Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter, 1960

[image from google]

It was another time, another place - a more innocent time, before life was so media-influenced, before drugs were so widespread. Times were strict; structure and mores confined, but also protected. Kelowna was a small town back then, a Church-driven community, a place where life was at least ten years behind the times even then. Orchards blossomed all over the landscape, which today is littered with expensive condos.  Church was a required part of the week.

Easter Sunday was a very big deal. I remember that year I had a new white dress with black polka dots, and lots of crinolines underneath to make it stick out. I had a round, big-brimmed sailor hat with two streamers going down the back. Nylons, small-heeled little pumps, my first, and white gloves, to the wrist. All of this was carefully laid out the night before. In those days, I wore curlers to bed, and they were bristly and definitely uncomfortable, but my mother always said, "You have to suffer to be beautiful!" (If that's true, I should have been a raving beauty and, alas, I was not!)

 My little sister had a new yellow dress with a pinafore, black shiny patent leather shoes, and long blonde ringlets my mom had carefully created that morning  with the curling iron. In those days, a curling iron was a terrifying metal one that you heated on the stove element and then applied to the hair, sometimes singeing the edges. I remember that smell of burning hair and the heat of the curling iron so close to my face.

Grandma and Grandpa were very devotional, old-time religious, and decent to the very core of their being. They would pull up out front in the big old white and brown Ford (Grandpa always had Fords), and we'd climb in.

The church itself was an old fashioned white clapboard with a steeple. It was replaced with a new brick one shortly after, and I missed the old church, which had the feeling of decades of devotion that the new one lacked. I also missed the Latin, when the church modernized the Mass. We lost some of the mystique and the beauty, when the rolling, lyrical ancient words were replaced by  the more functional English language.

Everyone filed into Church in reverent silence, dipping our fingertips in the holy water fountain at the doorway, genuflecting outside the pew before filing in. Young parents herded small children, dowagers observing the young people with critical, disapproving eyes, catching every whisper and wriggle.

I filed upstairs to the choir loft. The choir always sang High Mass, and soon the Magnificat echoed gloriously to the rafters. My  eyes peered out from under the brim of my sailor hat, attentive to the nun conducting our voices. Communion bells rang out, heads bowed reverently, then we sang again, as row after row of parishioners shuffled up to the altar rail for communion.

After Mass, outside, shy little girls with proud, pleased eyes pirouetted and ran about in their pretty Easter dresses and shiny new shoes. Little boys in brush-cuts stood about, uncomfortable in their tight jackets, stiff white shirts and ties.

For the teenage girls, this was a time to quietly be aware of moony-eyed teen boys looking our way. We affected attitudes of supreme indifference, while our hearts quickened if one or the other of them walked towards us, or smiled.

After Mass, Grandma always put on a huge Sunday breakfast, pancakes and eggs and bacon, and whatever family members lived in town gathered for food, coffee and laughter. Always laughter. Sometimes, in the afternoon, we grandkids would go with Grandma and Grandpa for a drive out in the country and, often, we'd stop at the Casorso's, a pig farm out near Mission Creek. They were a fairy tale family to me. I wrote about them earlier here:

Sunday evenings, on our small black and white television, we'd watch Family Knows Best, a sit-com so unlike today's sit-coms as to be unrecognizable. Nothing questionable was allowed on TV, there were strict standards to be observed. Then Ed Sullivan, at eight p.m. Then bed, and school the next day and another week beginning.

A more innocent time. A time of strict expectations of behavior, and confines which stifled, and that we might chafe against, but that also kept us safe. We couldn't stray too far out of line and, I believe, were the better for it.

1 comment:

  1. Sherry, thank you for the Easter memory. I enjoyed the vision you recreated. It was exactly as you say, "A more innocent time." Your reflection nudged me to post a similar experience of simpler days. I think I will go do that now...


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