Pauline Spatafora‘s just published book, “Louie’s Place” follows the lives of five teenage girls growing up in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Louie’s Place was the local candy store/malt shop where the friends regularly met and where their reunion in later life was to take place. Although loosely based on the lives of real people, this is a work of fiction with most of the events occurring only in the imagination of the author.
I first introduced you to Pauline in my blog post published on January 3, 2015 “Dear Sister – Letters Home to Sicily From War Time America.” During that interview Pauline spoke about her book of the same title, as well as her other published books “The Absent Mother – A Psycholiterary Study of Virginia Woolf” and “Proper Pronunciation Made Easy.” That blog post was well received and mention was made of the soon to be published “Louie’s Place.”
Life in the 1950s and early 1960s was simple. Expectations were clear-cut. Conformity was the rule, almost never the exception. The absence of social media and today’s electronic communication devices meant that people had to talk to each other in person. Even the telephone, permanently connected to the phone jack and often located in the kitchen, was infrequently used.
This interview depicts an innocent time in America. Life was predictable. Choices were limited. A & E’s Mad Men targets the sophisticated, corporate world. “Louie’s Place” targets the less affluent.
This interview took place on April 30, 2015.
Interviewer: Why did you decide to write this book? Pauline: I promised my friend, Roseann I would write about our lives as kids. She’s now deceased. Roseann never saw the final product. Ironically, this book was published in April, the month of her birthday.
Interviewer: Which public personality had the most influence? Why? Pauline: Jackie Kennedy because she brought glamour and class to the White House.
Interviewer: How did you spend your free time? Pauline: At the beach, church dances (St. Anthony’s ), and the candy store/ malt shops(Louie’s Place).
Interviewer: What was a teenage girl’s greatest fear? Pauline: Unwanted pregnancy and getting caught having sex. Anything other than intercourse was okay for some and “going all the way” was okay for others. Condoms were available.
Interviewer: What was a teenage girl’s greatest desire? Pauline: To be a movie star like Liz Taylor or Kim Novak.
Interviewer: Of the characters in the book, who kept the philosophy of the 1950s? Pauline: Flower was in the 1950s until the day she died. It was the only time in her life she was really happy.
Interviewer: Did any of the girls express regrets about living in the 1950s? Pauline: Yes. Middle Bush’s baby’s adoption would not have to be hidden if it happened later on when society was more accepting.
Interviewer: Describe typical family life in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Pauline: Like in TV shows, Dad, who was the head of the family, worked. Mom took care of the house and children. The kids did their homework after school. Sundays were mostly spent with relatives. Grandparents had a strong presence and extended family lived nearby. Saturday nights were for the movies and dances. Greenwich Village had an active night life with feasts and street festivals. Holidays were spent with our family and friends. We exchanged gifts for major holidays.
Interviewer: Tell about typical family and home responsibilities. Pauline: We helped with washing and drying the dishes since there were no electric dishwashers then. We helped with the laundry. We had part-time jobs while in high school to pay for our own activities.
Interviewer: Tell about career encouragement from family, school and society. Pauline: Girls were told to take up secretarial work and if you were very smart, you were told to be a teacher. I wanted to be an actress so I studied dance, voice and music (accordion) but my father insisted that I back it up by learning to type “just in case.” Pauline went to college as an adult and became a college professor. Her typing later came in handy in doing her college papers.
Interviewer: What effect did extended family have on your life? Pauline: Very helpful when I had doubts, they offered good advice and guidance.
Interviewer: What expectations did young people have for their adult lives? Pauline: To be married and have children. The guys were concerned about having good jobs to provide for a family.
Interviewer: What plans were made for retirement and old age? Pauline: Our parents had their funeral plots. They saved money in the bank and expected to live off that. Savings bonds were a big thing. They owned their homes so real estate provided security.
Interviewer: Define a successful life by late 1950s and early 1960s standards. Pauline: Being financially independent. For some, marriage and children. For men, owning your own trade business. And for the young adults, owning a car.
Interviewer: What about that time do you wish were still here today? Pauline: The music. The less stressful lifestyle. The absence of computers led to a more connected life with people. Life was more personal.
Interviewer: What are you happy has not continued? Pauline: The great inequality for women in the workplace.
Interviewer: What political event had the greatest impact on lives of teenagers ? Pauline: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Our innocence became a raw reality.
If you’d like to contact Pauline, you can email her at email@example.com. She’d love to hear from you.
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