Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vintage Birthday Parties

Today's my birthday! For fun, I poked around my family photos, looking for snaps of me as a child on my special day. I love how these photos reveal details typical of birthday parties long ago.

Back in the day, birthday candles were stuck into little, reusable plastic holders. (Were the holders to catch the wax drips, or just for fun? I don't remember.) Often the holders looked like a flower or saucer shape, like the pink ones on the big cake at the left of the photo. Occasionally they were fancy forms, like the three animal-shaped holders on my tiny cake:

These were my friends, the twins Holly and Hally Harding (below). I'm about six here. Note the missing teeth and scab on the bridge of my nose. Kids were constantly falling down and getting whacked in those days--safety helmets were an unknown. The jumprope with wood, painted handles is a classic children's toy from that era. Although it's winter in Kansas, I'm wearing knee-length shorts we used to call "Pedal Pushers." Maybe I was hoping for spring weather?:

The Harding twins were sweet girls. I wonder whatever happened to them? And I totally remember that sweater I'm wearing:

This was a special birthday. I turned 7 a week after my Nana turned 70. Here we are at our double celebration:

I look like I'm frowning, but I'm not. I've always had a "resting bitch face," and I'm concentrating on sliding the heavy cake on its pressed-glass plate safely onto the table. (Note the polka dots on the paper tablecloth--even then, I loved them!) My Nana's cake has "70" done in a double row of candles. Mine has a doll in the middle, frosted to look like she's wearing a big ol' hoop skirt. (I dunno; it was a thing, back then.)

The pink and green things in front of our cakes are party hats--totally necessary at a party from that era. (I'm wearing one, in a photo below). I don't think my mother ever knew it, but I hated those things. I felt like a clown in them--and I really loathed clowns. She probably didn't realize that, either. Poor Mom!

Below, the same birthday. I love the girls' hairdos and their dresses, with the big skirts. On the green curtains behind us, there's a paper "Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey" game pinned up. That was a classic party game back then. (The bored-looking teenager on the sofa is my lovely sister Nina, btw.):

Here's a closer look at that epic doll-dress cake that my mother made and frosted. Mom also sewed me the blue velvet dress, which had vintage mother-of-pearl buttons down the front. (I loved that dress!) Also note the little plastic blue barrette in my hair, shaped like a closed umbrella. Every little girl had a whole stable of colored, plastic barrettes to match her outfits, back then. And there's that dumb party hat, clapped onto my head:

The thing I love about this photo, below, (besides my Nana's lovely smile) is the "Chatty Cathy" doll sitting on the table. I got that doll for Christmas, just a few weeks before. It was THE toy every little girl wanted that season, and I felt incredibly lucky to have her. She was the first doll that said a range of sentences (randomly selected) when you pulled a string at the back of her neck. She said things like, "I love you!" and "I'm hungry!" Totally iconic item.

Here is the last birthday I celebrated in Kansas before my family moved to California. I was turning 12, and in full dork mode (that's me on the left, mugging with the cherries). My friends and I were getting a little old for Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, so Mom had us decorate hats (from her stash of millinery items). We had fun! That's Janine Ogas, next to me with her eyes hidden by a feather, and Nadjia Heydon, holding the rose between her teeth. I don't remember the other two girls' names.

Again, the dork factor is off the chart. I was always tall, but that year I shot up like a weed. Hence the red pants waaaay too short for me, and the long-sleeved sweater that needs about two inches more at the wrists. That's Nadjia, again, on the floor:

Decades later, I'm still celebrating my birthday with family, friends, and good food.

Just no paper party hats.


  1. Hi Juli! I’m Josephine Kitsch, saw a portrait of yours during your birthday, not sure how to reach you but I’m very interested in painting over it! Sending love + light to you!



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