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May 9, 2013

My Grandmother’s Glasses

By Sara In AZ

My Grandmother is an enigma. She has many stories to tell, but keeps most of them close to the vest. It’s not until you start prying and questioning do you really find out the juicy tidbits from the past. I suppose I am guilty of this myself…..always wanting to know more than I want to give. Maybe I inherited that trait from Grams?  Maybe it’s buried deep, deep down in my DNA from long ago. One trait I know I did not get from Grams was my collecting trait, but more on that later.

My Grams has many, many fabulous stories about the war years. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a young adult in the mid 1940s…..both terrifying and exciting.

My grandmother and her girlfriends went out to California in the Summer of 1944. They decided to go to the San Francisco/Oakland area where her girlfriends were going to get jobs as riveters…..yes, just like Rosie The Riveter!  Her friends went out to California a bit early to get training, while Grams stayed behind and finished teaching her classes for the semester. Since Grams already had a teaching degree and was under contract she knew it would be fruitless to go out and train to become a riveter, only to have to return back to her teaching job in a few short months.

Grams finally made it out to California and joined up with her friends…who were now riveters….but now she had to find a job too! She likes to joke about how she only lasted one day on the job at some unknown pancake house – where apparently, as a waitress, she mixed up every order she had……why am I picturing some variation of a wacky I Love Lucy episode here??? hee! Poor Grams, I’d probably mix up every order too.

Grams finally found her summer job at Cico Chimes Supper Club, where she said she made FAR more in tips that summer than in her whole year of teaching…..so I guess teachers were under paid even back then! She told me she had wanted to stay in California, but her Father sternly reminded her that she had already signed a contract to be a teacher and that if she did not get her butt back home, well……..he would come out there and get her and bring her right on back. And you KNOW she did not want that to happen!

I tried to look up Cico Chimes (hope I have it spelled right! – I asked Grams and she verified that was how it was spelled, but it kind of sounds out like Seeco), it was on Lake Merritt in Oakland, but I cannot find any information about it anywhere so it must have closed long ago. If anyone out there has ever heard of it I sure would like to know!

Grams speaks very fondly about the summer of 1944. Below are Grams (far left) and one of her girlfriends at Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland where she says they danced the night away every single night. Wow! What a blast they must have had!!!


It looks like Sweet’s does still exist, but it is now called Tropicana.

Here is a vintage ad for Sweet’s from The Styrous Viewfinder blog, he has a nice post on Sweet’s too.


My grandmother did finally come back from California and she finished out her teaching contract. She went on to get her Master’s degree and was a school psychologist for many, many years. She worked her entire life outside of the home, which I guess was a bit atypical of a married woman in the 50s and 60s.

Which brings me back to the original reason I started this post in the first place……my grandmother’s glasses. My grandmother is not a very sentimental person…….perhaps one of the least sentimental people I know. I don’t say that in a mean way at all, just as a matter of fact. She is a very ‘out with the old, in with the new’ kind of person and does not like clutter of any kind…..at all. Grams even went so far as to throw out her own wedding dress because she said it was “yellowed”. I was SO sad to hear that (years after the dress was gone) because I would have loved to have that dress. She does not draw an attachment to things or objects like I do – which, I think, in a way would make life so much easier sometimes.

I remember, from long ago, seeing these starry little glasses shoved in the way back recesses of her cabinets. Every time I would go over to her house I would nervously make sure that the glasses were still there…….wondering if she had finally decided they were cluttering up the cabinets and, feeling no real attachment to them, had decided to get rid of them. Every time I went over to her house I would implore her to never, ever get rid of the star glasses and if she wanted to toss them into the trash, or to donate them,  to PLEASE let me know.

One day, after Mike and I had done some work for Grams around her house, we arrived at her home to find a box and a card on the table. The card read:

Dear Sara,

Sally, one of my students at Hillcrest School, gave me these glasses for Christmas in 1956. She was  a very nice young girl from a wealthy family.

I am happy to give them to you as I know you will take good care of them and enjoy them.

Love, Grandma

And inside of  the box were these………………


Now you can probably understand why I was SO adamant about her NOT throwing them out!

I sometimes wonder how these insanely retro glasses made it through so many years with Grams…..especially with retro NOT Grams style at all. I guess Sally must have been a special student to her? I will have to ask her about that one day, because surely as a teacher she would have received many other gifts – but I’ve never, ever heard her talking about anything else that remains in her house as a special gift from a student long ago.


I know it’s hard to tell from the pictures, but all of the design is done in silver….and it is all pretty much perfect! I really do not think Grams ever used these at all.


Really, they look like they probably did when they were pulled off the store shelf in 1956.


I put napkins in the glasses so you could see the design a bit better.


Seriously, my favorite glasses ever!


I don’t know how these glasses survived all these years, through all the moves, particularly because my Grams does not really like “retro”. Whatever the reason I’m sure glad they finally found their way to me. So thank you little Sally for your fabulous taste in atomic glasses way back in 1956, and thank you Grams for entrusting me with them…….I will love them always.

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21 Responses to My Grandmother’s Glasses

  1. Selina Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Hi Sara!

    What a wonderful post – and so lovely to hear some of your Grandmother’s old stories! And those glasses are simply DIVINE!!!!! xxx

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks Selina, I really appreciate that! I don’t know if they could be more divine than your reindeer glasses though…..I’m anxious to hear if they came through shipping ok – let me know when you get them!

      • Selina Reply

        May 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

        I think your glasses are definitely every bit as amazing as my reindeer glasses -plus they have a beautiful story to go with them! I actually felt quite emotional reading it – such a wonderful piece of writing!
        I’m very nervous and excited about the reindeer ones coming in the post -I’ll let you know -with photos – the second they get here! xxx

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          May 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

          Please, please, please do let me know when they arrive Selina….and yes, I need to see pics!!! Totally so excited for you!!!


          And thanks again on your compliments of my post, I really do appreciate that. I was originally just going to show the glasses, but then I thought I really had to give the back story….why they are so special to me and where they came from – I’m glad it worked out!

  2. Desirae Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 9:22 am

    That is absolutely amazing!

  3. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

    They’re beautiful! You know, you should ask her more about the glasses and about Sally. There were so many questions that I never got around to asking my Grandmother and now it’s too late. Sit down with her one day for a good long while and ask her all the questions that you can think to ask. I love the story about her and her riveter friends!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Awwwww, thank you Eartha! You are totally right….I should (and will) ask her more questions. I guess we always think we have more time and then one day it just runs out all of the sudden. I REALLY regret not having more time with my Grandpa…..there are SO many questions I have for him that will forever go unanswered……..

  4. Uncle Atom Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Whoa Sara, those are great, a pattern I haven’t seen before. Nice that they come from your grandmother.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Well thank you very much Uncle! Yeah, I have only ever seen this pattern one other time…..maybe like 6 or 7 years ago on the ‘bay…..I would LOVE to know who the manufacturer was, as there is no mark on the glasses at all. Totally love that they came from Grams!

  5. Kim Campbell Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Great post! I am looking forward to more. Hopefully, you’ ll get more info on the restaurant.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Thank you Kim! Yeah, I am hoping that maybe someone will come across this post and the name will ring a bell with them….I’d LOVE to even just see a postcard of the place….anything!

  6. Tasha Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Such a great story! Our grandmothers sounds similar, mine was not at all sentimental either, so I have very few things that were my grandparents. (Fortunately my grandfather was an artist, so I at least have several pieces of his awesome mid-century art/sculpture.) How wonderful that your grandmother did take to heart after all those times of reminding her that you wanted those awesome glasses. You can toast to her any time you use them! 😀

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 10, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Thanks so much Tasha! And thanks for letting me know your grandmother was not very sentimental either…..I always wondered if there was anyone else out there like me. 🙂 That is really super cool that you have a lot of art pieces from your grandfather….really, really special.

      Next time we use the glasses I will toast to Grams!

  7. Sherree Reply

    May 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Wow Sara what a wonderful thing to get from your Grandmother. They are awesome.
    I am with Eartha, sit down with her and ask questions. And write it all down 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

      I know Sherree, I was SO surprised when I got the glasses…..stunned really! And yes, I will ask her bunches of questions next time I get the chance – and yes, I will write it all down too! 🙂

  8. Laura Reply

    May 10, 2013 at 12:28 am

    The things we have with stories attached to them mean so much more. These are beautiful glasses, and now you also have your Grandmother’s story to go with them. How lovely!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

      That is so very, very true Laura….everything I have that has been passed down is SO much more special. I’m really happy Grams chose me to give the glasses to!

  9. SusanD Reply

    May 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Wonderful war story about your Grandmother! I’ve read about women working for the war effort and found it really cool. My mother worked at Gillette in Boston and made airplane carburators. She also danced the night away, but in Southie where all the soldiers were stationed. Met my Dad there as a matter of fact.

    I also wished she had saved ALL her old clothes. Some of them were just gorgeous.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      May 10, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Thank you SusanD! I always think it is really cool to read what women did back then too. I’ll just bet your Mom has some amazing war stories to tell as well, it sounds like she was having a blast just like Grams was! And I feel your pain at the loss of ALL those awesome clothes….I cringe at the thought of what was tossed along the way! eek!

  10. Styrous Reply

    June 7, 2015 at 10:52 am

    I really enjoyed reading your blog, Sara, and thanks for the reference to mine. I linked back to this entry a while back but just realized I didn’t let you know.

    My best to you, Styrous

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