Stars in stripes


‘Looking back and Fourth’

For the past several summers we’ve had this fun Fourth of July tradition where we let The Child fill up our house with as many of her friends as we have beds to lay their pretty little heads on. Sometimes it’s guys and girls; sometimes ‘just’ girls. The Dude and I are happy with either arrangement, though we have noticed that when it’s girls-only, the Young Friends seem more inclined to activity — like going to the beach, hopping on the bikes, or heading into town to catch what’s up at The Talkhouse.  

Last year’s crop of Nation’s Birthday Beauties. Haven’t wrestled this year’s photo out of The Dude’s camera yet. But, trust me, they’re equally sparkly

(The guys, when the guest list includes them, seem content to hang around The Compound, sipping beer and, well, being content. Sometimes they bestir themselves to demonstrate their CrossFit routines; there was a Matt-shaped indentation in our lawn for a few post-Fourth days one year. Oh, and one other memorable Fourth, Somebody’s BF soaked his iPhone in our hot tub, though not intentionally. BTW, putting a soaked iPhone into a jar of rice does not dry it out, no matter what you may have read on the internet.)

Speaking of food, this year I inaugurated a new tradition: The USA Birthday Cake. From Carvel, of course. No, we didn’t sing

But hey, anything anybody wants to do — or not do — is A-okay with me. I’m happy to provide food — beaucoup de food — and stay the heck out of the way. I was in the kitchen in the midst of doing just that when one of this year’s Young Lovelies (and they are — lovely — each and every one of them) strolled by on her way to the pool, and I happened to catch the unmistakable whiff of — Coppertone.

Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t smelled Coppertone in years. Oh sure, I’ve slathered on sunscreen with the necessary requisite gusto, but the slathering has been done with, well, sterner brands with no scents and certainly no memory triggers. Whereas this Coppertone-y aroma sent me hurtling down an olfactory Memory Highway.

All of a sudden I was sixteen again — sunbathing away on our picnic table in our Midwestern back yard, sipping Kool-Aid and listening to KXOK on my transistor radio. See, these were the days when ‘sunscreen’ was called ‘suntan lotion’, the point being not to screen yourself from the sun, but to invite said sun to tan you, and tan you silly. All of us back then aspired to a mahogany sheen, the better to contrast with our summer outfits of madras shorts and pale button-down shirts.

Madras-bedecked Me. With Granny Glasses for an extra shot of cool

In fact, if we weren’t slathering on a commercial suntan lotion, we were basting ourselves with a homemade speed-tanning concoction of baby oil with a few drops of iodine mixed in. The iodine was not for medicinal purposes — oh no — it was to darken the baby oil so that it would darken us even faster. Sometimes we would even use little metal reflectors to direct those tanning rays at hard-to-reach spots, like armpits.

Oh, there was this stuff called QT, which was short for, I think, ‘Quick Tanning’, that was supposed to tan you without the sun (but why would anyone want that?) or, you could use it to sort of ‘jump-start’ your tan. I guess you could say it was the very first self-tanner, but it certainly didn’t catch on. One of my friends in high school who was a pale-skinned burned-all-too-easily redhead (poor thing) tried it, and it turned her not tan, but decidedly orange. Stripey and orange.

Yes, we were all big Tanners in those days, the only danger from the sun being a burn. And we weren’t even all that afraid of sunburn either. We considered it a ‘base’ that would ‘turn to tan’. Those were the (naive) days! Oh, and if you’re wondering why I was doing all this tanning on a picnic table instead of a beach, it’s because we didn’t have one. A beach, that is. My town in the Midwest was hundreds of miles from any natural beach. And this was well before the opening of Lake Carlyle, Illinois’ largest (man-made, complete with beach) lake, which you can read about here, and which celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary just a couple of weeks ago, Jeez.

This was the closest we got to a beach in those days: Jantzen’s Resort, which was a sort of lake with trucked-in sand. Yes, that bikini-clad beflipped beauty on the left is, um, me. And I’m thinking that bodacious babe in the foreground is none other than Mom

But enough about beaches. Let’s talk about that flip. The hair flip, that is. This Time Before Sunscreen was also the Time Before Blow Dryers. Which meant that if you wanted to style your hair, you went to the Beauty Parlor and got a ‘wash and set’, which you didn’t touch for a week. (Mainly ‘older’ women, like in their twenties, did this, and the result looked sort of helmet-like.) Or you put your hair up in rollers, usually applying something called ‘setting lotion’, let it dry, and then brushed it out, achieving the then-fashionable Patty-Duke-style ‘flip’. My friends and I did this. (If you were really cool, you went around all day Saturday with your hair in rollers because this meant that you had a date that night.)

My memories of that flip, having also been triggered by that Coppertone scent (which my young lovely friend told me is now back in fashion; though now it’s Coppertone ‘Sunscreen’, thank you very much) reminded me of the product we used to achieve it. It was called Dippity-Do. And, believe it or not, I was able to recite all the lyrics to its jingle. If you (probably) can’t, here’s the commercial. (Still pretty nifty, though it seems so loooong. They were all 60-second spots in those days. Think of it!)

Speaking of hair and of what-goes-around-comes-around, when I mentioned to my Young Friend that we also used to spray this stuff called Sun In on our hair, then sat in the sun so we’d get nice blonde streaks (thinking she’d be as amazed to hear this as she was to hear me reciting styling gel lyrics), she was, like, “Oh yeah, Sun In. We use that too.” Gosh. Is everything old new again?

What goes around, comes around, Stripes Division. Oh, and yes, those are an early version of ‘ear buds’

Happy Birthday, USA. And Happy Fourth, everyone!

Amagansett, New York. July 2017

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20 thoughts on “Stars in stripes

  1. I still catch myself calling it suntan lotion at times…my bad…Trying to sleep in the rollers that was the worst as was trying to sleep in the rags my mother used to put in our hair so we had lovely ringlets..I did love my hair when it flicked up all the way round…Happy Days….Thank you for the memories 🙂 #SeniorSalon

  2. Thanks for making me realize that being a brunette with naturally wavy (not curly, like my poor daughters, for which I can blame their blonde dad) hair was an advantage, “once upon a time very long ago.”

  3. I love your outfits in the first picture. Also, my husband calls sunscreen, suntan lotion all the time–I’m tell him, that is not the same thing ?. I have used Sun-In in the past, but lemon juice works just as well! ??‍♀️

  4. Deborah

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now. I think it turned up on my FB feed somehow. I love reading your stories, I too am about the same age, and remember all that same stuff. Oh, and I was raised Lutheran, although I haven’t been in a church for a long time (except for my friend’s kid’s weddings). I grew up mostly in Miami, FL although all of my relatives lived back in the Midwest, so I spent many summers there. Keep it up!

    • Why, thank you so much Deborah! So glad you and I found each other, Lapsed Lutherans as we are (!) The Midwest was/is a wonderful place, yes? And the memories are certainly rich — and ripe for storytelling. I’ve been spinning my tales for about three years now (thanks to The Child, who encouraged me, mainly so she didn’t have to hear the same stories over and over). Come back any time for more! xoxo

  5. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Ha, ha, I used Dippity Do, but I sure don’t remember that commercial..fireworks were Saturday here at Carlyle Lwke which we watched from the Fish House on the bank of the lake. Their little band really sounded good after a few glasses of wine! A fun evening!

    • Oh, Ruth, how I would have loved to have been there with you! I remember fireworks over the Lake with fondness, for sure! Amazing memories of watching from the top of the good ole Sir Launch-A-Lot. Sigh. Oh, and I read about the Fish House — it’s new, yes? Sounds like lots of fun. Double sigh. xoxox

  6. Delightful break to the day, reading of your young people lightening the world, how we used to work hard to be beautiful and just your optimism in general, Alice. Dippity-do I do remember. Actually, my mother used rag strips to roll our hair – lots of curls and waves. Have a great July 4th, Alice, you and the Dude.

    • Ah, those rag strips! Didn’t experience those myself, but I do remember being subjected to pincurls. (ouch!) And yes, I also remember my mother saying (as I squirmed under the hairbrush) “It takes pain to be beautiful.” Of course she hadn’t yet met my daughter or her bevy of naturally-beautilicious buds!

  7. Sharon McGavin

    Oh, the memories! And the Dippitdo commercial. I remember that stuff. And Coppertone. What a blast. — And your gang of young beauties look fabulous. So much fun.

    • Yes! It WAS fun. Alas, they are all gone now, having left to re-enter their glamorous lives. It’s just me now, on the deck with a glass of wine and my iPad, wishing I’d come up with a commercial half as memorable as that darned Dippity-Do spot (!)

  8. This was a great trip down memory lane! I was completing your sentences before I read them with my memories of the same experiences! Except I used orange juice cans to make my hair straight, with the pink tape to hold down the bangs…

    • Hey Janet! So glad you could relate! As for the orange juice cans, I used them too. Only that was when I was in college (urk). I didn’t know about taping down your bangs. But then, I didn’t have bangs. So there’s that.

  9. Wow .. We must be nearly the same age .. all mentioned products were purchased and used by me. I too am from the Midwest, but lucky enough to have had and still do have the gorgeous Lake Michigan, our ocean, to play in. Anyway your memories zap me back to my youth. I enjoy all that you remember and are kind enough to share. Oh .. you forgot to mention the electric hair dryers we all sat under .. the one with the inflatable plastic bonnet 😉 an item that was on every girls Christmas or birthday list. 🙂
    Sharon Fuller Langley

    • Hi there Sharon! You are so right; forgot to mention the hair dryers. I’m pretty sure my mom had one, but I don’t think it was until maybe I was in college, so I didn’t have use of it at the time. Do you remember hot rollers? That was a Huge Deal, but again, not till a bit later. And I think I have some friends who still use them. Oh, and um, yup, I’m thinking you and I are about the same vintage — a pretty nice vintage at that!

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