Wednesday, 27 February 2013
The U.S. Grant Grill and a Leather Coat
By Marcy Belson
In 1958, there was a restaurant located downtown in the U.S. Grant Hotel in the heart of the shopping district. The U.S. Grant Grill was the place for a power lunch and women were not allowed during the 1950s and 1960s until after 3 P.M.
One of their specialties was mock turtle soup made with two fingers of sherry. I was introduced to this fare by my soon-to-be husband, Gordon.
Driving to San Diego was always a dress up affair. No slacks, nor Levi's. The era of hats and gloves had passed but a woman dressed to go shopping or dining in the city.
Marston's Department Store was the favored store for "better" fashions. It was very impressive to me as a child. I was taken there for portraits and to buy my "good" outfits.
I remember a tweed suit and white blouse with a lace collar when I was eleven years old and the next year, for 8th grade graduation, two cotton dresses were purchased and I was given the choice of which one to wear at the ceremony. (There were eight graduates in my class.)
Later in my life, when my financial circumstances were best described as desperate, I saved my dollar-a-day living allowance, watched the sales at Marston's and finally purchased a white sailor blouse with a big black bow for $5.00. I wore it proudly for years.
After I married Gordon, he planned a special day for us. We flew to San Diego on Bonanza Airlines, commonly known as Banana Boat Airlines.
On another day, after we were seated and buckled in, the pilot started the engines, revved them up and then shut them down. Over the PA system, he announced that the plane was not safe to fly and we were told to deplane.
Our foursome hired a private plane to get us to Tucson, Arizona and a connecting flight to a vacation in Mexico.
But, on that special day in 1960, we did fly Bonanza to San Diego and took a taxi to Marston's Department Store. I tried on leather coats and we chose a full length white leather "swing" style coat. I had never owned such a beautiful coat and I wore it out of the store.
We made a trip to San Francisco that year. I wore my new, white leather coat. A stop at a See's Candies shop (another treat - none of those in the desert) and I put two pieces of candy in my coat pocket. We saw the movie Lawrence of Arabia and the theater was warm. When I reached for the candy, it had melted in the pocket. What a mess.
Several years later, my cherished coat hanging in the closet, our house caught fire. The firemen saved the house but the intense heat and water damage ruined most of our belongings and my coat, still on the hanger, was the size of a child's coat.
Our wedding photos and album were brown and curled at the edges. We lived there another 13 years and although the floors had been sanded and the entire house painted, we never lost the smell of smoke.
And I never had another leather coat. Bummer.
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