FEMMES of the FIFTIES

My friend, Janice Kaplan Carno is no stranger; I’ve introduced her to you before. One of her daughters was sorting through boxes of photographs and forwarded this picture of five beauties of the fifties. 

Although I don’t remember posing for this picture, I realize that it’s a few members of our house plan, taken during our sophomore or junior year at Hunter College, N.Y.C. The varieties of house plans were looser alternatives to sororities, organized for socialization. As members of a house plan we received invitations to events throughout the city and surrounding areas. Janie had invited me to join the house plan that she founded. In the picture, Janie is the cute one on the far left and I am standing next to her. I recognize one other woman in the photo. I’m second from the left, next to Janie.

I can’t imagine that we posed for a photo where we were all smoking. I guess we thought we looked so “sharp” and sophisticated, imitating movie stars smoking in the films. We didn’t realize that showing smoking on the screen were advertisements for the tobacco industry. It’s really amazing that pictures produced today tell a story without having the characters smoke. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a week, in the company of others and never while eating. I remember casually mentioning to my mother that all of my friends were smoking. She said that if I felt better smoking I shouldn’t spend money on cigarettes and gave me a pack from the carton that my father kept on hand. When I went on dates, it was assumed a date would buy you a pack of cigarettes. Things have changed.

We can laugh at the smoking, but the photo is a priceless memento, reminding me not only of our college years, but also of the enduring friendship that Janie’s family and my family share.

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Janie: Lifelong Friend

I was a freshman at Hunter College for only a few days when I met Janice Kaplan, who called herself Janie. We became lifelong friends.  Janie, an energetic young woman, invited me to join a houseplan with her, and a few others. The houseplan was a rather informal alternative to belonging to a sorority. I don’t remember the “Greeks” having much influence at Hunter, since there was no on campus housing and most of the students commuted.

The houseplan provided a sense of community. Hunter was a women’s school at that time with the exception of a few veterans. The members of the house plans received invitations to functions throughout New York City and beyond, and participated in stimulating intercollegiate activities.

Our house plan, “KUNER 52” was named after a teacher whom I never met. I tended to be friendlier with the members who were from Brooklyn, where I lived, rather than those from the Bronx. After a while I met more of my friends through my classes. I have to admit that Janie was a more serious houseplan member than I was. She has a way of keeping old friends and keeping friends together. I still meet former acquaintances when I visit her.

One summer my wonderful, whacky friend and I were intrigued with the idea of taking a Youth Hostel bike trip through Cape Cod. Since we still had classes we couldn’t start on schedule, but were told that we’d be able to catch up with the group if we left a day or two later.   We started our trip from Provincetown, where we rented our bikes. On the first day we biked to Truro and got as far as Eastham on the second day. It didn’t take us long to realize that we couldn’t meet the rest of the group. We rented a small house between Truro and Provincetown and toured the area for a couple of days.  We spent the last day of our trip in Provincetown, so we returned the bikes and got a room at an inn.  A few of the guests, classmates from Hunter, were decked out in trendy resort wear. My “dress outfit” was a denim skirt with saddle oxfords and “bobbie socks.”

Janie and I might not have been lifelong friends if our families didn’t meld. Her husband, Irving, a physician, and my husband Marty, got along well. We attended each other’s weddings and visited often—they’d come to our farm and we’d travel to New Jersey.  Our children, four in each family, of similar ages, had great times together. The Carno children remember collecting eggs at our farm. The Klein children recall the long Passover Seders at the Carnos.

Irving passed away a year ago; we recently attended the unveiling. It was a nice chance to see Janie and her family and reminisce about a lovely friendship.

Janie, left and me. We were invited to dinner and we had blind dates. We had a lovely time but never saw those men again.

Janie, left and me. We were invited to dinner and we had blind dates. We had a lovely time but never saw those men again.