Tag Archives: 1950s

A Vaudevillian Moment

As far back as I can remember my grandmother reminisced about her days on stage back in the Vaudeville era.  Her and my grandfather were well known, in New York at least, as performers of music, dance, and probably even more so, comedy.

Grandfather, before he died, swore he’d made up Groucho’s famous “Outside of a book, a dog is a man’s best friend.  Inside a dog it’s too dark to read,” line back then on the stage.  It’s true, Groucho did attend one of their performances with his brothers, but regardless, there’s no way to prove that claim.

When I was little I would spend summers at my grandparents’ home in suburban New York, a small property that working the stage had paid for.  Mother considered it an extended visit, a vacation.  I loved it.  Dad, eternally disliked by my grandmother for pulling my mom out of the spotlight and marrying her, hated every moment.  Using work as an excuse, he would drive up from Philadelphia, our hometown, on weekends.

As I got older, after grandfather died, our visits were really all my grandmother looked forward to.  She would have my room all done up with a frilly pink bedspread (something I pretended to love even after I’d outgrown it) and would serve all of my favorite meals.  She would cater to anything I wanted as if I were her own daughter.  Actually, even mom didn’t have it as good as I did in that old house.

And every summer, like clockwork, she would pull out her old prop umbrella, worn out and missing the knob, and we would do one of the skits she loved so much with me playing the straight man.  She’d put on a funny hat and dress and jump right in.

“There are so many ways to understand what a lady is saying just by how she carries her umbrella!  Like if she holds it like this-”

And I would break in, “It means it’s raining?”

“No, no,” she would correct.  “It means she’s married!  And if she holds it like this-”

“She’s single?” I would ask, giggling.

“No!  It means she’s married and her husband is coming.”

“So you run?”

“Of course not.  Then you nod, like so.”

“So apologize?”

“No, stupid!  It means you want to meet her around the corner!”

“But she’s married!”

“Exactly, so you have to wait for the signal from her.”

“Which is?”

My grandmother would then flirtatiously lift her dress a bit to show some leg, usually with dirty work pants and boots underneath since she was always gardening.  This would have me doubled over in laughter by this point, keeping me from finishing the skit.

She would always chuckle along with me, then sit down in the nearest chair and remember the good old days, working the Vaudeville circuits with my grandfather.

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Lover’s Cliff

Typography on vintage photographs using an antique typewriter.

His Baby Boy

This is part of my ongoing project of flash fiction typed onto vintage photographs using an antique typewriter. If you’d like to see more keep looking here or visit my Etsy.

Good Old City Life

As Ethyl turned the VW bug down the dirt road, Bertha shuddered a little.

“What is it, Berth? Something the matter?”

“I’m used to cities is all. This road trip has been adventure enough without you taking this shortcut through the woods. This road is dirt, for the love of Pete!”

Ethyl smiled at her city friend. They’d instantly connected at the school where both were studying to be receptionists. Ethyl had left the family farm in search of bigger and better things, and Bertha was just killing time until her fiancé, Jasper, got back from the war.

“I grew up on roads like this. Relax, hun.”

The VW blew up a cloud of dust as Ethyl drove it a bit manically around a turn, the wheels scrambling through some pebbles and shooting them into the woods.

“Well could you slow down a bit, at least? At least consider the paint! This car is new!”

Jasper bought the car a few months before he found himself shipped out and trusted his future wife with his most prized possession.

“It’s Jasper’s most prized possession!”

“Where do you come in on that list?” Ethyl asked with a smile and a bit of attitude.

“Just under the car, darling. You should know that. Men and their toys…”

Ethyl relented and let go of the gas a little, taking the turns a bit easier.

“Thank you, dear,” Bertha said as she reached into the back seat. “Care for some coffee?”

“Actually, I’m famished! How’s about I find a place to pull over?”

“Here in the middle of nowhere?”

“Here’s as good as anywhere else!”

They drove the little powder-blue bug another mile or so until she came up to a bend in the road just before an old bridge. A picturesque clearing filled with wildflowers lined the grassy spot where Ethyl stopped the car.

“Oh look Bertha! What a place for a picnic. What do you say?”

Bertha smiled and grabbed the wicker picnic basket from the backseat. “Good thing I packed these sandwiches! God knows how long we’ll be lost out here!”

“I’m telling you,” Ethyl said with another smile, “The man at the station said this here was a shortcut. Said it would cut a good hour of driving. You want to be at your cousin’s by evening, don’t you? Or shall we camp out for the night –“

“Lord no! I’m not sleeping in a tent. We’re making it tonight if it kills us.” Ethyl let a knowing smile grow on her face. She knew just how to manipulate her city friend. The woman was clearly afraid of nature.

Bertha got out of the car, removed her cardigan and fixed her flower-print dress. After checking both shoulder straps, making sure they were just right, she threw her cardigan onto the car and pulled a blanket out of the back seat.

Ethyl loved watching this girl, an enigma to someone who grew up on a farm, as she carefully placed the blanket on the grass. “You know, there’s a perfectly good log over there.”

“You must be joking. This is an expensive dress! It’s Chanel!”

“It’s what?”

“Chanel! As in Coco?”

Ethyl raised an eyebrow. “Okay…”

“Oh you country bumpkin…what do you know!” Bertha smiled, and Ethyl laughed quite loudly, letting it echo through the trees. She was relieved to see her friend loosen up a bit.

“Well, this fabulous ensemble I’m wearing is official Wanamaker’s. The top was on sale!”

Bertha giggled as she sat down on the blanket with the basket. Meanwhile, Ethyl took out her satchel and started rooting through it for a pen and paper.

“Oh no, is the master author at it again?” Bertha teased.

Ethyl stuck out her tongue and sat on the log. Her scribbling on the pad of lined paper reverberated through the woods, disrupted only by the occasional sound of wrapper rustling as Bertha set up their lunch.

Once she had the sandwiches out and spoons in the small container of potato salad, she waited patiently for her friend to finish. She put her hands behind her head and leaned back against the car, looking up at the perfectly blue sky. Ethyl finally finished and joined her on the blanket.

“Say what you want about the city, and I will, as you know, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the sky such a beautiful blue,” Bertha said. Ethyl dug into the potato salad and nodded. As she tried to speak a small piece of potato fell to the blanket.

“That was what I was writing about.”

“Another poem?”

“Mhmm,” she said as another piece fell to the blanket. She picked it up, inspected it and popped it into her mouth.

“Such class. It’s a wonder you were raised on a farm! I would think you came from the most fabulous finishing school in Paris!” Bertha raised an eyebrow at her friend, waiting for a response.

“Just wait until I go pee in those woods right there, then we’ll see who is refined,” she said, watching Bertha shudder a little.

“You will not!”

“I will so!”

“Don’t do it, Ethyl. There must be a ladies room around here somewhere!”

Ethyl smiled again at her friend.

“So what was your poem about?”

“Actually, it was about returning to a perfectly blue sky after spending a few months in the smoggy city.”

“Really?”

She nodded.

“That’s…kind of lovely, Eth. It really is beautiful here, I must admit. I can hear the birds and a breeze, rather than cars and yelling. And what is that sound? The one that is fairly constant?”

“Crickets, Berth.”

“Ah. Crickets. They’re kind of loud.”

“Funny, I didn’t even notice them until you pointed it out.”

“Well, it really is quite lovely.”

They continued to eat when a bug landed on Bertha. She screamed and dropped her sandwich onto her plate as she rushed to get it off her arm, flailing like an insane person. Ethyl just remained calm and continued eating. Bertha finally got rid of the bug and stood.

“I’m eating the rest in the car.”

The Boating Trip

The Boating Trip is part of my ongoing series of flash fiction stories typed onto vintage photographs using my antique typewriter. If you like it, enter the contest to win a personalized piece here. And check out my Etsy for original prints and the book collecting around fifty of my images.

Win an Original Print!

So after These Moments had such a lovely giveaway with one of my original pieces, I had such a blast creating one for the winner that I’ve decided to have my own contest! Read about Esra’s winning image here.

What do you have to do? It’s so easy! All you have to do is comment on this post. Tell me why you should be the winner, or just say hi!

Here’s the image the last winner, Esra, got:

She told me she liked the beach, the city and listed a lot of her other passions, so I created one just for her! Want to get in on the fun? Comment below. And please, check out my upcoming book, Capturing a Moment, which collects many similar images. Not this one though, this one is JUST for Esra!

Capturing a Moment collects around fifty of Dennis Finocchiaro’s original pieces. Dennis is the author of The Z Word, a collection of flash fiction set during a zombie apocalypse. His collection of flash fiction that takes place in coffee shops, Confessions of a Coffee Shop Junkie, which came in third in The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton 2010 fiction writing contest, is also available on Amazon.

Capturing a Moment is available via his Etsy site. It comes signed, with a one-of-a-kind post-it flash fiction piece signed and a post card depicting two of the images. For a little bit more you can purchase the VIP version, which also comes with the original print of your choice.

Road Trip

Road Trip, a new flash fiction on vintage photograph project!