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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

A 'Clippie' on a Double Decker bus by day, diving from bombs by night

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Mum (Enid Maude Hayden) was born in 1925; a teenager in World War II. This picture was taken before she started coloring her hair. At sixteen she worked as a "clippie" on the double-decker buses in London. 
Running up and down the bus stairs, punching tickets. She used to tell her brothers, Robin and Peter (Don was away at the war)  "Who's got the best legs on the street and why have I?"

 Running up and down those stairs all day; no wonder! These were the times when London was being bombed, and she would take the train to London to meet some Yank she'd met and have to run home in the dark because of the lights out cerfew. They had a Morrison bed in the living room and she had to dash to it more than once - a steel cage contraption with a mattress inside. Often, as this picture shows, they used the top surface for a table.

Doing Nothing: The Importance of Free Time for Kids

Originally published in Children magazine.

What I Like Doing Best is Nothing! 

"What I like doing best," said Christopher Robin, "is doing nothing"
"How do you do nothing?" asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, 'What are you going to do Christopher Robin?' and you say "Oh nothing' and then you go and do it"
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
"This is a nothing sort of thing that we're doing now."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh again.
"It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
"Oh!" said Pooh.
So that's what doing nothing is.
Even back in 1928, when this Pooh story was written, the notion of letting children do nothing didn't last. When Christopher Robin prepares to go off to school he tells Pooh, "I'm not going to do nothing anymore." Po…

A SUMMER PLACE

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Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum: Where a kid can meet Shakespeare under the trees 
"Registration for drama camp?" a young guy asks with a smile.
I nod.
"Over the bridge to the main stage."
Over the bridge is a handwritten sign taped to an old post. Camp Registration is scrawled
quite imperfectly with a felt tip marker. An arrow leads past another old bridge to a clearing, sur-rounded by trees and slightly dilapidated railings. Wrought iron, wooden and cement benches are placed about; dusty walkways promise to lead one and all astray.
"This place is totally cool" Russell says, a trace of awe in his voice.

The gardens are a bit overrun. A flagstone is missing here and there; the lawn chairs are
mismatched, a rustic sign leads to Will's Shakespeare Garden where a bust, not of Shakespeare but of Will Geer, sits beyond the neglected arbor. I smile and tell my ten year old son I'm glad he likes it.  I don't tell him I think the place has magic - he w…

#9 OF BRASSO & BROWNIES: coming of age in the 60's

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Image: Fred Waters

# Cherrygrove Road, Niagara Falls, Canada
It’s daunting to move into a new house and make it yours. A never before lived in house seems more than new as it stands before you, untouched, immaculate, strangely virginal. The difference between new and brand new can be an almost empty hollow feeling. No ghosts live within those walls. No child’s smudged fingerprints have been wiped away.
I was ten years old when we moved into our new house in Niagara Falls. We moved in the spring of 1963, the season of change in what would turn out to be a decade of change. In a house without history it fell to us to write the first page.
Our old house was a two story red brick rental in the part of town where chestnut trees lined the streets. It was a gloomy house inside, made darker still by the ancient maples outside its windows, leafy branches casting ghostly images against the fading floral wallpaper. A dark oak door outside my bedroom led to a musty attic, too scary to think about, l…