LIVING in the Tokyo area two and a half years was a very interesting period in my life. I took several courses, did a lot of sightseeing. A time when I worked in movies there, modeled, was creative in art, flower arranging, fashion design, jewelry design, partied a lot, and studied a great deal and played a lot of duplicate bridge. Plus going on a two week trip to Okinawa.
It seems I’m frequently taking courses in a variety of areas. Beginning after high school, taking a course in radio broadcasting, and working at Bell Aircraft, went to engineering school to learn about areonautical blueprints. In Tokyo I took a course in art, one in fashion design, and one in flower arranging. I’m just curious and interested in a lot of things and consider myself a student, always trying to learn something new.
Living in Tokyo, met another military dependent working in Japanese movies. Sounded so interesting I started doing some part time work in Japanese movies, and when an American producer arrived to make a movie in Osaka, I joined up and worked in that movie. I also did some part time modeling for TV and magazines and poster ads. For instance one was for a Hitachi washing machine ad and another for a kimono shop.
Flower arranging is such a part of oriental culture. I took a course in flower arranging, entered a contest and made an arrangement depicting Sputnik and won first prize. I still have pictures.
I love art and took a course in art, and was pretty good at it, still have some paintings I did, and easel set up to return to painting, when I slow down with my writing.
Since learning how to sew in high school home economics, I’ve always been interested in fashion, and love beautiful fabrics. My husband being a pilot would bring me beautiful English woolens from Hong Kong, and gorgeous fabrics from India. Plus Japanese stores carried lovely fabrics they made kimonos from.
I had my personal dressmaker and tailor most of the time living in Japan. Consequently, they made me gorgeous clothes, and in the fifties it was fashionable to dress up to go everywhere, even the grocery store. Hats and gloves were in vogue.
One day my dressmaker came telling me she had always wanted to put on a fashion show. I said we will do it. I talked the officers wives club into a fashion show at the officers club. They were excited about it. I designed the entire fashions, selected fabric and my dressmaker and tailor made the clothes. Then I selected eight ladies to model and taught them how to walk and model, and the day of the show I narrated the entire fashion show. All the wives in Grant Heights attended and it was a very big event. I still have lots of pictures of the show.
I played a lot of duplicate bridge at the Tokyo Press Club. One of my partners was top world player, John Wong from China, plus a number of young Japanese college students, who were so smart, I enjoyed talking to and their opinions about world affairs. Another partner was the wife of a top official in Japanese government, a lovely very gracious lady. One night before the game started she asked me if I would play with one of her friends. We made the date to play with her.
I arrived early standing in the back of the room filled with players when a lady walked in dressed in full Japanese kimono and everyone bowed to her. I asked my friend who she was and she said your partner, she’s nobility from the royal family.
I thought la de da and tut tut, here I am born on a cotton farm in northeast Georgia, playing bridge with a member of royalty. She was an elderly lady, not a good bridge player but I played with her a number of times and lunched with her. I played with her in the Prince Takamatsu cup and have pictures from Japan times.
I visited the pearl farms north of Tokyo and picked pearls from oysters and had my jewelry custom made by craftsman from the pearls I picked out. After returning to States, I made jewelry part time in the evenings and sold on eBay.
I studied art from a private instructor who came to my house once a week. One day he came and said, “I want to paint a portrait of you.” I said ok, just one request, just don’t paint me ‘pretty.'” The next several weeks he came and painted me while we had some very interesting conversations. I enjoyed talking to him. He painted a life size oil painting of me. I never saw it until he finished.
When I saw it I said why did you paint me looking a little sad. He said I painted you like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders because that’s the way you act! Imagine my surprise.
While he was painting, I told him my favorite gemstone was emerald. I wore a rhinestone braclet and when I saw it he had painted the stones green. Fact of the matter is it really is a beautiful life sized oil painting, still hanging in my hallway. I wore a white Liz Taylor style Grecian gown for the painting. This was in the fifties. Hard to believe it’s been that long ago.
While living in Tokyo I had a number of pieces of furniture made including a dining room table set. I also had my silverware custom made by artisan Miayato, and a sterling candlelabra. The same silversmith that made MacArthur and Nixon’s silverware. I purchased the most beautiful green bronze lamp from Tokyo Bazaar, very tall but perfect on an oriental chow table. I had a lot of things custom made but also purchased a lot of stuff while there. I do not normally like to shop, but things were so cheap over there in the fifties, I bought china, crystal, decorative items, art, fabric and a lot of stuff.
Actually had 72 dish barrels of items shipped back. First thing I did when we docked in San Francisco was visit Gumps Oriental shop to check the prices of items I brought back. Which were expensive in that store. I stil have some of the things I purchased there but not many of them.
At the military base officers club, they frequently had a number of functions. Once a dinner and dance party planned with a live orchestra. I looked forward to going, when suddenly my husband received temporary duty orders. I had my dressmaker make this beautiful black satin, full length strapless gown. It was tight and form fitting to the knees, then it split, cut on the bias and flared out to ankle length. It was so tight to just below the knees I could not pull it up to use the bathroom. I had to use the side zipper from the top. I still have that gown.
I really wanted to go to the dinner party and dance. My next door neighbor whose husband was a Colonel, said to me, my husband will take you and insisted. I finally agreed. He came all decked out in his formal military attire in an official car with a driver.
One of the reasons I consented to go with the Colonel as my escort, was because I did not like my husband’s commanding officer nor his wife. He was a major, and I knew they would gasp when I walked in all gussied up on the arm of a colonel.
After a couple of dances I excused myself to go to the restroom. I had to unzip the gown from the top down, and when I did it slithered to the floor, and when I pulled it up the zipper broke. Imagine my panic, realizing my escort was waiting to dance again, and my dress laid on the floor with a malfunctioning zipper. But a lady in the restroom picked it up and repaired the zipper and I returned to the ballroom, a bit shaken, but recovered and enjoyed the rest of the evening at dinner and dancing.
A motto in the military is RHIP, which means rank has its privileges, and much in military life is according to rank. My husband was a Captain at the time, and my going to the dance with a Colonel raised some eyebrows and a few gasps. It was all funny to me, and I had a real good time that evening. And the next day thanked my friend for loaning her husband to escort me to the dinner dance. When my husband returned I told him all about it. Didn’t bother him, he thought it was a funny story.
Frequently in the military, much higher ranking officers wives would seek me out as their friends. I never apple polished anyone, but they would seek me out to play bridge and invite me and my Captain husband to parties. This would make other wives jealous. Once in Reno, the ranking commander was promoted from Colonel to General and invited us to his promotion party. After a few drinks he chatted with me and remarked he was now a wheel. My response was, “How many spokes do you have?” Quite frankly I was never impressed with military rank and would quip with the best of them.
Living in Smyrna, Tennessee, the Base commander’s wife would seek me out for social affairs at her home and to play bridge. My husband was just a first lieutenant at the time and other wives would get so upset because I was invited and they weren’t and wanted to know why. I told them to ask her, not me.
Once while in Japan, a friend of mine and I boarded a ship for two weeks visiting friends in Okinawa, one of the most interesting and enlightening trips ever. The story of Okinawa, where some of the bloodiest battles fought during the war is a very interesting one.There’s a peculiar type of grass that grows there, which is difficult to walk in. During the war some of the natives dug underground and carved out living quarters underground.
I had several friends living in Okinawa plus the Base commander’s secretary was a close friend, and we partied two weeks and were treated like royalty, before returning to Tokyo.
Continued in Part six
Let Freedom Ring
Just me AC