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1945—Paper Dolls and Radio Shows

I am thirteen.

The rain streaks down the kitchen window. It’s midafternoon on Sunday, and it’s rained all day. Because it’s November, the short days make Sundays particularly gloomy. I wish the rain would change to snow, but there’s not much chance. Not until December. No one likes Sundays. It means the weekend is over, and it’s back to school tomorrow.

“Mommmm,” I whine. “I don’t know what to do. What can I do?”

First I get the standard reply. “You can clean your room, that’s what you can do.” Or some other distasteful chore.

No help from that quarter. There’s no one around to play with either. Except my little sister, Mary, and she’s mostly a pest.

It occurs to me that I haven’t taken out my paper dolls for a while—cutouts of glamorous movie stars such as Lana Turner, with her shimmering blond hair draped over one eye. Or the famous pin-up, Betty Grable. I have both dolls on little cardboard stands. I draw sexy evening gowns for them out of art paper and color them with Prang water colors. The paint comes in a long black box with a little solid square of each color and a brush that fits into a long slot next to the paint blocks. Sometimes I use colored pencils.

When a dress is drawn and painted, I cut it out carefully leaving little flaps at the shoulders, waist and hips to secure it on the doll. If I’m really into a project, I glue little sequins on the dresses. This effect is particularly striking on slinky black dresses.

After finishing my laborious work, I put on a fashion show using whatever outfits remain from previous times playing this game along with the ones finished today. The fashion show is actually somewhat of an anticlimax. Mostly it means I’m tired of the paper doll project for the time being.

Anyhow, by this time our favorite Sunday night radio comedies are on—Amos and Andy, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly. My mother, sister and I gather around the kitchen table and laugh for four hours. It’s one of the few times I see my mother relaxed and pleasant.

At thirteen I’m still a child. No dating yet. No running around malls. There are no malls. Movie magazines shared with a friend are the biggest thrills I get. On days when we’re shut in, my best friend Jackie Larkin and I pore over them by the hour, admiring Van Johnson, Guy Madison, Frank Sinatra, and other hunky guys. Sometimes we write dumb fan letters which provoke gales of giggles. Mostly we never send them.

The only real life thrill I get is catching Mary Jo Mackin, a  next door neighbor, kissing her cute boyfriend Tom Trettin on their back stoop. They don’t know they’re being watched from our living room window. He holds her face in his hands, while she closes her eyes. They’re pressed close together.  Drat.  I’ll never have such good luck. What would I do for a boyfriend like that!