Market Street Goodwill Complex- San Francisco
From Years of writing on Live Journal
November 3rd, 2005
I just finished packing at the same time for the second straight night in a row. It was all horrible packing tonight. ( I refer it to kindly as bitch packing) Most of it was going over to the UK.
I made sure that Mr Cambridge in South Wirral had lovely soft pink tissue to protect that size 22 white mini dress he bought for himself, and the Gothic hat I made and sold with 7 yards of black bridal illusion net was packed with equally nightmarish tissue to please the dark kinder-goth girl in New Mexico.
I got up late today as I was so tired from the past two days of posting and packing. I literally ran to buses and the subway today just to keep on track. I have all my hunting spots down to a specific time when they bring new things out.
I was a good 30 minutes behind today. Even “Cashier Joe” at the Community Thrift shop said to me “You’re late today” and I just laughed and rolled my eyes. I started off the day going up Market Street to the Goodwill salvage depot. On the way a brisk cold damp wind was blowing hard. It was darn cold.
I saw this old woman backing up against the wall of the Bank of America building and felt really sad for her. I thought how sad it was that she was lifting her dress and getting the hot air to blow up her skirt from the vent to warm her up. I soon found out that was her way to relieve herself. As things were flowing down the walls I was very quickly flowing up the street trying hard not to catch any down winds.
I got into the salvage place and started going through bins. The man who own the Sharks vintage chain and his pickers and a whole slew of Latinos from the flea market were forming this very straight line in front of the chain fence that separates the Goodwill workers waiting for bins of clothing to come out.
I found this great piece of vintage fabric from 1971 from Walt Disney’s movie The Aristocats. I was looking at it and the guy from Sharks comes over:
He says ” Hey Linda, I see you here every week, want a job?”
I looked at him and started to giggle and politely said no. Me and my ‘allergic nose’ can barely stand 30 minutes in here, and I am going to come here every day earning basically $5.00 bucks an hour? I think not. Once a week is enough for me.
I paid for the stuff and the cashier said “New bins coming out soon”.
I said, “Oh they come out at noon? ” He said, “No, every 30 minutes.”
I mean that’s crazy–these bins come out like cinnamon rolls at a take out place. These people stay there all day every day and all day long just to get stuff to sell at the flea markets and vintage stores. I immediately hear horror movie music in my head.
My fun find today was a great silk skirt from the J PETERMAN COMPANY for a buck. Yes, that J Peterman CO. If you are a Seinfeld fan like me you know when I wear that sucker this week there is going to be one gory description full of adjectives.
I leave the salvage place on the rest of my hunting journey while Shark Man keeps asking me if I need a job. I am allergic not only to dust but to stupidity, so I decide to speak to him in fluent sarcasm. Shark Man laughs and says he will see me next week.
Have you ever asked yourself why everyone loves quilts? What drove families to gather in their communities and make quilts for their families? Quilts connect everyone and they speak about former lives of families, and their joys, their hardships, and their homes.
Seven days after my birth I was placed in a quilt my grandmother had made and brought immediately to her home as my mother was ill. I was tucked into my crib with the same quilt I came home from the hospital in.
One night my father gathered me up in that same quilt and smuggled me into the Royal Victoria Hospital hoping my mother might remember me as she had postpartum depression. I can still see her looking down at the cards she was playing solitaire with while I was holding on to the edge of that dear quilt in fear. To this day I will never forget that image – my father says I was barely two, but I still remember the grayness of the room. While my life was sterile and cold, the quilt held warmth and security. My grandmother always said that blankets wrap you in warmth but quilts wrap you in love.
At age 12 my mother died, and my grandmother sat with me on her veranda and wrapped that same quilt around me while I cried. Life was never the same after that, and the quilt was placed on my bed like an old friend when I stayed with her. I would stare at the painting on the wall while I tried to sleep and thought that a lot of people understood art but not quilts. If I had a lot of money I would own a quilt and not a piece of art, because in the end which gives you the most comfort?
When I got married at age 21, my Grandmother sat at the dining room table for weeks and worked on a quilt for my new home. As I traveled down the road of life the quilt was always there while people came and went. Although it was aging gracefully it was still heavy and secure anytime I needed it. Through death and sickness it held comfort, and the promise that it would never desert me. This quilt held my life with all the bits and pieces, joys and sorrows, that had been stitched into it with love.
At age 47 the quilt died peacefully in my arms. A terrible house fire had destroyed it, and as I looked at the charred edges I realized the thread that held it together had bound the both of us forever. Now it was time to go down the final road by myself, and remembering the words of Herman Hesse I began the journey.
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
Romancing the Princess Theatre Linda Knight Seccaspina
Last night I dreamt I was sitting in one of the maroon velvet chairs of the Princess Theatre in Cowansville, Quebec. It was dark in that theatre and I was alone, but the light from the projector still shot across the room, yet there was nothing on the screen.
For years the Princess Theatre was a safe haven for me. Every Saturday afternoon, I would go to the matinee and be whomever was on the screen. Growing up in a small town you did what you could for entertainment. My limited picks were the local swimming pool, neighbourhood kids, and the Princess Theatre for movies. Because the theatre was small we seemed to get the big movies later than the rest of the world – but 50 cents and a bag of popcorn was a sure fire way to put a smile on your face.
The Princess Theatre was where I first saw Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, which scarred me for life. Seeing The Sound of Music was the closest I ever came to seeing my Grandmother enjoying her own personal hootenanny while caterwauling along to the songs in the film.
Small town gossip spread quickly among the rows of that theatre and for weeks we hear rumours about the local minister being told not to laugh so loudly at the risque antics in the film Carry On Doctor. Summer romances began on the second level and continued into the colder months, and sometimes there was more steam coming out of the balcony than there was outside.
Drive-Ins were illegal in the province of Quebec as the Catholic Church deemed them pits of sin that could take you halfway to Hell. Had they only looked at the balconies of the Princess Theatre I swear that place would have been shut down in a Cinerama moment.
Esther Williams and her swimming extravaganzas on that movie screen had me hooked making me want to create my own musical number. One day after seeing Jupiter’s Darling I stopped at the local five and dime (The Ritz) and bought one of those flesh coloured nose plugs. Arriving home I dragged out my wading pool in anticipation and went to work.
The hose was hauled out from underneath the porch, pool filled, and I would sit and wait patiently until the water warmed up from the sun. Once ready I would don my one piece bathing suit, rubber cap and nose plugs.
I always seemed to entertain the afternoon passersby on Albert Street as I would kick my legs up in the air and do my personal version of synchronised swimming. Once most of the water had left the pool from overuse I would get out and bow to no one in particular. Seeing the pool was no more than 3 foot around and barely ankle deep I must admit it was quite the MGM presentation. In my mind I was presenting The Greatest Show on Earth!
I had never became a talented swimmer from the encouragement I got from movies, but each time I watch an old move I remember the Princess Theatre in Cowansville. Some old theatres have gone by the wayside, but the memories have lasted in our hearts, mine especially.
What do you remember about your Main Street?
Every Friday night as a young child, we would walk up Albert Street to make our way to the Main Street of Cowansville, Quebec. Everyone was there with smiles on their faces and you could hear the sounds of a jazz band playing from the Hotel. There were clothing stores filled to capacity with people purchasing things, and you could see men in haberdasheries standing on small stools being fitted with pants.
We would stop and look carefully at the store windows and then make our way down to the hat store. Their veranda was yellow and white with many gorgeous hats in the window. I watched my mother point at one and saw my father tell her to go buy it.
Inside it smelled of lilacs and I would sit on one of the fabric covered benches and watch everyone try on hats. The women who worked in the store seemed like they were right out of the fashion magazines and their hair was coiffed in the latest styles.
I remember the hat that my mother bought that day and watched the daisy trimmed straw hat being carefully wrapped up in tissue and then placed in a brown paper bag. The cookie store was next and I was allowed to buy 3 cookies covered in peppermint icing that had chocolate drizzle on them. I never touched them until I got home as I wanted to savour every bite.
After my mother died my father would take me up to Brault’s drugstore every Saturday night where I was allowed to purchase one magazine and a chocolate bar. My father never really talked to me much as he was always busy, but this brief time that we spent together each week is something I will always remember.
He would never understand the teen magazines that I bought but figured it was useless to argue with me about considering another choice. Sometimes he brought me to the Blue Bird Restaurant where we would have a chocolate milkshake and my father would talk non stop to the owner. They would talk about the fire that happened years ago and destroyed most of the street and how chain stores were coming in and might possibly ruin the smaller businesses.
One of those chain stores was Canadian Tire and when it opened there was a line up that stretched down the street and around the corner. They had sent everyone catalogues beforehand and everyone wanted to see all the good deals they professed to have. The kids got a free sucker and balloons and I remember the man that owned the hardware store nearby standing in his doorway with a huge scowl.
Main Street was the place I bought my first lipstick and eyeliner. I was in seventh heaven when pantyhose came to town and was proudly displayed in the Continental store window. That was the same store that I bought my first 45 RPM’s and actually one day I was dared to steal one by my friends – that was the first and last time I ever pulled that stunt. The fact that it was Shelley Fabares’ “Johnny Angel” was not really the perfect thing to put between your loose leaf binder with the name angel in the title.
As I got older and moved away things changed. They erected a shopping centre and an A & P came to town shutting the Dominion store down quickly. People opted to go into the air conditioned mall rather than putter along a dying street. The Princess Theatre no longer had a full house, and it only held remembrances of watching Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music with my grandmother. No longer did Bonneau’s grocery store stand on the corner and the street now held French bakeries and a cafe that sold exotic waffles with strawberries and cream.
There was no family left to complain to about the changes, and no one really remembered the old stores anyways. The Bank on the corner shut down and became a restaurant and all you could smell was retail death in the air.
The evolution of retail has hit most small towns; from Main Street to shopping malls and then on to big box stores. No one remembers when a trip to the Main Street was a big deal and now frozen food and big screen TV’s have replaced homemade cookies, theatres, and shoe stores. Now only floral displays with donated benches are many a town’s dream of hoping to attract customers that might remember what it once used to be. We know the magic is still there, you just have to remember. Remember to #supportlocal they are counting on it.
The Benefits of Having my Human Chasis
One snowy New Year’s Eve I remember leaving a dinner with friends that invited me to crowd into a Mini Austin for a ride home. It was not exactly an invite per say – it was actually more of a dare to see how many people we could fit into the “Cooper”. One by one we piled into this tiny car with me scoring a seat riding shotgun.
Since I seemed to have the largest “chassis” in the group it was only fair that I house a couple more people on my lap. There was no way in the world we would ever reach the Guinness World’s Book of Records total of 21. We had no super smart Malaysian students that had once figured out the solution and no one volunteered to sit in the boot of the car.
Packed to the rafters with 9 people the driver attempted to leave and immediately the wheels spun in the fresh new snow. We were all pretty uncomfortable at this point and voices of desperation start to surface to the top.
My father Arthur Knight always insisted that you keep bags of sand or salt in the trunk for traction in case you got stuck in the winter. However there was no sand or salt in the back end of this car, only a bunch of lightweights.
I sat in the front seat slowly losing the feeling in my legs due to the human load being forced upon me and suddenly had an idea. I could be the “living” bag of sand in the rear and hopefully that would help. After shouting out my idea everyone agreed and the doors opened with people literally falling out into the snow. I immediately got into the back end and the passengers reassumed more uncomfortable positions. With a huge push from a passerby we were off.
The car swerved and slipped in the snow but one by one we were safely dropped off and had enjoyed a life experience we would never forget. Arthur Knight’s bag of sand, who was really his daughter in this case, had saved the day.
I decided to look this traction myth up on Snopes.com and the page was completely blank. Had Arthur Knight had it all wrong? I found a few discussions on a few automotive boards and one man had this to say.
“So while extra weight generally improves traction, the only safe place to put it is in between the wheels. That’s why, for traction, we suggest car-pooling. In fact, when recruiting car-poolers, you could start by putting up a sign at Weight-Watchers.”
After more research I decided to go back to Snopes when I found another link about the topic. Again the page was blank and the lone entry was about a woman called “The Human Couch”.
Legend goes that a 500 pound woman had to be brought to the ER after she had experienced shortness of breath. While they attempted to undress her an asthma inhaler fell out of one of the folds of her arm. A shiny new dime was under her breast and a TV remote control was found in one of the folds of her lower extremities. Her family was extremely grateful they found the remote and the doctor said it was the first time he had found buried treasure.
No wonder it had been an entry selection when I typed in “sand weight and car”. I sit here and giggle about what I have written and wonder if people reading this will consider my story legend or lore. At least I wasn’t listed as “The Human Couch” because losing a TV remote is a felony I hear in some countries.
Betty Betty Betty
I always believed in Betty Crocker– well, I wanted to believe that the first lady of food was real. Similar to finding out that Nancy Drew’s author Carolyn Keene wasn’t real, one day Betty Crocker was no longer real either. I realized that dear old Betty was just a brand name and trademark developed by the Washburn Crosby Company.
The story goes that they chose Betty as her name because it sounded as American as the Apple Pie she would show us all how to make. The original Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook was first published in 1951 and everyone knows someone that has a Betty Crocker Cookbook in their home. Betty, like Margie Blake from the Carnation Company, was important to me as my mother died young, and food somehow replaced parental figures. Well, that’s what a few years of therapy taught me.
The recipes from any Betty Crocker Cookbook are from leaner times, and in the 50’s my mother used to make Tuna Pinwheels and Canned Devilled Ham Canapes for her canasta parties. Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight was a stickler for an attractive food presentation, and she also made something called Congealed Salad for holiday meals. A combination of Orange Jello, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, and wait for it, shredded cheese. I think my Dad called it “Sawdust Salad” and I seriously tried to remain clueless as to why.
Families all loved baked bread, but I guess not all people liked Betty’s Fruit Loaf recipes because on page 78 of my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook, the former owner of the book hand wrote:
“Terrible, even Nookie the dog turned it down.”
The steamed brown bread baked in a can was another baking tragedy. It was so horrible my Dad took my Grandmother’s failed recipe target shooting at the Cowansville dump. I would like to think that some of those rats got to feast on one of those brown breads. Of course, maybe after sampling it, they might have wanted to be put out of their misery.
Betty Crocker’s 7 minute-frosting that my mother would put on some of her 1950s nuclear coloured cake was a family favourite. Then there were the Floating Islands, homemade Rice Pudding, chilled with whipped cream and cinnamon on top. My grandmother’s specialty was steamed English Pudding, and when she was done, she would soak lumps of sugar with orange extract and then place them decoratively around the pudding. One by one each lump would be lighted with a match which would result in a near miss family dinner explosion each time.
Nostalgic triggers a story about our lives, helping us reflect on traditions and moments about the days when our parents and grandparents were alive. That’s why we should never lose print recipes, and real paper-based cookbooks. Those mystery meat recipes, books, and foods that were the same colour as radiation will always resonate with us because we get to see and relive the gravy stained favourites, and the personal notes in the margins. If reading about Betty Crocker has you craving a big slice of cake, you’re not alone. Time to bake!