Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Like Mother, Like Son

Continuing down the road of retrospection, I scanned this image of my mother when she was six years old. She and her family had just moved to California from the Dust Bowl stricken state of Oklahoma. Yes, my mother was an Okie, and she and her brothers got a good deal of grief about it from school bullies. Okies were seen as less than desirable in those days, to put it mildly.

I once mentioned some of my early childhood photos reminded me of a Dust Bowl refugee. Here's the proof below. Except for the houses in the background and the new wagon, it could be back in the 1930s.
Which brings up an interesting observation: The images of kids from the 1920s through the 1950s don't seem to show that much change in appearance, at least in my mind. But I feel that the changes between what I looked like and what Christie looked like are quite a bit different; and I suspect it's not an isolated instance. The amount of personal wealth in middle-class America changed dramatically in those two decades. The change in the subsequent two or three decades - from Christie's childhood to Evie's - is just as remarkable, too. The advent of computers, ipods and iphones had radically changed what childhood is like. Expectations of what is a "normal" childhood nowadays makes me feel positively quaint and antidiluvian when peering at photos of my own past.

Who would've thought the world would change so much; and how much more different will it be when Evie has kids? It really is a brave, new world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Comparisons - Part 2

It seems to be a universal truth that parents find Mohawk hairstyles cute on their kids. After all, there's not all that much one can do with short, baby-fine hair. Plus it is a time honored way of getting really good blackmail pictures to keep unruly teens in line or embarrass them in front of their dates. Whatever the impetus, it keeps recurring down through the generations.

The photo above was taken of me back in early 1955. Mom seems pleased with her bouncing baby boy, but I don't look particularly happy in that shot. I probably saw my reflection in the mirror and was horrified by the hair style that graced my dome.

But of course, I blithely helped perpetuate the injustice in 1975 on my poor, unsuspecting daughter, below. Christie was probably a couple of months older than I was in the first photo. She was a very happy baby, too, as can be seen here. Actually, her mother loved the Kewpie-doll hair more that I did, but I have to confess, Christie was pretty darn cute in it.

And now we come to 2007 and a new generation of incriminating photos. Christie decided Evie needed to try the style out in turn. Unfortunately, she looks like a punk rocker more than a Kewpie Doll - and not at all convinced this was a very good idea. Still, you gotta love it. I'm looking forward to seeing my next grandchild sporting a Mohawk, at least for a picture or two.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Angela's Flight

As pretty as the B-17 looks on the ground, she appears even more graceful in the air. In her prime, the tail wheel would be retracted, making her sleeker still. Rugged, dependable, forgiving, the Flying Fortress became synonymous with American air power over World War II Europe - much to the chagrin of B-24 Liberator crews, as the Fortress overshadowed their considerable contributions to the war effort.

Nevertheless, it was the B-17 that captured the imagination of the press and public. When the T.V. series Twelve O'clock High came out it cemented that hold on me as well.

I remember quite well being entranced by all the combat footage the show used as stock scene filler. Being all of 10 years old when it first aired (it ran from 1964 to mid-season 1967 when it was canceled) I wanted desperately to see all the airplanes in color, not knowing that much of the original combat footage was shot in black and white and tinted blue-ish in later seasons (the show was in black and white its first season).

Regardless, when we got our first color T.V. (1966, I think), I eagerly awaited the show that week so I could watch the B-17s in glorious color. I was utterly disappointed when the first episode shown was the one where Col Gallagher flies his silver P-51 on a mission and gets shot down over France. He then spends the next hour evading capture while finding his way back to England. No B-17s...no combat footage...just ersatz Southern California countryside and studio shots standing in for France. *Sigh*

It's amazing how impatient pre-teens can be. I thought the next week's episode would never come. Despite the tinted stock footage, the live shots with "Piccadilly Lily" were in color and I did enjoy that immensely.

I might consider buying the series on DVD, but I'm not ready to drop $260.00 for the complete set when I'm not sure it would hold up on adult viewing. Perhaps I should view it again on the Internet and decide what to do then....

I shot "Miss Angela" in flight over the Hawthorne Air Faire in August 2005.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Miss Angela

As I mentioned in a previous post, along with Betty Grable, the classic nose art icons of World War II came from Alberto Vargas and his Esquire Magazine collection of pinups called "Varga Girls." The art on this B-17G "Miss Angela" is one of the most famous and reproduced of those images, the flying girl with the Star and Bar on her billowing lingerie. Richard Branson still uses this image on his fleet of Virgin Atlantic aircraft. A variation appears on Virgin Galactic vehicles, including White Knight Two.

There used to be a gallery in San Francisco that specialized in Vargas prints and originals. I saw this particular piece for sale there. Unfortunately it was too expensive for us to even consider buying. I've regretted that somewhat ever since, but there are some things you can't do no matter how much you want it.

I still think of it, though. At least I got to see it in person. That will have to suffice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Betty Grable Legs

This is a better shot of the Betty Grable nose art on Sentimental Journey from the other side of the B-17. Between Betty and the Vargas girls from Esquire Magazine, the metal canvases of American warplanes had a plethora of beauties to base their art upon.

With this pose, Betty Grable came to symbolize the idealized woman of the 1940s for many American men, at least as far as pin-ups and cheesecake were concerned. Another Bettie, Bettie Page, became an icon of the 1950s, along with Marilyn Monroe. Indeed, each decade produces its own visions of beauty, shaping the attitude of that generation.

But it was Betty Grable who became immortalized in a time of world war. Service to one's country comes in many ways; keeping up the morale of lonely young men in harm's way is one of them. All in all, it's not a bad way to be remembered.