Saturday, March 21, 2009

SATURDAYS PAST

I've been thinking about the weekends of the past, especially the Saturdays in our small Southern town. Everybody from "out in the country" came to town to do their weekly shopping, sending all the kids into the afternoon "picture show" which was VERY cheap babysitting. When I was a small child, I was admitted for a dime, and we'd spend the entire afternoon in that entertaining darkness.

Those were the days in which "This is where I came in," was a popular phrase, for there were no official entry or exit times---you tried to be there for the first show on Saturday, but it might not start til thirty or so minutes after the opening of the doors. And you could stay in your seat, with no interruption in the entertainment, til the lights came on and you blinked your way through the carpet's snowfall of popcorn after the final "The End."

First there came the previews, the cartoons (Heckle and Jeckle were my favorites---I loved their picnics, and thought that EVERY picnic should feature a whole roast chicken, a loaf of unsliced bread, a wine bottle, and some fruit spilling out of the basket onto the checkered cloth on the ground). Then there was the serial---where the word "cliff-hanger" was coined---and then Movietone News, perhaps a Believe it or Not, and sometimes little slides for a local business or charity or school meeting. Then the Saturday feature, always a Western. Sometimes a Double Feature, which WAS, as my Mammaw said, "Too much sugar for a dime."

You could come in at any time, leave at any time, stay til dark unless your Mama came and dragged you out; Mamas DID that in those days---daylight and dustmotes would blast through the door and a large form would hesitate, squinting til eyesight adjusted, then go and retrieve her offspring, whether in the exciting part or not. Some, especially younger siblings of the movie crowd, would just stand in the door and bellow to equal Tarzan's own yell, for Martha Jewel or Billy Clyde to get theirselfs out there---Daddy had the truck cranked.

The country folk would sometimes make their way through each and every store on "Main Street"---before we even had street names---and just pass the time of day, or pay on their bill, or put a little on their layaway.

Now everybody zips everywhere every day, but it was the custom to work hard dawn to dusk on weekdays, and the ladies would do their baking or dessert making or whatever their Saturday chores were, wash their hair, and almost every woman in town on Saturday had her head tied up Aunt Jemima-fashion in a pretty scarf or “Head-rag,” as they were called---the one where they loop it on from the back and tie the ends into little wings up front, usually tucking them down into the edges.

Like Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter, if I remember aright.

The ones who looked funniest to me, and I wondered at their lack of concern for their tacky appearance, were the ones who left uncovered the rolled-tight little screwed-up curls either with or without bits of white paper, held tight against their scalp by a bobby pin across the little circle like the modern sign for “NO” or “DON’T.” The teenage girl next door did hers that way, in cigarette papers which she bought out of her own babysitting money---she could get two weeks' rollings out of one pack.

From a distance, they looked like bald guys in dresses, with no fluff of hair showing around their heads. But they looked lovely with their shining coifs in church the next morning.

I had three standing chores on most Saturdays of the year: Mow the lawn, wash the car, and polish all the shoes. The first two could be done in full view of the main road in and out of town, and I and they got a good look and sometime some winks and shouts as the pickups full of rowdy country kids passed. Polishing the shoes was the late-afternoon chore, manning that bottle of Sani-White for my baby Sister's high-top learn-to-walks and my own saddles or sandals, depending on the season. The browns and blacks were shined with the familiar scent of the little round Kiwi can and old wool socks for buffing. Only AFTER that was finished did I do my weekly manicure.

We all had little fancy-dance manicure sets, with clippers and buffers and files and an orange-wood stick, which I never DID get the hang of---that thing HURT, and I could do my OWN cuticles much better. I got nine manicure sets for high school graduation gifts---probably a town record.

I also usually made the Sunday dessert on Saturday afternoon, while Mother washed and set her own hair---she'd earned quite a few dollars of her own, "setting" the hair of all the neighbor ladies when she was a teenager. They'd come at their usual time, with their hair washed and turbaned atop their heads in a towel, and she'd roll or marcel their hair on the front porch, wrapping their heads in scarves or big colorful nets, to dry naturally and be slept on for combing out before church next day.

Those were hard-work days, but quieter somehow, of a more gentle tenor and tempo. The whine and roar of lawnmowers starts at daylight on Summer days now, families are out and about to more sports and school and social obligations than used to be claimed by Society matrons, and we can do most anything at any time we choose. The unusual is everyday, and the special of it is gone, somehow.

I think there's a lot to be said for the old set-aside Saturdays, of lazy hammock days, fishing holes and a double feature shoot-'em-up at the the Hollywood Delight.