Certainly, I am at that grand advanced age of entitlement! I deserve to savor jelly beans even more than I once did as a kid, so I visit Dr. Jim McConnell and his beautiful assistant Trudy (Sullivan) Deutsch about four extra times between each biannual smile maintenance effort performed by dental hygienist, and proud mother to three athletes, Jo Murphy. Trudy and Jim repair my broken, brittle molars, incisors and “two front teeth” (the ones that create a favorable first impression — or not!) Nobody ever warns me to stop imitating Ronnie “Dutch” Reagan, so the destructive pattern continues because I lack will power as much as I adore jelly beans.
Not only was Reagan the first president I bothered to vote for at my ripe old age of 34, but also I encountered the handsome actor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1983, when “Little Roy” won a national writing contest and got invited to read aloud his prize-winning story at the National PTA Convention where the president, protected by a bullet-proof vest, spoke to the delegates. Thrilled at the prospect of breathing the same air as the 40th commander-in-chief who impressed us as every inch the tall strapping charismatic movie star, neither Roy nor I minded leaving our satchels in the lobby of the gorgeous convention center, nor were we frightened by the Secret Service agents surrounding the stage while facing out and glaring at the audience as Ronald stood at the podium. Reagan quite recently had survived an assassination attempt in these United States of America. To be perfectly honest, I voted twice for the star of “King’s Row” and “Bedtime for Bonzo” because he had always reminded me of my dad Roy Duncan…they looked exactly alike and shared gentle temperaments, soft voices, charm, kindness, and the ability to delegate authority while standing back and allowing others to take credit for notable achievements.
My manager-dad and mom, I am quite sure, modestly spearheaded the concept for the local Blue Bell factory’s “Stitch ‘n Times” twice monthly newsletter-bulletins, published year after year. Interestingly, while on one of my many “jelly bean” emergency reconstruction trips to Dr. Jim’s office, my protective goggles in place, my lanky bod comfortably positioned in a recumbent state, and my tongue stuck out while opening wide, Trudy tossed 14 of those precious periodicals onto my lap! Always appreciative of the complimentary floss, chap-stick, tube of Colgate and soft-bristled toothbrush gifted at each dental visit, that day I received a bonus from the grand-daughter of Blue Bell employee Floyd Sullivan. Her parents, Donald and Jeanette, insisted that I be given this particular stack of “Stitch ‘n Times” issues, dating from the 40s to 1951.
I gazed up at the hovering, intent faces of Trudy and Jim and into a piercingly illuminating rectangular light fixture positioned over my head. I listened to their banter unable to add to their conversation as they had numbed my mouth. Each spoke of poring over the “Stitch ‘n Times” issues and likened them to precursors of Facebook yet miraculously published prior to our whizzing digital age. Yes! The wildly popular “Social Network” itself! No small feat! Congrats to my folks and to all of the contributors to this terrific chronicle highlighting achievements, promotions, health and safety tips, human interest tales, “how to unfog glasses”, flower fund committee reports, “The Art of Getting Along”, photographs, illustrations, dates for entire plant vacation shut-downs, brides, soldiers, high school and college graduates, “DOS & DON”TS”, hospitalizations, births, recipes, “Softball News”, anecdotes, “New Faces”, poetry, hobbies, “Your Inquiring Reporter”, accounts of employees attending current movies or shopping or dining out, “Items for Sale” such as “a new deluxe bicycle never used” posted by Opal Krieg, announcement of a new bowling alley of eight lanes opening up locally with a suggestion for the formation of bowling leagues…plus, the cure for “athlete’s foot”! Leaping Lizards!
Local names, events, places and advice pepper each volume: The Blue Bell Choraliers composed of 20 songstresses and directed by Mrs. B. V. Widney accompanied at the piano by Mrs. Sam Galbreath; Hulda Rivit; Stanley Mullendore; Bob Kellogg; Thomas Jack Heinley; Dick Wolfe; Clela Richard; Ethel Thorn; Wanda Dimmick; Heber Addis; Florence Puckett; Elmer Mohler; Robert Sharpe; and United States Army service induction records provided by World War II veterans Wendy Blain and Arthur Albert and Guy Sickafoose. “Alma Hurley has moved to a cottage at Big Lake.” “Anyone having a good cure for blisters on heels, please get in touch with Phyllis WInce.” “Sheilia, little daughter of Rose Richey, has returned to school following bronchial pneumonia.” A Malabar proverb pops up: “Anger is like a stone cast into a wasp’s nest.” And the June 24, 1949 issue features a “Message to Parents if Polio Hits Your Community This Year” from “Women’s Digest”.
Loved this! “MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK: The music which you hear daily via the intercom system is designed primarily for the enjoyment of employees. When you have a large number of people working together it is a recognized fact that all records played will not suit every person… A survey will be conducted soon among employees to determine the type of music enjoyed by most.” And this: “Take a look at those two open hands of yours (rather than clinched fists). They are tools with which to serve, make friends, and reach out for the best in life. Open hands open the way to achievement. Put them to work today!” ~ THE SILVER LINING “Fashion predicts that girls will be wearing their legs still shorter next year.” “The automobile often changes recreation into wreckreation.” A French proverb advises that “a father is a banker provided by nature.” “Know thyself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive.”
Other tidbits of philosophies, jokes, and truthiness: “The world is full of willing people. Some are willing to work; others are willing to let them.” “Those anxious to invest in a going concern should make sure which way it’s going.” “A ship, to run a straight course, can have but one pilot and one steering wheel. The same applies to the successful operation of a business. There cannot be a steering wheel at every seat in an organization.” (Jules Ormont) “A theory is a hunch with a college education.” “History repeats itself because man keeps repeating his mistakes.” “Good neighbor: One who smiles at you over the fence, but does not try to climb it.” Mark Twain gets credited with: “They that value not praise will never do anything worthy of it. The sweetest of all sound is praise. True praise roots and spreads. I can live for two months on a good compliment.” “If each drop in a rainstorm was four miles distant from the others, it would give an idea of space between the stars.” “Women are divided into two classes — those who don’t believe everything their husbands tell them, and those who have no husbands.”
Hilarious references focus upon employees’ children — a little boy wishes to fly to Reno to obtain a divorce from his parents and a young girl announces that she refuses to return to school tomorrow because, “I can’t read and I can’t write and they won’t allow me to talk…so what’s the use of going back?” Poetry details the harmfulness of rumors “flying door to door”, and myriad one-liners appear such as, “Do you notice how the exclamation mark is being discarded? The reason is that people aren’t surprised at anything these days.” Mottos abound: “Horse sense is what keeps a horse from betting on people.”
Bonnie Fahl, a newly hired felling operator who’d written for the local high school newspaper THE EAGLE, contributed an especially heart-warming essay entitled “My Impression of Blue Bell” praising the atmosphere of Southern hospitality emanating from the front office throughout the entire factory. She concluded with: ” In giving my impression of Blue Bell, I can’t help but commend its sanitary appearance and super cafeteria food. The men of Blue Bell have certainly endeavored to make the factory suit the people rather than the people suit the factory. Yes, my first impression of Blue Bell will last because its regard for us, the employees, is first.” (March 14, 1947)
A couple of amusing 1948 entries entitled “Think as You Work” and “Tough Job Trying to Be a Man” segued into a curious short poem: “More often than not…One is forced to conclude…She pursues a career…When she isn’t pursued” which struck me as a tad sexist in an era so closely identified with “Rosie the Riveter” during which droves of American females began to enter the workforce, but, hey, time warp quaintness ought to be forgiven. After all, I voted for “Ronnie” in the eighties, and I plan to vote for Hillary in 2016! We’ve come a long way, baby!
Special thanks to those long-ago editors Marjorie Cullimore Anders, Betty Bevington, and Bernice Cawker assisted by Jean Tenney, Ruth Brewer, Ruth Runion, Helen Rider and Alta Harman — and to Donald and Jeanette Sullivan, Dr. McConnell, Trudy and Jo!