Monday, May 20, 2019

From the Top of the Hill # 21: March 11, 1948

Here's the next installment of John D MacDonald's weekly newspaper column, published in the Clinton (NY) Courier during the period when the family was living there. The original from which I transcribed this column was damaged and repaired with tape which developed some serious yellowing over the years, obscuring about three lines of text in two different columns. There's not much to miss here, as JDM offers very little original writing in this installment.

It's Delightful to Be Married:

Through channels too devious to describe, except that one of the links in the chain was one "Scoop" Benton of the Herkimer paper, we have received a society page from the Mayville [...] which tells of a wedding to [...] we print a few verbatim, unchanged paragraphs as they originally appeared in the Mayville newspaper:

"Arrangements for the wedding of Miss Duke are charming in every detail and notable for a number of reasons. Recapturing her idyllic connotation of a wedding in her ancestral home characterized by beauty without fanfare, Saturday's suave and sweet-smiling bride will see a dream fulfilled. Unabashedly sentimental, precious association within her charmed circle where care has only gazed at her wistfully, and enriched by tradition to delight in and to love will forever endear a host of enchanting memories to burn brightly of this important day."


"The recessed windows, prudently protected by inside shutters, will permit a golden ray of daylight brightness to seep through the old glass, tinted and iridescent with the sun and rain of years, to bestow the implied benediction, 'Happy is the bride the sun shines on.'

"The bride as she enters the room lightly elasping the arm of her father who will give her in marriage will be as lovely as happiness, youth and artistry can make one. Living up to her reputation for soignee, her flair for individuality and fastidious smartness will be expressed in a shirtwaist dress of pure silk introducing a novel and vibrant color combination of gold, cherry red and gray -- each shade accented with white polka dot. Cut with discernment, the gold-colored blouse has a high wing collar, push-up sleeves and in the back is buttoned twelve times. Underscored with taffeta to provide sound effects the agate gray twirl skirt -- hemmed a short eight inches from the floor -- swings and sways in fashion's new way. The fascinating aspect of the gown is the deep, boned cummerbund of cherry red tied at the back in a large bow finishing with long ends..."

Can't you just see her?

"Slanted aft and framing her lovely blonde hair will be a gray shadow-play straw bonnet with an upward tilt in front. Yards of matching veiling in large octagonal mesh swathe the head and shoulders."

Nice nautical touch, that.

"After the bride and bridegroom have cut the first slice of cake, the agreeable responsibility will be taken over by Miss Laura Browning who for the occasion will pick from her closet a gown of black crepe and wear with it a large beige felt hat with graceful spreading brim adorned with large black silk roses."

"For her journey the bride will change to a dark brown crepe dress with swish and swank. Deceptively simple in design, a pleated peplum gives its subtle perfection a dressy touch.

"Prophetic of a fashion to come, her costume will reach a sophisticated peak when she 'wings away' in a flattening minoche worn sideways on her head and hugging the right side of her face. The flamboyant bird-wings visualize the palette in brown ranging from deep, rich African brown to a tangerine orange... Topping this striking outfit will be a throw coat of mink flaring softly at the back like a cape.”

It is perfectly obvious to us why the correspondent of the Mayville paper reported this function in advance. Undoubtedly the function itself put the reporter into a swoon from which she may not as yet have recovered.

We go on record right now as saying that something is missing from local marriages up here in the austere North. We must regain that precious quality of breathlessness, buttoned in the back twelve times.

* * *

From the Mailbox:

Dear "Top of the Hill":

Ever since you got into local print, I have wished you well. Some weeks you quite amuse me. Some weeks you don't. All the same, I would rather you had an opinion I didn't agree with than no opinion at all.

The little whimsey of fashion was good, if simple fun. But the careless launching of a campaign for a public address system in the hockey building fills me with horror. If they gave them away, I'd be opposed. What do you mean the games "would be a great deal more enjoyable to all spectators"? People that really like hockey go to watch the game, they don't have to be told about it. Any spectator paying so little attention that he didn't know who made the goal, probably doesn't care anyway. As for penalties, if our side made the errors, the least said, the better. And the opponents should be shown the same consideration.

If you really want to raise money both the College and the village have worthy causes they are plugging. Why not adopt one of them? Or if you want to launch a new project, how [...]

Sincerely yours, Reader.

This letter was typed and, of course, anonymous.

However, we will go out on a limb and make a few guesses about the identity of the person who wrote it.

Something about the tone makes us think it is from a woman. There is a freshness of viewpoint and yet a maturity that leads us to guess she is probably in her late thirties. She can snarl a little, so we will assume she has claws. She takes an interest in local affairs so we can assume that she is probably a "joiner" as far as local organizations are concerned. The tree reference leads us to assume that she is not connected with the college.

She too freely uses the phrase "your home town". No one born here would use this phrase in reference to a furriner like us. So we can assume that she, like us, is in a certain sense also a newcomer to Clinton. Certainly not as much as ten years residence. Maybe closer to five.

And one last guess. She doesn't know hockey. When there's a tangle at the far cage, even the most died-in-the-wool fans are confused.

Has anybody seen a well-educated woman in her late thirties with claws, membership in local organizations, five years residence or so in Clinton, not connected with the college and relatively ignorant about hockey?

If a man wrote the letter, we're going to look pretty darn silly.

* * *

See you next week.

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