“Kiss Your Elbow” – A Kentucky Memoir
By Deanna O’Daniel
Is about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky and its surrounding areas during the Mid 20th Century
The book will be available on this website after Sept. 23rd.
Proud to be part of this peaceful, yet energetic and prosperous time after WWII, Deanna also relates the serious side of being a girl during this period. In large ‘Boomer’ families, the oldest girl was expected to be the ‘other’ mother. See how, at the age of twelve, she coped with being put in charge of the household, of eight siblings when her mother went to the hospital to have the ninth baby. Yes, young girls did those things back then, plus they had to suffer through wearing dresses all the time!
A wonderful chronicle of the way America lived during the Mid-20th-Century, when farmers were moving to the city and everybody had a job. Neighbors were not only helpful, but necessary. Children had important responsibilities as contributing members of the family – and they did them!
The title, “Kiss Your Elbow” is an old saying for trying to make the impossible happen. Of course, Deanna wanted to be a boy and experience the freedoms had by her seven brothers.
Brief Excerpt from the Book:
Once a year Mama and I made a fabulous trip to Louisville’s only shopping area – 4th Street – to buy school clothes for the coming year. The whole experience was wonderful!
Shopping in Downtown Louisville:
Finally, all three of us were heavily burdened with bags of purchases. Luck was with us, and we finished in plenty of time before the last Blue Motor Coach bus back to Hikes Point at five o’clock. We had time to go into the higher-priced stores like Stewart’s just to look around and see the nicer things. Stewart’s had hired a beautiful model seated on a rope swing to swoop back and forth over the cosmetic counter. The ropes on the swing were covered with fresh flowers. Everything smelled really good. I was so moved that I wanted some cosmetics, but my brothers would tease me to death if they even knew I had a thought like this. Kaufman Strauss and Burdorff’s had the best furniture. Byck’s and Selman’s had the prettiest gowns. For some reason Aunt Aurelia wanted to look at these.
“Oooo,” Aunt Aurelia said, as she leafed through the rack of white ones, examining each one and pushing it along in order to see the next behind. I thought they looked like whipped cream, delicious and frothy enough to eat.
In Bacon’s, I noticed the sound of the women’s high heels changed from “thump, thump, thump,” on the wooden floors as they entered on the Fourth Street side to, “click, click, click,” they made as they struck the terrazzo floor when they exited on the Market Street side. This difference in the sound of the same shoes puzzled me.
Mama was patient with my desire to ride up and down the elevator in these expensive stores. She and Aunt Aurelia busied themselves at the cosmetics counter while I enjoyed the elevators. The attendant wore a smart uniform that looked something like that of a member of a marching band. Some of them were complete with brass buttons and shoulder fringes. He grabbed the big brass handle, pulled it down to the left, and the ratcheted door closed all of us inside. The ride tickled my tummy. Most of these operators were skillful enough to stop the elevator car completely level with the approaching floor. For others, it was a matter of lots of “jockeying” the brass handle back and forth. Then, our stomachs were jolted up and down. Some of the customers rudely complained out loud, but I was just happy for the ride. It almost felt like the Ferris wheel at Fontaine Ferry Park.
Besides stores and theaters, several elegant hotels were located up and down Fourth Street. I snuck peaks through the tall glass doors as we walked past them. The doormen were polite, always tipping their hat and saying, “Good afternoon, young lady.” In my pretty polka-dot dress and Mary Jane shoes, they probably thought I was from the city.
I used my best manners and answered, “Fine, thank you, Sir.” They wore top hats, long-tailed suits, and white gloves. I begged Mama to let us take the time to go inside and see the lobbies of the Seelbach and the Brown Hotels. These two had the most handsomely dressed doormen. On the days had time to do this, Mama always chose the Brown because it was closer to our bus stop at Fourth and Broadway.
Having Aunt Aurelia along made our shopping go faster, and we ended our day by having iced tea in the Tea Room of the Brown Hotel. Just being inside there made me feel special. It was so elegant – my heart almost stopped when I saw the white lace tablecloths with linen napkins rolled into little silver rings. Each table had a crystal vase holding a fragrant pink rose. We felt a bit awkward with all our packages, but the waiter smiled at us and helped us arrange them under the table. I guess he could tell by our drawn faces that we were pooped!
All the waiters in the Brown’s Tea Room were required to be Colored men. (Colored was the name that Black People preferred to be called in the mid-twentieth century. To have called them anything else would have been considered an insult.) They wore white cotton coats and gloves with dark pants. Swift and skillful, they were able to carry food around all day on huge trays and never get their gloves dirty. They were very friendly and treated me like I was somebody who mattered. It helps when I dress up in my Sunday best, I thought, and wished the girls from school, who always teased me, could see me now here at the Brown.
Soon, it was time for the long bus ride back out to Hikes Point. We crossed Broadway for the bus stop in front of the Heyburn Building. Again, I was looking forward to the ride. We greeted John, who was still energetic enough to give us a big smile, as we climbed back up the steps of the bus. With all the stops and starts, it took about an hour to get home. This was plenty of time to rest our tired legs and sore feet.
I remembered to sit on the same side of the bus so I could see what I missed hours ago when we came into town. Aunt Aurelia chatted with Mama, but I got to meet some pretty interesting strangers. I didn’t care as long as I got to have a window seat. No matter how tired the shoppers were, nobody ever slept on the bus. Sleeping in public places was considered common. Besides, everybody used bus travel as an opportunity to meet strangers and talk to friends and neighbors. People sat down and pushed their packages under their seats. Except for people like us, most people traveled light. The better stores home deliered anything you bought, even something as small as make-up.
The scene inside the bus was lively, chirping with conversation and bubbling with laughter from the exhausted, but contented shoppers. I didn’t talk to the nice lady beside me because I was too busy concentrating on our trip back home, so she talked to the man across the aisle. I welcomed the sight of the brick mansions and stone churches that lined Broadway, many peeking out from their leafy lawns as the bus lurched ahead. It was kind of a sad good-bye to our adventure until next year.
About the Author
Always claiming that the best thing that ever happened to her was being born in the early 1940’s, Deanna enjoyed growing up at this prosperous time in America’s history. She was born in 1941, on a farm in Gethsemane, Kentucky. This was the same year as the famous intellectual, Thomas Merton, arrived at the monastery there, called the Abbey of Gethsemani. Interestingly enough, the house in which she was born is now the Thomas Merton Retreat Center. Her family was part of America’s greatest migration – that of the farmers moving to the cities. Her father, being a consummate farmer, also wanted the security of a job in town. After a few side adventures, he bought a small farm on the edge of Louisville. Growing up in this situation gave Deanna a unique experience as a child.
Spending many hours doing monotonous farm chores, lead her to become creative and reflective. Reading and exploring the countryside at Hikes Point, then a rural area were her greatest joys. She started the hobby of writing as a way of passing time, as early as the fourth grade. But life interfered, as she went to college, taught school, got married and raised a family. She did not return to writing in a serious way until her mother’s death in 2001, when she sixty years old.
Being just a few years older that the Boomer Generation, she was able to take advantage of a teaching scholarship program designed to relieve the burden of the huge class sizes in the `60’s. “This was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she said, obviously appreciating the opportunity for higher education.
Deanna taught school for almost thirty years between 1961 and 1997. Although she loved teaching, she tried other careers during the summer breaks in order to explore more of the world. She became a bank teller, an accounts payable clerk, a real estate agent, and a motivational therapist. She is now a counselor in mind and body therapies, and owns a company called SelfSeek Spiritual Center. Here she works to help clients better their lives by releasing addictive behaviors that stand in the way of personal fulfillment. She leads retreats, teaches yoga, meditation and guided visualization.
Loving writing, Deanna intends to make Kiss Your Elbow, - A Kentucky Memoir the first of several novels dealing with the experiences and emotions of the people in her generation. Besides writing, she enjoys painting with water colors, playing her dulcimer, spending time with her children, and being a grandmother.
Comments and questions are invited and welcomed: