz’s Garden. We bought cakes.”
 
Of a well-to-do family, Mary Jane was incensed by no parties anywhere on Monday, but by Friday, all was well and good regarding May, Queens’, Parties and the rest.
By that Sunday Mary Jane was back in church; as to be expected.
And it’s a safe bet she told no one but her journal she skipped school that day.
So, let’s keep it to ourselves here on FB, shall we?
MJIRWINGRAVEVIOLETS

PARTNERS OF THE HEART

 
The next time you hear the term blue baby  (a congenital heart defect: tetralogy of Fallot) or if the word conjures up images of a small child that is actually blue.. …the lips and nails (cyanosis) can turn pale to dark if not enough oxygen is getting through the extremities due to poor circulation through the heart; here’s a medical cardiac history milestone to beat them all.
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Dr. Helen Taussig, pediatric-cardiologist, coined the phrase blue baby ; endearingly calling her little patients with this tetralogy this, in desperate need for a corrective surgery, watching most of her young patients die in infancy and early childhood.
 
The first successful surgery to correct this congenital heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot, was in 1945. Dr. Thomas Blalock performed the surgery at John Hopkins Hospital. Blalock was a busy doctor and hired a man to help him, for not much pay.
A little known aspect of this important medical breakthrough was a black man named Vivien Thomas, from New Orleans, father of 2, who couldn’t afford to go to college, but would stand at Blalock’s side for many decades working in the medical field, performing, testing, researching. Thomas worked alongside Blalock with his experiments, dedicated to the art of healing…and received no recognition until 1976.
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It was a medical breakthrough pediatric cardiac life-saving procedure, and a miracle some would say. Drs. Blalock and Taussig were lauded around the world for this pediatric-cardiac procedure. Parents brought their ailing children from around the world to the doctors for the surgery. Thomas worked part time as a bartender to support his family, all the while assisting the cardiac surgeries that were increasing.
 
Jim, the tyke in plaid pictured below, was one of the first babies to ever survive this congenital heart-condition and procedure. The Blalock-Thomas-Taussig Anastomosis for Tetralogy of Fallot was performed on him in late 1947 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He lived a successful, healthy life…and of course lived to see the PBS 2002 production on American Experience, Partners of the Heart. Following that, there was the 2004 Emmy Award film produced Something the Lord Made. 
It’s not often someone you know is written in human history in such goodness.
Books abound on the doctors, the procedure, the history.
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When Jim was hospitalized in 2011, doctors in Cincinnati would make special efforts to come down the halls of the cardiac unit to see this adult patient who had had a Blalock Anastomosis performed on him as a baby. The good young doctors had learned about it in medical school, but there’s been much advancement in this surgery that the procedure is no longer performed (too old-fashioned now, one doc told me).
There he was, smiling at the doctors as he’d done since a toddler, a modern-day miracle one more time.

CINCINNATI PRESIDENTIAL OVERLOAD

In another place in ‘real president’s-time’, a U.S. President lasted a mere 30 Days, 12 Hours, 30 Minutes in Office.
And he had a collective of women to help him get into that office.

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HARRISON MOURNING CLOTH

Shortest serving First Lady, to 9th U.S. President William Henry Harrison of North Bend, Ohio….Jane Irwin Findlay Harrison Whiteman (a long name and story) went to the White House in February, 1841, for her father-in-law’s inauguration, in place of Harrison’s wife, Anna, who felt it a long arduous journey from North Bend, Ohio.

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ANNA SYMMES HARRISON minus her unattractive headwrap

 

Jane Irwin Findlay Harrison, William and Anna Harrison’s recently widowed young daughter-in-law (son W.H.Harrison, Jr. died in 1838, after a long illness commonly known then as the drink); and mother of their grandchildren, was just the right person to go along with the new President Harrison, her sister-in-law Anna Harrison Taylor of Virginia would come too.

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JANE IRWIN FINDLAY HARRISON WHITEMAN

On a peculiar role Jane Harrison would find her life as both maternal and paternal aunt to future president Benjamin Harrison. Jane  and her sister Elizabeth’s first cousin Mary Anne married another Harrison son, Carter. Jane I. F. Harrison Whitman’s sister Elizabeth Ramsey Irwin (1840-1850) married Wm. H. Harrison’s other son, John Scott Harrison and bore their son, Benjamin, 23rd U.S. President.

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Young, vivacious Jane, also a niece and foster daughter of Cincinnati’s Mrs. James/Jane Findlay (The Market People, whose husband James was buddies with Pres. Wm. H. Harrison), who at 73, escorted Jane Harrison and Anna to Washington for the soirees, dinners, parades and all the formalities we have come to expect with a Presidency, arrived for all the bells and whistles attached to such celebrations.
Both Jane’s and Anna’s stays in D.C. in 1843 would be tragically brief; the President succumbed to ailment (current theories are septic shock) on April 4, 1841. In the official Presidential Deathbed Portrait  we see two young women mourning this death. One woman is Jane the daughter-in-law, alongside her is W.H.H. daughter, the Mrs. William H. Harrison’s first lady’s namesake, Anna Harrison Taylor.

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Elderly Aunt Jane Findlay returned to Cincinnati, living at Broadway and Arch Street—hosting a lively family and social life that whirls the mind of any reader seeing her list of visitors.

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JANE IRWIN FINDLAY

Anna Harrison Taylor, the president’s daughter, would return to Virginia, living in her father’s birthplace until her death.

Two years after Harrison’s death, in 1843, John Quincy Adams would come to Cincinnati, after much polite begging in written invitations…to lay the Cincinnati Observatory Cornerstone in anticipation of the soon to arrive German Merz & Mahler telescope Ormsby McKnight Mitchel would personally buy and retrieve back to Cincinnati in 1845; it’s why we named it MT. ADAMS. The Irwin and Findlay families were on hand for this Cincinnati milestone, making history was in their blood.

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PRESIDENT JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

35-year old Jane I. F. Harrison married prominent Cincinnatian Lewis Whiteman; she died in 1847 of the that melancholic and most mean of diseases, tuberculosis.
She’s buried in Spring Grove Cemetery…as is her Aunt Jane Irwin Findlay and Lewis Whiteman, and her children.

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With even the casual reader we see, maybe 3 degrees of separation between these Cincinnati people and history.  And I didn’t even touch the Cincinnati’s President Taft.

 

 

It’s In The Cards

Some stuff you might not know.
And it’s sure not political.
 
It’s MAGIC!
 
That first job.
We all had one.
 
In 1966, my first job was at the U.S. Playing Card Company, Norwood, Ohio.
 
I was 18 and didn’t know dit-squat or even pinochle.
I was entering the University of Cincinnati part time.
I walked up the street from my grandmother’s house
and applied at the world famous U.S. Playing Card Company.
 
I dreaded getting up at 7 a.m.
I dreaded working with the nosie-body ladies transplanted from Kentucky and Appalachia (like my own grandmother) to Norwood, to work at the huge factories (Ford Motor Co., Globe Wernicke Furniture, and U.S. Playing Card).
Those ladies scrutinized every paisley and bell-bottomed outfit I’d wear to work. They ‘tsk-tsked’ everything all day.
 
The company had an archive on the premises….and I’d wander the halls leading to it gazing over framed 18th century French decks of cards with Harlequins, witches, medieval symbology. The bookshelves in the archive lined with magic books in other languages, books on the Occult, Books on Witchery and Voo Doo.
Stunning…and that is a tasty collection today, still owned by the company.
 
I hated the scratchy, dusty velour drawer-pull Bridge sets.
I despised the Canasta sets…
 
Do not ask about the Samba decks. Don’t.
 
The gold-flake paint on the Aladdin decks, bound for Las Vegas filled our nostrils, eyelashes and hair until we looked like the Midas family walking out the door at 4 o’clock. Our fingertips glowed!
 
I hated the stamps….the mini-decks, the guys staring when I’d have to go thru the printing department.
 
My skills repairing stamping machines was profound. I could push that ‘stop’ hammer like nobody’s business..and who’d wait for the mechanic Jimmy….I’d do it myself.
 
We younger women would hang on the same 3-person stamping machine as best we could. Sometimes we’d put our names and addresses in a deck, if we knew it would be traveling overseas….and not Las Vegas, or Air Force One or Viet Nam. Yes, we got letters back. I still have one, from some guys in Scotland who worked at a potato factory. Go figure.
 
The cafeteria was a pale-mint green, in a window-less, basement environment nearly out of “Oliver Twist’!
Our ‘time clock’ was also from Charles Dickens…dated around 1915, way after the founding of the USPC.
 
I hated it yes, but time will have its way with you after so many decades….and the magic, the cards, the superstitions…they’re still on board…and now, as fate would have it..the ladies from Kentucky, now mostly gone, who ran those cello machines, fanned the card decks out for inspection, and generally kept the place going….
the U.S.Playing Card Co. moved to Erlanger, Ky. as fate would have it.
I think those ladies would clear the decks.