How Grandma and Ann ended up in the Closet
It was a Saturday in August 1933 and the temperatures were well over 95 degrees.
Grandma and Grandpa were only married a little over six months, but a lot had happened in those six months. Grandma’s appendix had burst when they were only married a few weeks and after surgery she developed a bad infection that kept her from working. Grandma and Grandpa were just about to split up when Grandpa found the money in the down pillow in the attic of their first apartment. This windfall kept them together and their love began to grow.
So there was bad and good in their young marriage, but now it was all good.
They had just moved to a darling apartment with big bright windows and a front porch. Grandpa was paying the bills and Grandma was just about recovered from her health problems.
The new apartment was in a complex where their good friends Harry and Ann Bolton lived. Harry had been Grandpa’s friend since they both lived in the orphanage as children and Ann and Grandma soon became best friends.
Although they didn’t have enough money to go to the movies or out to dinner, the two young couples played cards at least once a week.
Harry, himself, was a “card” Grandma said, and he’d always come up with a practical joke or funny story to keep them laughing. Ann was reserved and would pinch her lips and shake her head at him when he pulled one of his stunts, but it was obvious she adored him.
So on this very hot day, the two young couples were playing cards and drinking gin and tonics with ice chipped from the block in the icebox.
Grandma said you could watch the sweat form on their brows and drip down their faces. The men used their white handkerchiefs to dry their faces while the women used their tiny, crocheted hankies for the same purpose.
In those days, women wore “foundations” Grandma said, and stockings attached to their rubber-like girdles. Then on top of their bras and girdles and stockings, women also wore full slips. “We used to wear more things under our clothing than you wear out to the grocery store today,” Grandma said.
On top of the full slip each woman wore a summer dress and it was bloody uncomfortable this day when the air refused to move and a moving fan was a luxury they didn’t own.
It was Harry who got the idea and whispered to Grandpa what to do. Between card games, the men made an excuse to go in the basement, and when they came up, each man was wearing his boxer shorts and only his boxer shorts. They had taken off their trousers and undershirts and paraded into the kitchen in their boxers and nothing else!
Grandma and Ann blushed and laughed and shook their fingers at the men…but it did make sense. The heat was unbearable and Grandma assured us you couldn’t see anything with lots of emphasis on anything. Not that she stared at that “area”, she said in all seriousness.
When the men got up to mix drinks and change the radio station, the women whispered together and created their own excuse to leave the room. Quickly they scrambled into Grandma’s bedroom and took off their dresses and stockings – now standing in front of the mirror in only their girdles, bras and full slips, they felt impish enough to surprise the men and come out in their lingerie.
Grandma said full slips covered everything...just like a dress. The straps were wide, the neck was high, the fabric opaque and the slips came down past their knees.
Still, it was a gutsy move on the women’s part and let’s face it, a bit risqué for the time, but the gin and tonics, relentless heat and the freshness of the men to strip down to their skivvies bolstered the women’s courage and they scampered back into the kitchen giggling like school girls --waiting to see the men’s reactions.
Naturally, the men loved it. There was much laughter –especially at Grandma who, losing courage as they approached the kitchen, had grabbed an apron off a hook and held the apron in front of her chest.
Soon, everyone was through laughing and the sight of two men in boxers and two women in full slips lost its impact and the card game began again in earnest.
Then the door bell rang.
Grandma and Ann were frantic. Who was at the door? All the shades in the house were pulled down to keep out the sun and they couldn’t see out just as no one could see in.
Grandpa said: "Quick go in the closet and I’ll see who it is and get rid of 'em."
Grandma wonders why on earth she and Ann didn’t retreat back into the bedroom, but they did what he said, piled into the front hall closet where there was enough room for two small women to stand among the coats and umbrellas.
They stifled giggles at the thought of being forced into a closet and waited for Grandpa to answer the door, which he did.
Then they couldn’t believe their ears. The person at the door was Ralph, one of Grandpa and Harry’s friends and Harry the jokester was inviting him in for a long cool icy gin and tonic.
Grandma waited for Grandpa to come up with something to tell Ralph that would send him on his way, but instead Grandpa was telling Ralph to come in too.
“What a hell of a hot day, huh Ralph?” said Grandpa loudly. “How about that gin and tonic? A nice icy drink, you know you want one.”
Grandma and Ann were not dying from the heat yet, but both of them were furious at the thought they’d have to stay in the closet while the three men had a drink or else come marching out in their slips which would label them as women of ill repute at best.
So they stayed in the closet sweating and swearing under their breath while the men laughed and clinked their ice chips in their highball glasses.
Grandma says they weren’t in the closet for more than a half hour but it seemed like a day.
It was Grandpa who told Ralph he had to leave –making up some lame excuse-- and as soon as the front door closed out came Ann and Grandma, hotter than hell and madder than a hatter.
On hearing this story we said, “Grandma, you were really something weren’t you? I’ll bet you wanted to kill Grandpa and Harry for pulling that joke on you.”
“Oh yes,” she said, “Ann and I couldn’t believe they encouraged Ralph to come in, knowing we were sweating in the closet. It wasn’t one of Harry’s funniest jokes, I’ll tell you, although Grandpa and Harry laughed about it for years.”
“So if it was that hot, why didn’t you and Ann take off all those undergarments you had on, especially those rubber girdles…and just wear your summer dresses with little or nothing underneath, wouldn’t you have been cooler that way?”
“Really, now…girls! No self-respecting lady would remove her underclothing and then slip on a dress. For heaven’s sake, just what are you thinking?” Grandma replied.
What we were thinking was it would have been lots cooler and they wouldn’t have had to dive for the nearest closet when they heard a knock on the door.
But Grandma didn’t see it that way.
“You wore a girdle from the minute you woke up till the minute you went to bed. That’s how it was back then; and women today would get in a lot less trouble if they did the same thing. Those damned girdles were miserable to get on and miserable to get off.”
Oh how we wanted to laugh but knowing Grandma, we had to keep our nonchalant demeanor, or she’d be sorry she even told us the story and we lived to hear about her life and adventures.
We’ve laughed about this story for years. But, even now when I laugh, and even knowing Grandma is long deceased, I look around as if Grandma is going to come back and chastise me. And if that should ever happen, I know one thing, she’ll be wearing her girdle!