Growing Up: Malverne, LI, NY 1938-45: The Play

Life Mag-3aAs many young children do, we put on plays every now and then. Most were organized by my sister and some were improvised pretty much on the spot by the group of four budding actresses: Pattie-Anne, Gayle, Patricia and me. This particular play stands out in my mind.

It was our wedding day––all of ours. What a marvelous event! All four of us were getting married at the same time. None of us had ever been to a wedding and we had no TV, so what we knew must have come from Life magazine and radio shows. We probably had no costumes.

35 Doncaster Rd today.

The four of us lined up at the end of the driveway (the audience being in front of the garage) and we walked down singing “Here come the brides”.  We knew the tune but not the words so we just repeated “Here come the brides” over and over until we were halfway down the driveway where we met our four invisible husbands-to-be.

The wedding ceremony was very short. Pattie-Anne momentarily changed roles and asked if we wanted to be married and to say “I do.”

We chimed in, all eight of us. “I do”, “I do”, “I do”, “I do”, “I do”, “I do”, “I do”, “I do”.

Then Pattie-Anne said, “Now you are married.” After that we threw our arms around our invisible husbands, crooning and saying, “We’re married,”, “I love you”, “Oh I’m so happy,” and whatever words we could come up with as blissful newlywed brides.

But the most exciting thing was yet to come. We were all going on our honeymoons together. Yes, all eight of us. We were going by train to some unknown place. We had all been on trains so this method of travel seemed quite logical. We waited for the invisible train to arrive then the eight of us climbed on board.

train-girlsWe leaned out the windows to wave to all our wedding guests who were gathered there to say good-bye. We waved and waved and called “goodbye” as the train moved out of the station, but mainly until our arms were tired. The train soon vanished from their sight.

So off we all went, making up words as we went along about the joys of marriage and how happy we were. Our invisible husbands shared in this delight, but all of a sudden they decided that they had to go in the next car back to shave––all at the same time. Why they hadn’t shaved before their weddings we’ll never know! So back they went and we waited for their return.

However, no sooner had they gotten there, than something terrible happened to the train. Their car got completely detached from the car we were in. We screamed, “Help, Help! Our husbands are in that car. Help, Help! Save our husbands!”  However, their car rolled backwards and crashed at the bottom of a steep hill (which no train could have ever climbed up in the first place). Our engine kept speeding on.

girls weepingWe were devastated. We threw ourselves on the floor of the invisible train, our knees now bleeding from hitting the pavement, and for five or ten minutes (so it must have seemed to the audience) we cried our tearless cries and screamed, “Our husbands are gone!” “Help, help!” “Our husbands are dead!” “What will we ever do?” and on and on we went until one of us got tired of lamenting endlessly, and stood up. The rest of us followed. It was a hugely exhausting performance.

Let me tell you, the audience was absolutely ecstatic. All three mothers and two younger siblings stood up and clapped and clapped. They loved the play. We asked our mothers if they’d like to see it again, but they all had ironing to do. (We should have picked a different day, because back then all housewives in the 48 states ironed on Tuesdays.)

But it truly was such a sad, devastating story. Just think, four beautiful brides all married and then widowed in the same day––and widowed at such young ages.

The Greek Tragedies had nothing on us.

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Oh Denny this is SO great! It’s a super memory, and what a wonderful development you’ve made out of it. You asked if I had more details. I also remember directing (always directing) plays in our basement at 35 Doncaster Rd. (Where did you get the great photo???! Daddy would brave been jealous of the lush green lawn. Our maple tree drank up most of the water.) We made a real theater curtain from a couple of sheets strung on a rope which we could pull open or closed; made tickets and charged 2 cents for children and 3 cents for adults. I loved the ‘musical’ we put on in which we wore “grass skirts” that we made from mom’s old white sheets (the only color they were made in those days). We tore them in strips up to the waist and dyed them brown in coffee, then swiveled our hips and sang, “The Skirts are Higher in Honolulu” over and over, since we didn’t know any of those words, either. My favorite play was the circus we put on in Patricia Patterson’s big yard–she was in our plays too. I remember all the fun conceiving of these things, but I don’t remember the details: Who twirled the baton in at the parade? Who was the ballerina on the high wire? And who was the lion who got pulled in the wagon? It was a magical time and I loved it.

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