Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mom catches a saboteur during WWII

Mom's Memory Blog
Florence Otway and a friend approach the I Miller factory in Long Island City during WII.

Anna Kirschen ni Gold and Florence Kirschen (Otway)

My mother went to Cooper Union before the war. Her mother designed hats, and Mom became a shoe designer for I Miller.

Florence and Anna Kirschen

Florence Otway second from left

Mom worked at Carnegie Hall, at the USO. Here she is with British officers who would take newly launched ships from southern ports in the US, to Britsh ports.

Her work at I Miller changed with the war as well. They were not allowed new designs during the war, so she began drafting for production of parachuts at the I Miller Factory.

Mom noticed an elderly lady would run her thumb down each seam as she finished sewing. The woman always had a Band-Aid on that thumb. She remembers the older woman was nice, but always had odd things to say, such as, "babies pee more in the rain." At first Mom thought she was smoothing down the seam. But, she became more and more suspicious of this, and informed her supervisor.
The woman's hand was examined, and a small razor blade was discovered hidden in the Band-Aid. She was cutting the seam, under the stitches where the cut would not be noticeable. Mom was given a lapel pin for her vigilance. She does not know what happened to the old woman.

Florence Otway at the drawing board 1940s

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Where is my home?

I've been taking walks with my mother, as she remembers the past very well, the past five minutes might be difficult, as she moves through Alzheimer's, but the past is often clear and even more vivid than a few years ago.

I had always heard of Mom's home at 16 Jane Street, her first home with dad ... and Uncle Dick (Richard DuVal), and for a time, the Belgian writer, Paul De Mann, lived in one of the two ground floor studios which Dad and Mom rented at 20 Jane Street, just to the right of their ground floor apartment. As we came close to Jane Street, Mom turned to me and said, "I am walking here, now, with your father."

I'm walking here with your father again

Dad and Mom met at the home of her almost fiancee, Al Eisman, a set designer, for MGM in Holiwood. Mom had graduated from Cooper Union, which accepted her with no formal art training at the age of 16, in 1932. Just after graduation, she was asked by Al to come to Hollywood and they would decide if they should marry. She met a young actor, asleep on Al's couch, and a few weeks later they were married.

I lived right here in 1947 with your father

Now, here I was standing with Mom in front of the apartment, she showed me the garage across the street where they kept their car, the place where Dad worked at a small restaurant, Mary's, and where, one night, Dad did not come home, and she went out to look for him, and found him staggering down the street drunk.
Florence Otway Winter on Jane St. West Village 1947-9
Up to that night, she did not know he drank ... quite a lot.

Florence Otway and her landlady at 16 Jane St. NYC about 1948
Mom and her landlady at 16 Jane Street in the 1940s.

Their landlady was always trying to get Mom to beleive that Dad was "up to something..." trying to make her jealous.

It didn't work... Mom was not the jealous kind...

Howard and FLorence Otway

She wondered for a moment where her present home was, Saint Marks Place. I described it, and she remembered. When came to our block, she said, "This really is my home. I used to love the West Village, but it is not the same. Now, I really love this place."