THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #9
Once a month, the Old York Road would take us to the village of Cockeysville, Maryland and the Farmers Grange where you could by hog slop and chicken feed or ... visit the drug store with the wooden Indian outside of the front door. Mummy liked to visit Miss Maude’s. Miss Maude ran a lady’s’ dress shop which had at the most, perhaps thirty dresses, which hung forlornly on wire hangars against the wall, on shining steel pipes. The store was painted mint green. On the other side of the store were two glass-enclosed cases, which displayed several pair of ladies gloves, faux pearls, silk stockings and petticoats. There was nothing in the middle of the store. Mummy would love to chat with Miss Maude and catch up on the latest chatter about town.
Cockeysville was also the home of our dressmaker: Mrs. Minick. Dear Mrs. Minick! Immediately after passing through the Cockeysville Tunnel, make a “U” turn to the left and serpentine your way up and around another sharp turn to the right, past the cemetery on the left and you will find Mrs. Minick’s magic house on the right hand side of the road. A precious little white cottage with a picket fence and tidy gardens lined with roses, foxgloves and Baby’s Breath...An apple tree and a pear tree bloomed in the back yard with a clothesline stretched between the two. Petticoats, dresses and long under wear were pinned to the clothesline with wooden clothespins. Inside, her home, hand hooked rugs designed with a cabbage rose pattern covered the polished floors. There was a dark Victorian table covered in hand crocheted lace and a large glass bowl filled with needles, threads, scissors and what-not. The upholstered chair arms were dressed with white lace antimacassars. Long lace curtains breezed away from the open windows carrying the scent of pear and apple blossoms to our noses, while my sister and I would be fitted for dresses to be worn in the weddings of relatives. Twins with big brown eyes and golden blond curls were a very popular choice to have as your flower girls if you were getting married. I remember at least three weddings in which my sister Easy and I would carry the train of the bride down the Aisle of a church or in a beautiful summer garden. Weddings were very special occasions and our mother made us practice at home with bed sheets belted to her waist. The three of us would march up and down the living room at Bacon Hall Farm, making very sure not to pull the train off of the bride! Our full-length dresses were stitched in pale blue organdy, with tiny box pleats covering the bodice. A pastel portrait was made of us by Kitty Wheeling which now hangs over the fireplace at Kelsey Farm in Greenwich CT....We were adorable and lovely …. Everyone told us so. (However, times and our shapes do change. I can really recognize that now that I am in my late seventies. and... "OMG what happened?" ...when I view myself from the neck down, after gravity and the Dairy Queen have taken their toll.) Broad sashes tugged our tummies into a big beautiful bow in the back. A second set of dresses was ordered in Lavender organdy with dainty baby lace to trim the collars. Matching barrettes, were also made by our mother. She hand painted tiny bunches of wild flowers, so that they would match our dresses. Mrs. Minick also made our dresses for dancing class. Dancing class dresses were made in red, black, or royal blue velvet with Peter Pan collars trimmed in a creamy white lace. Sunday School dresses were made of cotton and in many colors. All of them were hand smocked and had matching bloomers! Clothes were incredibly important to our mother and fashion was a very serious subject indeed. She was herself was a wizard with the sewing machine and she made all of her own clothes. Our mother was always beautifully dressed throughout her lifetime … and so was my Grandmother, all because Mrs. Minick made it so. I tell you this because I am quite sure, that her little house is still there today and that you can go and see it for yourself.
THE ANGEL'S STORY Chapter #10
My twin sister “Easy” and I were six years old when we left Troy, New York and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut into a small rented apartment over a garage and stable on the South end of Otter Rock Drive. We lived in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich in a Victorian carriage house that was situated behind a splendid Victorian home. On the backside of the property, green lawns stretched themselves over acres of flower filled gardens bordering our playing fields. Tennis courts and a swimming pool were nearby and always there were lots of children to play with. Activities were endless, even in the winter. Mummy would drive us to Playland in Rye, New York where we rented ice skates for twenty five cents a pair and whizzed around the rink to god-awful organ music … but that didn’t matter because just being there was the greatest holiday ever. This particular activity was usually undertaken with Elsie Fisher and her seven children because she owned an old wooden Pontiac station wagon. All of us could stuff ourselves into it. No seat belts or safety seats in those days … “No-sir-re”… That would have been sissy stuff and would have interrupted our most excellent adventures.
Belle Haven was absolutely gorgeous and still is today; a botanical wonder, close to the beach on Long Island Sound. The seasons waxed and waned according to the whims of Mother Nature. There was almost no traffic in Belle Haven and it was a truly safe for children to wander about this quiet peninsula unaccompanied. Here, neighbors knew each other and life was enjoyed. The War seemed so very far away … It would be many years before I would come to understand the Wars and the tremendous sacrifices made on our behalf by our fathers and mothers and the many hundreds of thousands of young men and women who fought and died for an idea called “America.”
Home was heated with bituminous coal in a cast iron stove in the kitchen, which served both to cook our food: heat the house and dry our clothes. Ice often covered the inside of our windows and the water in our toilet. For our first year of school, we attended a one-room schoolhouse, also in Belle Haven, which was run by a gentle lady named Isabelle Teal. It was here in her sunny yellow school at the north end of Otter Rock Drive, where the arts first found us.
We skated to school. Our roller skates were fastened to our sturdy Oxfords by our Mum with a steel turn key and off we would go, with Mummy jogging along beside us. The entire school: grades one through six: had only a hand full of students. My sister, myself and Alma Rutgers comprised all of the first grade. Cliffy Ossorio was in Third grade, Sara Stewart was in fifth grade and another set of twins, Kay and Dee Onthank made up the sixth grade. Reading, writing and arithmetic began and happily so did art and music. We sang songs in French beside the grand piano and danced to Sur le Ponte D’Avignon in Mrs. Teal’s living room. In December of 1948, we participated in a Christmas play where Easy and I were transformed into shabby shepherds. Alma Rutgers with her beautiful platinum blond tresses, was cast as the Virgin Mary …With bath towels belted to our heads and our bodies wrapped in red plaid flannel bathrobes, I was so sure that no one could possibly recognize us … and was absolutely amazed, when Daddy addressed me by my nick name “Star-light”. He presented to each one of us, a tiny bouquet of red carnations at the end of this premiere performance.
I fell in love with the Ballet on May 18,1948, when Alma Rutgers asked us to her home for her birthday party at “Red Oaks” located at #59 Pecksland Road. It was a most elaborate party, quite unheard of in those tight times after the war. Easy and I were dressed in blue velvet dresses with off white lace collars, purchased from the Franklin Simon Store in Greenwich. White socks were worn with black patent leather, Mary Jane shoes, which were accompanied by the obligatory white cotton gloves. After a proper handshake, and “How-do- you do Mrs. Rutgers”, which was followed with a curtsy, we were off to the Punch and Judy show, a magic show, pony rides, ice cream, a St. Moritz birthday cake and lots of multi-colored balloons. The day was overcast and cold and Spring struggled to grab hold of the day. Music from within the main house drew me away from festivities. Through the old oak door of The Rutgers’ home and into a dimly lighted, flag stoned hallway … Strains of Chopin beckoned …. then turning to the right … down two stairs … …………. I stepped into an enormous living room …. so beautifully appointed and well turned, with linens and velvets dressing the French windows which grew up and out of the polished wood floors. And there …. in that gorgeous living room, with sofas and chairs covered in hand stitched floral brocades … I was to discover the long, polished oak shelves, which held an exquisite collection of tiny ballet dancers. Stunned by the beauty of these little porcelains, I stood transfixed. Time was suspended. Alma’s mother (Katharine Phillips Rutgers) came into the house to collect me and it was then that she took the time to explain, the stories told by each dancing figurine. Mrs. Rutgers had been a Ballerina herself and had collected these precious little figures as she danced her way around the world. “Dancing around the world” Wow … What a wonderful idea that was to a seven year old! Then, hand in hand, we hiked upstairs to the third floor attic: to her very own ballet studio. There, in the late afternoon, I saw a long pitched-roof room, with lights blazing down the center. On the left … was the practice bar for her ballet workouts. She handed me a pair of pink satin toe shoes and then demonstrated how to use the bar. Perhaps it was the pink satin. I don’t know, but I was smitten with this art form right then and there. The delicious costumes from the many ballets in which she had danced, were bunched up from one end of the attic to the other. The costume closet was filled with satins and laces, tutus and ball dresses. Dance settled into my brain that afternoon and in fact, took up a sort of permanent residence. The other corner of my brain was of course, occupied by ponies.
Ballet was to visit me once again for one semester in second grade.
Mummy and Daddy managed to scrape up enough for both of us, to attend Bonnie Bolte’s Dance Class, one afternoon a week. For forty glorious minutes, we were transformed into baby ballerinas in the Julian Curtiss School’s cafeteria. Someone played the up-right piano in the far corner and we tried desperately to imitate our dance teacher, stretching this way and that way while pointing our tiny toes. Mozart set the tone for this class. Mummy made tutus for us, of pale blue nylon netting. She also made them for our neighbor’s children so that we could traipse about the house, living in the moment, as real, live, ballerinas. There was something wonderful about the piano … about the music of Chopin and Mozart …… about our bodies and the dance and something about the excitement of a night time recital, on stage, in the gymnasium, wearing lip stick and staying up late at night. I was branded with Ballet big time ……..and I wanted more.
This was not to be however, until many years later when Felicity Foote and the Greenwich Ballet Work Shop would become a part of our curriculum. By Spring of 1950 we were attending The Julian Curtiss School on East Elm Street full time. Our family had moved away from Belle Haven to the back woods of Greenwich; out beyond the Merritt Parkway and out beyond where most people wanted to live in those days. Mummy and Daddy had always wanted to live on a farm and they managed to find one in the back country of Greenwich. We were now living at the North end of Lake Avenue, far away from downtown Greenwich… …as far away, as is, the village of Banksville which straddles the state line between New York and Connecticut Our parents purchased a piece of the Joseph Wilshire estate which was being sold off at the time. They were able to buy, a tenant farm house and a small L shaped stable with 14 Acres for $13,000.00. Imagine that! The farm was run down … falling apart really. It was good-bye to the halcyon days in beautiful Belle Haven, ballet and our beloved, one room school. 1016 North Lake Avenue was now our new address.