Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interior Decorating

It's true that most houses were viewed for just a second from the porch. The exception was the houses of our friends. We spent lots of time in our friends homes and we were being taught lessons, about what rooms were for, about where we could go, and about what we could do.
My own home was decorated in a mix of hand me down furniture and store bought couches. The basic motif was "colonial". At least that's what my mom said it was. Lack of money meant some pieces of furniture were periodically repainted to fit some new color scheme my mom came up with. Some chairs were periodically reupholstered. Once in a while a new couch or chair came to the house from Sears or the furniture store. Once in a while. Not often. It was always a sensible piece. And it was "colonial".
My friend Terry Fleming's house was the exact opposite of ours. One of the few contemporary homes in our neighborhood it boasted fireplaces and a finished basement. The look was "modern". Probably Danish modern but I'm just guessing. There was a kidney shaped table made from weird wood. There were thick odd carpets. There were glasses in the cabinets with racy sayings on them and skimpily clad girls. Downstairs in the basement there was a slot machine that worked.
A slot machine! In Wenonah! You couldn't do anything bad in Wenonah but in the Flemings you could gamble. Sadly you couldn't keep your winnings but then you didn't have to use your own money either.
The basement had wood panelling as did the kitchen and small first living room. Everyone in the Fleming house slept late. Mick and I were up at 6am and banging on Terry's door at 7:30am. Mrs. Fleming would open the screen door and stare at us as though we were martians. Terry was asleep and that's where we should be. Boom. The door would shut and we would meander out to figure out what to do till 10am when Terry woke up.
Mrs Fleming was fascinating to me. The house was filled with the smell of her Toni hair treatments. She was a tall, loud, brassy Irish woman. Big hearted and filled with noise. The exact opposite of my house. Years later I met her sister. She had sung with the Dorsey brothers in the forties and was married to a NY stockbroker. Their son was "damaged" in Nam and spent his days flying a biplane. Their daughter worked at MOMA.
The Flemings went to clubs. The Latin Quarter. Philly. They drank and laughed. They were like grown ups on TV.
Mick and I would go back to our colonial home and bumble around with our soldiers or read some comics then back to Terry's and the slots. It was like going from Christmas in Connecticutt to Viva Las Vegas every day.

1 comment:

Bob Thomas said...

Jack,

Great stuff. You'll have to sometime mention Mrs. Fleming's venture in to the world of commerce - What was she selling in that little shop that was once a ticket office, then a police station and then a taxi stand - then a sweets shop (Mrs. Fleming?) and then a flower shop.

She used to love to tan and would have a lounge chair on the sidewalk soaking up the rays in her bathing suit during the quiet hours of the morning and afternoon. What would be a busy hour in Wenonah anyway?