Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about Pearl Harbor

After taking a blogging hiatus, it seems appropriate that I pop back in on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I have to admit that I was shocked to discover that it was the 70th anniversary of the attack, which left more than 2,400 American servicemen dead.  Writing about World War II makes the attack feel so much more recent and relevant in my mind, so much so that it was a bit shocking to find that today’s anniversary isn’t getting more press. Oh, it’s being mentioned in the news, but when you consider what a drastic role Pearl Harbor had in changing the course of American History, it seems awfully strange that it gets less ink that the Kardashian’s latest antics.

And what were those changes? Of course, we, as a nation, left our position of neutrality over the war and entered the fray, full tilt. This was a gross miscalculation on Japan’s part. They already knew we had greater capacity for war production and that the odds were good we could defeat them, but by attacking us on our own land, they awoke a beast so desperate for vengeance that nothing would satisfy us but complete victory.  Or as Japan’s Fleet Admiral put it, "I fear all we have done is awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with terrible resolve.”

But how else did it change us? 

  • No longer did we consider the home front safe. After years of watching wars from a distance, we had to conclude that an enemy could strike on American soil at any time, a lesson that we, sadly, learned again on September 11th.
  • Prior to Pearl Harbor, we were hardly enthusiastic about entering the war, but after the tragedy many people changed their opinions of the necessity of joining the fray. Pearl Harbor gave us a rallying cry and a convenient piece of home front propaganda to wave around as the war lingered on, we tired of the loss of life, and the restrictions on resources. No matter how self-centered you were, it would be hard not to soldier on when you were reminded of the tremendous sacrifices those who were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 made.
  •  Just as the U.S.’s policy of isolationism ended with our entry into the war, so, in some ways, did the isolation of her citizens. Faced with such tremendous loss, we enlisted, volunteered our time, gathered resources, and looked  for other ways to band together as a community for the greater good.
  • Pearl Harbor helped to instigate one of America’s favorite past times, the government conspiracy theory. Long before we obsessed over aliens landing in Roswell or the government ordering the attacks on 9/11, the American public questioned how much we knew or didn’t know about the attack on Pearl Harbor in the days before it happened.
  • The attack gave us an enemy to hate unequivocally. From the language used to describe the attack (“Sneaky”) and the caricatures of Japanese people in the media to the deportation and internment of 100,000  people of Japanese descent, Pearl Harbor gave Americans permission to hate an entire nation of people because of the actions of a few. It was an unfortunate blueprint for the ways in which we would respond to people of Middle Eastern descent after 9/11.

And, of course, perhaps the most dastardly thing about Dec. 7, 1941, is that it spawned this:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Girl is....thinking about slang

Slang is one of those terms that’s surprisingly hard to define, though I think we all intuitively known what it is and recognize it when we encounter it. It’s, basically, informal language that is often tied to a particular subculture or group. We tend to think of slang and young people’s lingo, but really it’s not restricted to youth. Those of us who adopted slang terms as teens, often continue to use the same terms well into adulthood, much to the horror of our kids. Oh, and it’s hardly an English-speaking phenomena – slang is found in most major languages.

Slang always seemed to be an oral medium, but today, with text messaging and the internet, it’s become increasingly written as well, often starting that way and then filtering into our speech.

Slang can work two ways: it can either invent new terms for familiar objects (in the late 1930s people began referring to a phone as an “Ameche,” in reference to the actor, Don Ameche, who had played Alexander Graham Bell in a film) or it can attribute new meaning to familiar words (using the word “hot” to imply someone’s good looking). The types of terms it often embodies are for “forbidden” things, which is why there are so darn many words for sex and body parts. 

Every era seems to produce its own slang, but the first half of the twentieth-century seemed particularly ripe for it. Part of that may stem from a more clearly defined youth culture. As teens became a population unto themselves after World War I, they may have found it necessary to create their own language. 

In Iris’s world the slang is coming out of the Jazz music and swing dancing phenomena – many of the terms originating in the dance halls and then filtered into other parts of society. Speaking these words means you’re branding yourself as part of that subculture. Suze, Rhona and Maria all use terms that would’ve originally been spoken at places like the Savoy.

But that isn’t the only kind of slang Iris encounters.  Her more upper class friends use teen-speak that probably developed out of their cliques. And the world around her is increasingly using G.I. talk, a unique form of slang developing out of the war. 

It can be a challenge to figure out how to integrate slang into a story without overwhelming the writing. On the one hand, the terms are going to be unfamiliar to your audience and may potentially rip them out of the story. On the other, though, if you’re trying to realistically depict a subsection of the population during a moment in history, you have to honestly depict how they communicated with each other, and that means integrating some of these unfamiliar terms and hoping your audience can suss out the meaning from the context. It can feel forced if you don’t do it delicately and you can, of course, completely overwhelm the dialogue by using too much slang (see my first Rosie Winter novel, when I was enjoying slang a little too much).  Sometimes utilizing the rhythm of how people talked “back then” is just as successful as sprinkling dialogue with unfamiliar words.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about occupational hazards

I’m going to tell you one of the worst things about being a mystery writer. It’s not rejection, or bad reviews, or writer’s block (though all of those certainly make me question my vocation), it’s that writing mysteries has ruined reading mysteries for me.
I was reminded of this last week as I reached the halfway point on a book I was really enjoying reading. Just like that, long before the narrator or anyone else in the story, I was certain I knew who was behind the murders and why. And what had been a pleasant escape for the bus ride to work became irritating: why can’t everyone in this story see what’s so freaking obvious to me?

Probably, because they’re fictional. And not writers. I can’t turn off the writer part of my brain when I read, which not only means that I’m frequently revising other people’s sentences, but I’m also painfully aware of the mechanics of the story: the clues, the suspects, the red herrings. It’s highly unusual for me not to have the culprit pegged before I reach the halfway point of a book. When I don’t, it’s dizzyingly exciting, especially when the novel is well-constructed enough that I should’ve seen it coming but didn’t. But when I do pick up on things too fast, I’m left wondering if it’s the fault of the writer for making the solution so obvious, or if the fault lies with me being more attuned to what to look for than the average  bear.
It’s part of the reason that I don’t write book reviews. It hardly seems fare to lambast a mystery for being too easy when I’m not really sure that’s the case. More often than not, I find myself reading other people’s reviews to confirm if the problem I experienced is widespread or unique to me.
This plot prognostication spills over to other media too: my husband hates watching mysteries or thrillers with me because I’ll peg the culprit early on. I’ve learned not to say it out loud, but he can always tell when that “aha!” has hit me and the rest of the evening devolves into his begging me to tell him what I think is going on.
This sixth sense can be detrimental to my own work. I’m so desperate to make a mystery hard to solve that I worry that I over complicate things so that readers like me won’t be spoiled halfway through the book. I do have rules though: any solution must be supported by the text, so that the re-reader can go back and see that the answer was there, if heavily cloaked, just like in the books I love. I don’t want the reader to feel cheated because I didn’t bother to introduce the culprit until the last chapter. As anyone who’s ever been a debater knows: you can’t have new arguments in the 2AR.
Have you been surprised by a mystery lately (in a good way)?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about historical fiction

As a writer of historical fiction, it probably comes as no surprise that I’m a passionate reader of the genre. I thought I’d discuss some of my favorite reads and why they so inspired me.

1.       Max Allan Collins’s Nathan Heller series. Collins had made himself so ubiquitous through his extraordinary prolificness that I often wonder if he hasn’t cloned himself. The most amazing thing is, despite his constant output, everything he writes is so darn good – he’s definitely not an example of a writer spreading himself too thin. I stumbled upon his Nathan Heller series quite by accident, but it’s one of the things that inspired me to want to write historical fiction. The series starts in the 1930s in Chicago and features not just a delightfully rendered historical backdrop (I learned so much about the World’s Fair from the first book in the series) but three dimensional  depictions of historic figures like Frank Nitti and Al Capone. Later tales tackle Ma Barker and her kin, Dillinger, J. Edgar Hoover, World War II,  the Lindbergh kidnapping,  Marilyn Monroe, the Black Dahlia and many, many many more. I must confess I haven’t read all the books yet, but the ones I have devoured were amazing and his use of real people effective without being hokey. Collins has reissued the series through Amazon’s Encore program.

2.       John Dunning’s Two O’Clock Eastern Wartime. This was the book that started my juices flowing about World War II. Dunning sets his book on the U.S. homefront at a radio station (old time radio is a specialty of Dunning, who's a collector in the field) and creates a humdinger of a mystery involving a 4F writer, saboteurs, Irish nationalists, the Boer War, and the actors and technicians who populate radio sttaion. He’s not heavy-handed with his history but does a beautiful job evoking the era.

3.      Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost. A dear friend recommended this book and I remember thinking he was crazy if he thought  this would even be remotely interesting to me. It’s set in the 17th century England, a period I never had any interest in, and deals with topics like the invention of blood transfusions, the English civil war, complicated inheritance legalities – things that I didn't give a fig about. But the writing is so amazing, the story so complex, the  mystery so amazing that I devoured all 704 page of this book.
And learned a lot in the process.

How about you? Got a favorite historical novel you’d like to share?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about a pot pourri of things

Just a few quick things that are up and around the web:

I guest-blogged on Coffee with a Canine last week.

I also guest-blogged on Writer's Read.

And, finally, The Girl is Murder now has a teacher's guide! Download the PDF at my homepage, and feel free to share it with any teachers you know who may be interested.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about rationing during World War II

In The Girl is Murder, Iris makes reference to the various rations that are currently underway: sugar, gas, butter, coffee, clothing, and other home items. So what is rationing?
Rationing is a way of mandating a reduced use of resources that are either no longer easily attainable, or need to be used elsewhere, usually by the military. Rationing began in the U.S. in 1942 with the tire ration, a necessity since the source for rubber needed to make tires, East Asian countries, had been conquered by the Japanese and was no longer available to the Americans. In order to slow down the wear and tear on tires people already owned, the speed limit was lowered, a gas ration was instituted to limit the amount of driving you could do, along with a ban on pleasure driving and races like the Indie 500.
Other rations, like restrictions on food, were instituted because the troops needed the food. Similarly, clothing was rationed so that the cloth could be used to make uniforms.  Because a lot of factories were converted to make products needed for the war – planes, ammunition, etc. – a lot of products were no longer available, like new appliances, cars, and even typewriters.
In addition to rationing, programs were started to encourage people to collect things for the war effort. People saved fats and turned them in so that they might be used to make things like nitroglycerin for bombs. They turned over their silk and nylon stockings and underthings so that they might be used to make parachutes.  They collected tin cans and newspapers for the effort.
Just like in today’s increasingly green world we’re encouraged to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” during World War II people on the homefront were told to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” to decrease the amount of waste and demand for various products.
As a way of combating the restrictions on food and contributing to the war effort, a lot of people began creating "V-Gardens." They would can their surplus food and donate it when possible.
So how was rationing controlled? Each person in a household received a rationbook which included coupons for the controlled items. Once you used up your coupons, that was it until the next ration book was issued. Ration stamps were valid only for a set period, to forestall hoarding, though plenty of people tried to hoard certain goods before rations started.
To receive a ration card for gasoline, you had to prove you had a legitimate need for gas and owned no more than five tires (anymore than five tires would be confiscated). You were then assigned a letter than determined how many gallons you would be allotted. An A sticker meant you could receive a piddly 3 to 4 gallons of gasoline per week. B stickers were issued to workers in the military industry, entitling their holder up to 8 gallons of gasoline per week. C stickers were granted to persons who were essential to the war effort, such as doctors. T rations were made available for truckers. Lastly, X stickers on cars entitled the holder to unlimited supplies and were the highest priority in the system. And the most frequently counterfitted.
That was the other side of rationing: a rising black market on those goods that were no longer available. A lot of people, particularly the mob, saw rationing as an opportunity to make money by creating counterfit ration tickets and supplying the restricted goods at greatly inflated prices. And while the government tried to counter these illegal efforts by reminding people that this was illegal and immoral, there were enough people who were tired of doing without to keep this underground effort in business.
It’s entirely possible that rationing wasn’t actually necessary during World War II, at least not the extreme that it was instituted. Instead, it may have been a way to improve morale but letting people who couldn’t serve believe that they were contributing to the war effort. By making a sacrifice people who otherwise felt powerless about the war, believed they were making a difference.
How do you think people might react to rationing today? Do you think instituting rationing would make you feel more invested in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about fashion of the forties

At the beginning of The Girl is Murder, Iris is thrust into the world of public school, where not only does she have to deal with going to school side by side with boys for the first time, but she’s no longer able to disappear into the comfortable anonymity of a school uniform. And you know what that means: agonizing about what she's going to wear each day.
So what did young women wear in the forties?
Keep in mind that shopping options weren’t what they are today. You could buy off the rack, but it would cost you, especially during the war when the options were severely limited by restrictions on cloth. Your wardrobe tended to be small, and much of it was probably home-sewn, or passed down from an older sibling and adapted to look a little bit more modern (raise the hem, change the buttons, add a belt).

For girls, clean and tailored was the look, whether young or old. Shirt and blouses were tucked in, clothes were fitted, never too big, (clothing rationing, to the joy of men everywhere, meant shorter skirts and tighter sweaters). The exception was the sloppy joe sweater, which was long and loose fitting. For school, you most likely would’ve worn dresses and skirts cut to knee length, and a blazer or a cardigan. 

For casual wear, teen girls often wore baggy blue jeans that were often rolled up just below the knee (and sometimes they’d embellish their pants with paint and drawings). In fact, teens were encouraged to wear more pants than in past years, especially girls who got wartime jobs, where clothing (and long hair!) could present a real danger. Plus, pants had the added advantage of being good hand me downs since they weren’t gender specific (of course, try convincing your little brother of that).
Hair tended toward more elaborate for adolescent girls since clothing was so heavily rationed. So if you wanted to express your individuality, you did it by twisting, curling, and teasing your locks like your favorite Hollywood stars, especially Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. Similarly, hats were a great way to express yourself and they weren’t rationed the way other pieces of clothing were.
Shoes were flat unless you were going swing dancing. Girls would wear loafers, oxfords, or saddle shoes with short, cotton socks. Shoes were heavily rationed too (more on that in a future blog) so odds were good that you didn’t have a lot of pairs to rotate through.
Since nylons were also being rationed, if you didn’t wear socks, you went barelegged. Young women who didn’t like the casualness of this look (which also meant – gasp – having to shave) would put makeup on their legs to mimic the effect of stockings, and draw seams up the backs of the legs to create the illusion that they were fully dressed.

Oh, and as for bras and underwear? They were formidable -- all about creating shape, not ensuring comfort. If you couldn't afford to buy one, or -- gulp -- receive one as a hand me down, yours may have also been home sewn using parachutes or old wedding dresses to provide the silk.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about swing dancing

In The Girl is Murder, Iris is indoctrinated into the world of swing dancing when she visits a Harlem dance club with her new friend Suze. There she is schooled on this type of dancing that is synonymous with jazz and other musical styles from the 1940s.
So what is swing dancing? It originates a lot earlier than World War II, earlier than even jazz of the 1920s. It began in African American communities and really flourished there, though it was adopted by all aspects of society. There are a lot of different named dances that are considered swing, the best known of which are the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug. When we think of swing dancing, we tend to think of the “swing out” – a move where whomever is leading the dance leaves a closed position with their partner and moves into an open position. It sounds simple and dainty, but swing has evolved this move so that often times the swing out involves feats of athleticism, daring gymnastics, and even what reads to an audience like brutality toward one’s partner (there’s definitely a sense that the dancers are often trying to top one another). Like Jazz, one of the key elements to swing is that it involves improvisation, even though there are a lot of key steps that are considered standard during the dances, and a relaxed sense of timing that gives the best performances a sense that they’re being done with a lot more ease than could be possible.
But the best way to understand swing, is to watch it. This is one of my favorite clips, from the 1941 film “Hellzapoppin,” in which the dancers are doing the Lindy Hop:

Keep in mind these folks were the best of the best; most average joe’s performed a much more staid version of this dance, as demonstrated in MGM’s short “Groovie Movie,” which attempts to demystify the jitterbug:

Music is of course key to swing dancing (and a subject for another day) but there is also a whole culture that springs up around it. As in The Girl is Murder, swing dancers, and jazz musicians, had their own lingo from which terms like “hep cat” gave rise, and they had their own fashion. Zoot suits became associated with swing, though their roots were elsewhere, and women donned dresses with bias cut skirts that could fan full out when they twirled, often revealing whatever they had on beneath it. The goal was to be fashionable, but able to maintain a full range of movement.

Just a reminder that the launch party for The Girl is Murder is tomorrow (Saturday!) at 2:00 at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA. I hope to see you there!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Girl is...thinking about young adult books

We interrupt our normal blog about World War II popular culture, for this brief commercial: I have books. Beautiful, shiny new books. And next Saturday, you can have one too, if you join me for the launch of The Girl is Murder at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA at 2:00 PM. We’ll be celebrating with locally brewed root beer and cream soda, and other assorted treats.
Here’s a quick blurb for those of you who aren’t familiar with my spanking new series:
It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business.
And here’s a little praise:
“What makes this such a standout is the cast. Sounding like they’re right out of the 1940s (well, a 1940’s movie, anyway), the characters, young and old, pop off the pages. Iris, intriguing and infuriating, captures the tension inherent in the teenage years, no matter what the decade. This joint is jumping.” —Booklist, Starred Review
I know what you’re thinking: I’m a grown up. Why would I buy a young adult book unless I was getting it as a gift for a young adult?
Allow me to dispel a few misconceptions about what Young Adult means in the book world:
1.     Young Adult books are only for young adults. While you can be too young to read young adult (see picture at right), you can never be too old. If Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have taught us nothing else, it’s that good stories transcend age.
2.     Young adult means vampires and other supernatural beasties. Look, I know that certain books containing sparkly, moody vampires have been enormously popular and have done much to get previously reluctant readers to turn to books for their entertainment. I don’t begrudge them a bit. But if you’ve avoiding reading YA because you think that’s all young adult fiction has to offer, fear not – there are a lot of amazing stories out there with nary a hint of the supernatural.
3.     Young adult means rudimentary writing. Now there are some fighting words! Some of the most exquisite writing I’ve encountered has been in the YA world. Sure, the writing tends to be more compact, the stories more immediate, but that’s hardly a flaw.
4.     Young adult means preachy morals and sanitized plots. Maybe back in the day when Go Ask Alice was all the rage (and even then, while there was a preachy plot, there was hardly a sanitized one – sex and drugs – oh my!), but today’s young adult novels are far from heavy-handed morality tales. Sure, some of the best contain a takeaway for the reader, but that’s hardly the only thing they contain. And the stories are much more sophisticated than you might believe. It’s not all brooding high school students worried about what to wear to the prom. The best characters emulate real people – with all their flaws, naughty words, and bad decisions firmly intact. 
5.     People will judge me for reading kids books. Um, no. Just no. And if you’re that concerned about what the nameless, faceless masses think, get a kindle (it’s harder to figure out what someone’s reading when there’s no cover) or remove the dustcover from another book and disguise it with that.  I recommend War and Peace. What could sound more adult than that?
Look, YA might not be for you and that’s okay. But keep in mind that like most divisions in the publishing world, the YA designation can often feel arbitrary, assigned to a book because of the age of the characters rather than because of their level of sophistication.
Got a YA recommendation to get someone started? Hit the comments!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Girl is....watching movies

When I was a kid, my mom bombarded my sister and me with films from the 1930s and ‘40s (with an occasional one from the ‘50s and ‘60s). I think, in her mind, it was a way of keeping us from the sex and violence of more contemporary movies, although truth be told there was just as much sex and violence, it just tended to start onscreen and quickly move off. Too poor for cable, I was initially reluctant to enjoy these Friday night black and white Blockbuster picks (couldn’t we at least get a movie in…gasp…color?), but I eventually fell in love with them. There’s something about the clothes, the dialogue, the music, the everything that made these films so much more of a fantasy than things being released in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I yearned to talk like the women who populated these films, to move with their slinky grace and assurance, to express emotion with a raised eyebrow, a flick of  a cigarette, and a single tear that fell without making my face red and my nose run.

Yeah, they had style. They had grace. 

And now that I have access to AMC and TCM I get to indulge in my love of all things Old Hollywood whenever I want. Here are a few of my favorites:

Stage Door (1937). Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers. A group of girls inhabit a boarding house for actresses in New York and go through the trials and tribulations of becoming stars. Katharine Hepburn as the rich girl playing poor lured me in, but it’s Ginger Rogers with her fast patter and fantastic dance steps that makes me keep coming back to this movie. The dialogue zings, but as funny of a movie as it is, it’s got an emotional one-two punch at its center. This is the movie that inspired my Rosie Winter mystery series set among (you guessed it) actresses living in a New York boarding house.

Philadelphia Story (1940). It’s my namesake, Katharine Hepburn again, this time paired with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. More razor sharp dialogue (both Stage Door and Philadelphia Story were originally plays and it shows) as Hepburn’s Tracy Lord gets ready to remarry despite unresolved feelings for her ex, Cary Grant. While the three top billed stars are amazing, it’s the supporting cast I love in this film, especially Virginia Weidler as precocious Dinah Lord and acerbic Ruth Hussey as a love-lorn, wise-cracking photographer.

His Girl Friday (1940). The plot is similar to Philadelphia Story, but this time its Rosalind Russell’s fast-talking reporter that Cary Grant is trying to keep from remarrying, while she gets roped into the biggest story of her career. Another play turned film, what’s intriguing isn’t just the marvelous, quotable dialogue but the fact that Russell’s part (in the play, The Front Page) was originally written for a man and the romance angle wasn’t added until this film. 

All About Eve (1950). This time it’s Bette Davis in the lead in a film about an up and coming actress (Anne Baxter) who’s trying to usurp the career of one of theater’s grande dames. Witty, gut-wrenching, agonizingly frustrating, this is the movie that made me finally understand why Bette Davis was a star. Bonus points: it was Marilyn Monroe’s first film.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). This is my sole World War II entry (thought there’s a lot of other films I could list), but this is the one that really got me thinking about the war and its impact on the homefront and those who were left behind. The movie follows three vets as they return home and find their lives irreparably changed. Harold Russell, a real vet who lost both his hands in the South Pacific, won an Oscar for this, his film debut. It’s one of the few films that deals with what came after the war and how difficult it was for the returning vets to slip back into the lives they’d left four years before.

How ‘bout you? Got a favorite old movie you’d like to suggest?

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Girl is....interviewing Beverly Pollock

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular feature, interviewing folks who grew up during World War II about what their experiences. If you or someone you know would like be interviewed, let me know!

About Beverly Pollock: 
Bev (second from left -- hubba! hubba!) during the war.
Beverly Pollock (second from left) is a retired Director of Communications for the United Jewish Federation.  An accomplished writer, she authored “Quoth the Maven,” the national column that originated in the Jewish Chronicle, and the “Slightly Irreverent” column in the Monroeville Times-Express.  Her play Looking for Magic was workshopped at the Pitt Theatre, University of Pittsburgh and her full-length play It's Business, inspired in part on her experiences during World War II, had a staged reading at the Pittsburgh JCC in 2008.  With Shirley Katz she co-wrote and co-hosted a daily radio show "Those Two," for the average American housewife and the ordinary, everyday nuclear physicist.  Their “Will the Real Economy-Size Package Please Stand Up?” was performed throughout North America and recognized by President Lyndon Johnson at his signing of the Truth-in-Packaging Bill.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette honored her with the Community Champion Award because of her work in the AIDS Community. As a tribute to two precious sons who died of AIDS, Robert in 1991 and Larry in 1995, she and her late husband Mel founded Jews with AIDS in the Family with the support of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the UJF.  Today she continues to volunteer at the Shepherd Wellness Community, the only AIDS Community Center in Western PA.   

What year did you graduate from high school?  

Where was your high school?  
Girls High School in Atlanta, GA.

How did you get to and from school?  
Street car.  Had to transfer mid way.  That's how you met your girl friends from over the city and gabbed all the way to school.  Sometimes I got car sick if I didn't eat breakfast first.  Often I had to stand all the way.

What did you wear to school each day?  
Skirt, shirt, bobby sox, saddle shoes.  Sometimes you wore a ribbon in the back of your hair.  The night after a prom, you would wear the flowers in your hair, on the side.

What was your typical school day like?  Who were your closest friends?  
Took French and Latin.  Hated geometry, algebra.  Wrote a skit for some kind of yearly school day... Loved to pun.  Lillian  Rosenberg and Rose Reisman were my closest friends along with Sarah Spiegelman, who actually had classes with me.  Mother thought my friend Lillian must be wild because her folks gave her a car for her 16th birthday, an unheard of thing.    

Were you allowed to date?  
Yes.  My first big crush was on Leon Rocamora, who was a senior at GA Tech when I was a senior at Girls High.  We met when I was emcee of a party my club (the Cardozians, named after Supreme Justice Cardozo) gave.  Most of my remarks were puns and he got up and started making puns too (even though he was with another girl and I another boy).  I remember his line: "Let's Beverly the hatchet!"  I can remember a fraternity party he took me to, how carefully I did my hair, etc.  And we double dated with his friend who rented a Model T.  We sat in the open back rumble seat and my hair just flew in the breeze.  But he didn't seem to mind!  I met Mel the summer after I graduated from High School.

What did you do for fun on Friday and Saturday nights?  
Movies (I saw the opening night festivities of "Gone with the Wind" on Peachtree Street (which was closed off) near the Fox Theatre in 1939 and saw in person Clark Gable, Carole Lombard (his wife), Vivien Leigh, Evelyn Keyes (an Atlanta girl who used to live on the same block as I did when I was in grade school).  We also bowled a lot, except it was with the small pins.  I never saw the larger pins until I moved up Nawth.

Did you have a curfew?  
Not really.  But I had enough sense to call my folks if I'd be out after 11.

Would you consider yourself a good girl or a bad girl?   
By the way, we used the term "wild," not "bad girl."   

In your mind, what sorts of behaviors did bad girls engage in?  
I was a nice girl, as you would expect.  I never really heard of "bad" girls who went all the way.  Every girl was a virgin until she got married.  A wild girl would neck and (gasp) pet with all the guys.  Necking was from the neck up; petting was from the neck down.  You had to be careful of boys with "WHT"  (wandering hand trouble).

What’s your earliest memory of the war?  
I was a freshman, a day student; (today you might call me a commuter) at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA.  Today it is a very fine school, at the top of women's colleges.  In 1941 there were about 500 students.  I remember going to Murphey Candler  Hall to hear the address by President Roosevelt, declaring war.  He was a magnificent speaker.  I confess I was pretty shallow initially.  My main worry was whether my boy friend Mel, who was to come visit me at the end of the month, would still be able to drive down.  He was.

How did the war change life for you?  
The war made us grow up in a hurry.  Mel and I got married May 18, 1944 in New Haven, Ct while he was stationed at Yale.  We went to NYC on weekends and got great tickets at theatres because he was a serviceman.  Usually we would just pay the minimum $1.20 ticket but if there were spaces, the usher would give us the upgraded $2.40 ticket or the prized $3.60 orchestra or loge ticket seat.  We were together for several idyllic months in Augusta GA, while he was in the Air Corps, and then he was sent to a couple places I couldn't go to and then overseas in 1945 to the China/Burma/India Theatre - - in Calcutta for 13 months before he was discharged on March 17, 1946.  I'll always remember St. Paddy's Day with great fondness!  For most of the time I was in Atlanta with my folks and working in our little grocery store.  I can tell you some stories about our war time experiences.  Then I went to Gallitzin the Oct before Mel came home because his father was not well.

Thanks, Bev!