Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Unfortunately, there are no extant photos of my beloved Anna Wright or my Nana Julie.  These are just stock photos of Harlem in the 1940's.  All my visits to Harlem with Anna meld together in one bright, colorful, exciting time.  Both Nana and Anna were independent working women and made their own decisions.  I don't know what Anna's friends and neighbors thought of the little white girl, but I was with Anna and was therefore accepted and made much of.  If I could go back in time, one of the first places I'd go would be Harlem with Anna at my side.  She knew how to have a good time.  And she was a faithful and loyal friend to my Nana who had had a very hard life.

Harry Conover was a big name in the modeling world in the 40's.  All I really remember is standing around in a big room full of cute kids holding their "glossies" and feeling very hot and bored under the lights and wishing I was in Central Park.  I photographed very well during my first five years and I wish I had my modeling photos or my baby pictures or something, but my mother would never give me any and in later years she stored all the precious family photos in the trunk of her car.
  Which was stolen.
And never recovered.
I am speechless.
The photographer who took this picture* is the gentlemen who urged my beautiful mother to register me at the Conover modeling agency where I would make "Big money."  If I ever made big money, I never saw any of it.  And it was never discussed.  I don't even mind about the money, but I sure would love to have those family pictures.  My three brothers were all beautiful babies.

During this time Nana was taking me on lovely Christmas trips to Radio City Music Hall (I wanted to be a Rockette so bad and only a complete lack of dance talent prevented me.)  We also saw the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and the graceful skaters leaping into the frigid air.  The legs of the girls were always blue with cold but I doubt they felt it; they were transported.

And most important in Nana's eyes was our Christmas visit to see the real Santa Claus at Macy's!  The fly in the ointment every year was the fact that I didn't care for Santa.
In fact, he terrified me and I did 
NOT want to see him.  And every year poor Nana was mortified as I screamed bloody murder. We would have repeated this humiliation for God knows how long, but my parents bought a house in Elmhurst and Mom
had two baby boys in rapid succession.
And I had to leave my beloved New York.

*  Do not ask what the black bars behind this picture are.
I do not know.  There are many mysteries from my storied youth.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Seeing NYC and Central Park again reminded me of the many spectacular parades on Fifth Avenue and I always had a front row seat.  Every child loves parades and I was particularly fond of the Annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade.  Nana Julie was an Irish immigrant who came to America to find a better life and I hope she did.  So we would find a good spot right on our side of Fifth and wait for the excitement.  What I particularly loved was that the spectators all dressed in green and we did too.  When the parade was over we went to the Automat.  Those who know what that is get a gold star.

Nana Julie had a talent for friendship. She included everyone in her circle--rich, poor, black, white or purple--everyone was her friend.  Her best friend was a black maid named Anna Wright who cleaned some of the apartments in our building.  Anna was a beautiful, full-figured woman with a deep, rich laugh.  She would join Nana for endless cups of tea with lots of sugar after she had finished cleaning.  Anna and Nana were extroverts who loved to laugh.  One memorable afternoon the subject of the conversation was the recent wedding of the Watson girl whose wealthy parents lived next door in a huge building which was all theirs.  Nana and I attended the nuptials and Anna wanted to hear all about it.

"Well, that Watson girl--I watched her grow up you know--is real pretty. And her dress was gorgeous--white satin with a long train.  And there was a little flower girl who threw all these rose petals down the aisle. She was real cute and not shy at all!"

"I wanna be a flower girl!" said I.

"And you will be, honey--as pretty as you are. Sure you will," said Anna.  (And I was too, the very next year.  I wore a long yellow dress and a big bonnet, but that's another story.)

"But the bridesmaids' dresses were real ugly," said Nana.  "They were white, just like the bride's with navy blue polka dots!
You ever hear of such a thing?"

"They sound pretty bad," said Anna, pouring herself more tea.

"And you know, Anna, that Margaret Truman, the President's daughter, was one of the bridesmaids and she's kind of homely," I said,the four-year-old voice of authority.

Anna burst out laughing and almost choked.
"That girl IS pretty plain."

"And she can't sing either," said Nana Julie, who knew about such things as her daughter, Mary Catherine Theresa, had been a lyric soprano from childhood and played the lead in all the Catholic school musicals.  "She used to win all the dance contests too!"

And I, being over-sensitive and self-centered, burst into loud tears.

"She's my mother and I can't sing or dance at all!"

"But you're a Conover model," said Nana.  That was true; I was a model, but I didn't like it.*

"Come here, Baby," said Anna, taking me onto her lap.  "How 'bout I take you home with me to Harlem and bring you back tomorrow?"

I immediately stopped crying; Harlem was pretty darn exciting.  "All right."


*Little did I know that being an introvert meant I would forever hate to have my picture taken.

The parade picture is a stock photo from Google Images.