The Cinderella Girls

 

pianist

Mrs. Craig had aspirations of forming a local girls’ choral group made up of her daughter Cathie’s elementary school classmates. I was one of a dozen or so between the ages of nine and twelve who were interested.

Cathie played the piano and had the voice of an angel, while none of the rest of us had any musical talent. Mrs. Craig said we had potential. We didn’t know what that meant, but we wanted to please her, so we did our best. Through patience and perseverance and many hours of rehearsal, Mrs. Craig produced a choral group.

She purchased bolts of salmon taffeta and had a local seamstress sew us gowns. The dressmaker allowed for growth, so the garments were somewhat long and the waists a bit saggy. Most of us had trouble keeping the straps from slipping off our shoulders. We were in various stages of maturation and temperament. Our parents wouldn’t permit us to wear lipstick and we weren’t skilled at hair care, but we loved those gowns—our first grown-up clothing. Mrs. Craig told us we were beautiful; therefore, we were.  We stood taller and smiled more brightly.  For her, we sang as we never knew we could.

Our leader suggested a contest to name our group and offered a prize to the winner. My idea for a name was “The Cinderella Girls,” which Mrs. Craig choose. My prize was a crisp $1.00 bill.

cinderella

Local civic groups let us perform for them, as did schools and churches. As our “fame” grew, a boy asked to join us. We girls were horrified and said absolutely not. We were “The Cinderella Girls” and wanted to stay just that. Mrs. Craig said we had to let him join. She got him a tuxedo.

With a boy now a part of us, “The Cinderella Girls” was no longer an appropriate title. Mrs. Craig knew we were unhappy about the change. To appease us, she suggested another contest, and, again, there would be a prize. My entry for a new name was “The Cinderella Girls and Prince Charming.” I won another crisp $1.00 bill.

boy in tux

 

We found that Prince Charming lent a vibrant singing voice to the group as well as a nice balance. We all got along and had fun rehearsing and performing. After a year or so our gowns started to sneak up above our ankles and our bodices became too snug. The straps dug into our shoulders. Prince, with his tuxedo sleeves now above his wrist bones and his socks showing beneath his trouser legs, said he would rather be playing baseball.

And then, too soon, it was over. “The Cinderella Girls and Prince Charming” disbanded, for we were growing up and had other things on our minds. For a shining moment we had experienced the spotlight, and it was good.  We moved on and took with us lasting friendships and good memories. In addition, I took two crisp $1.00 bills.

Mercedes Horton, OLLI member and former Cinderella Girl    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Betsy The Car

Chevy Sign

In 1953 my father bought our first car. It was a 1935 Chevrolet with large metal spoke rims and a hint of a running board on each side. The tires were what were known as white walls.  The car was royal blue.

My mother was leery of cars and in particular the one my father bought to surprise her, since we lived in New York City and took public transportation everywhere. In 1953 there were few private cars on the road and almost none on our block.  No other neighbors in our building owned a car.

It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. My sister and I just stood and gawked at the sleek, movie-star vehicle. It was like the getaway car in an Edwin G. Robinson movie. Elegant, not at all like the long, super finned modern cars in 1953.

White Wall Tire

“You would not believe the deal I got,” Dad said to us. Mom had a skeptical look on her face and kept glancing between Dad and the car. “It belonged to a school teacher who only drove it on weekends.  My boss lives next door to her and he told me she was selling this car and I went over to look at it and, wow!   I drove it around the block and it is perfect.  I paid her cash and picked it up today.”

Now truly, in 1953 even I had seen signs in some autos that claimed to be driven only on weekends.  It was almost believable living in the city because people went picnicking and to the beaches only on the weekends in the spring and summer.  Besides, my Dad was no fool; he would know a good deal.

“You know how to drive?” my sister and I shouted almost in unison.  When, how, we never saw you drive a car?”

My mother looked at my Dad and a smile grew across her lips. “He drove a two-seater with a rumble seat in back to pick me up for our first date. The car belonged to his older brother Eddy. Your dad is quite the catch.”  Dad was beaming.

He pointed to our new prized possession, “Her name is Betsy.”

Jones Beach

And Betsy it was. She took us to beaches and on country drives and to Westchester for picnics and out to Long Island to Jones Beach. Betsy opened a world to us, or at least the world within a thirty-five mile radius of New York City. And even though we lost her a few times in the humongous overcrowded parking lot of Orchard Beach or at Coney Island, we always found our distinctive car. All we had to do was Dad hoisted me onto his shoulders to look around and point to the blue car that stood taller than any other car in the lot; our Betsy.

Geraldine Khaner Velasquez (OLLI Member, Instructor and Writer’s Group)

The Sun: Our Benevolent, but Deadly, Friend in the Sky (More Musings from an Amateur Cosmologist)

                              

 Friendly Sun

Please be prepared for some really BIG numbers!

Like many of the estimated 50 to 100 billion solar systems in our Milky Way galaxy, ours has a “habitable zone”.  This is the area, between 85 and 160 million miles from the sun, where we happen to live.  This zone of moderate temperatures and liquid water is the only part of our solar system where multi-cellular life (as we know it) can exist.  If Earth’s orbit happened to be outside this zone, I would probably not be here to write, nor anyone here to read, this blog.

At an average distance of 93 million miles from the sun, our “little” planet Earth teems with life as it has for the last 600 million years or so.  I say “little” because the sun is so large that if it were a hollow sphere, about 1.3 million Earth’s could be packed inside it.  This also means that although Earth receives only 1 billionth of the sun’s total energy output, that is enough to support this fairly comfortable globe on which we live (as long as we do not look directly at the source of this radiation or spend too much time “bathing” in it).  We are truly fortunate not to receive more energy from the sun than we do.  Consider our sister planet Venus which receives only a bit more radiation than Earth, yet has a molten surface seething at 800 degrees F.

Einstein

Where does all this solar energy come from?  No one knew until about 100 years ago when Albert Einstein, and others, figured it out.  We now know that the primary source of this energy is the fusion of 4 hydrogen atoms to create 1 helium atom in the core of the sun where temperatures reach 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.  Einstein’s famous E=mc2 equation interchanges mass (m) with energy (E) and shows that even a tiny bit of matter (mass) , when multiplied by the square of the velocity of light (c), can be converted into an enormous amount of energy.  The key word here is “converted”.  For example, if hydrogen is merely burned with oxygen (think of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster), the hydrogen and oxygen atoms are not destroyed but take on a new form as water (H2O).  Mass is conserved in such chemical reactions so the heat and light energy released does not invoke Einstein’s equation.   In nuclear reactions, however, the elements involved are either destroyed or created, as one element is converted into another, with a vast amount of energy being released in the process.

Helium

When hydrogen atoms in the sun fuse to form helium atoms, not only does the hydrogen “disappear”, but the helium created is about 0.7% lighter than the hydrogen consumed.  It is this small loss of mass that produces the enormous amount of energy predicted by Einstein’s equation.  To get a feel for the mind-boggling power of the sun, consider that 5 million tons of hydrogen are fused in the sun every secondThis is equivalent to the detonation of 100 billion one megaton hydrogen bombs per second.  Yes, that’s 5 million tons and 100 billion bombs!  We are fortunate indeed that Earth receives only a miniscule portion of the sun’s energy output.  And our sun is only one of many trillions of stars in the universe.  Makes one wonder why outer space is so cold, but that’s another story.

What does the future hold for Earth?  Here I am talking about the physical planet itself and not its inhabitants and their institutions – who knows how long these will last?  Our sun is an average sized, stable, single star that has been shining in Earth’s sky for the past 4 or 5 billion years.  It is in midlife with another 4 or 5 billion years to go.  Near the end of its life it will not explode as some heavier stars do, but will swell enormously to become a “red giant” (like the star Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation).  The sun’s tenuous, expanding surface will eventually reach Earth’s orbit and Earth will cease to exist, as will Mercury, Venus and our moon.

Red Giant

Of course, all life on Earth will have been extinguished long before as the habitable zone retreats from the swelling sun.  Perhaps Earthlings will have migrated to a nearby solar system by then.  Or not.

Howard Horton, OLLI Member