Monday, January 16, 2012

Life on the Runway or How to Save with an Electric Range

My mother spent the first half of her life raising children, working in Churchill's, the family bar and grill on Macomb Street, and coping with all things domestic including various dogs and a parakeet from Hawaii. But once the early hard ships of the Depression and World War Two were over, Bebe Calvert Cokinos was ready to do something completely different. The Pepco ad above, featuring her as domestic goddess,  appeared in 1950 in the Washington Post. By this time she had three teenage children at home and was just embarking on a modeling career which would lead to fashion shows at DC's now disappeared department stores like Woodies and Garfinckel's. She also did runway shows at the Mayflower and the Shoreham.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge... I love that woman's expression in the front row.)

Bebe made many modeling friends along the way, all of whom were on the "mature" side." They called themselves the Model Ts.  I don't know who the dude is in the middle, but wouldn't you think he'd be happier? Maybe his knees were killing him.

In May 1955 my sister and grandmother got into the act at a Mother's Day show for Lansburgh's Department Store. "Three Generations in Size 9!" exclaimed the caption. Both Bebe and her mother were asked what a mother might like for the occasion of Mother's Day. My grandmother replied that she wanted to take her whole family back to Honolulu where she was living at the time, and everyone would get a "pikaleili lei." My mother's personal dream was to spend the whole day in bed with meals brought to her, then out dancing that night. I'm pretty sure those weren't the answers the reporter was looking for because "getting down to brass tacks" my mother also added that models always needed "thousands of stockings."

Dig the crazy lids on these gals.

My sister had a daisy perched on hers.

The picture below featured in one of the Washington papers carried the description: "Dedicated to the Woman Who Cannot Make Up Her Mind. These two forward looking suits can go South now or do summer duty here later on."

I don't know where they were going, but this duo does look ready for anything- in America in the 1950s at least. In a town. With clean sidewalks. On a sunny day.

In the late winter of 1958, Bebe made the news again by wading through snow drifts to hitch a ride for her and "her hatbox."

She made it just in time to change out of her boots and ski pants into spring togs for a fashion luncheon at the Shoreham's Blue Room.

Later that year in June, Bebe entered a bathing beauty contest put on by the radio station WGAY for women over 40. She won second prize- a backyard swimming pool the likes of which I never saw because she turned it down.

What? !

Yes. She turned it down and was quoted as saying: "I don't swim if I can help it. I'm strictly an indoor girl." A bit ironic considering how many bathing suits 'the mature mermaid' had to model for this event.

Here's a picture of the winner. No offense to Mrs  Rebecca Magnuson of Silver Spring, but  I think my mom  ( miss number 2) got rooked. You be the judge:

Bebe pretty much hung up her guns after that one, not necessarily because she was over 40 or a sore loser, but probably because she got pregnant with me. She remained beautiful all her life of course- both inside and out, and now I know why my father never stopped giving her stockings.