Monday, March 1, 2021

"A HOUSEWIFE WHO WROTE PLAYS"

 


                                                                Mary Coyle Chase

                                                             "Harvey's Mom"

                                                                           1907 to 1981


She was 37 years old when she won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Harvey in 1945, only the fourth woman to have done so since the onset of the award in 1917, and still today remains today the only Coloradan to have done so.

She was a wife and a mother who was known by Broadway critics as a "housewife who wrote plays." She didn't let that bother her, lived with her times, and never let her gender get in the way of reaching for the top.

Her play about a six foot invisible rabbit called Harvey and his friend Elwood P. Dowd has been produced around  the world and continues to be a popular choice even today more than seventy-five years later. The movie of the play starring Jimmy Stewart is consistently listed by the American Film Institute in the categories of comedy and fantasy.

Many of the protagonists portrayed in her plays and books are strong, independent women.

Above all as the Denver Post once said when she passed away, Mary Chase was a "nice person."

To Mary Chase. HURRAH!!


Read more about Mary in my book Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. 

http://mimipockross.com

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48768527-pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=RRvlZMsj1S&rank=1

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat-mimi-pockross/1134735749?ean=9781538131688

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD (LIMELIGHT EDITIONS): https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538131688/Pulling-Harvey-Out-of-Her-Hat-The-Amazing-Story-of-Mary-Coyle-Chase

                                                


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Frankie: A Teaching Moment

Frankie was one of the first African Americans I ever met and I was twenty-one at the time of our meeting.  I had grown up in an all-white suburb outside of Chicago, a very segregated city even today, had attended two land grant universities where I do not recall meeting any people of color and had moved to DC with my new husband.  This was only a few years after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to integrate American public schools. 

I was hired to be a “speech improvement teacher.”  There were ten people in the program, three whites and seven African Americans and our job was to attempt to remove the “Negro dialect” from the students we were selected to teach.  Frankie, one of the African Americans, was in my program.  Since I was the new kid on the block (the program had been in existence for a few years) I was instructed to accompany each of the “veterans” for a few sessions so I could pick up some of the techniques that were used in the program.  

 

When it came my turn to accompany Frankie, I knew I was in the presence of someone special.  I was in awe of her intellect, her ability to connect with her students, with her creativity and especially with her drive.  This was a woman, I learned, whose mother was a maid and her father was a postal worker and she was filled with determination to rise above her modest upbringing.   I didn’t have to fight what she was fighting, I was a middle class Jewish girl, but I had some of that determination too.  Hers was more fierce and her outcome much greater.

 

I returned to Illinois after one year in DC but in some way must have continued to stay in touch with Frankie.  I learned that she had applied and been accepted at Michigan State University for a master’s degree in communication.   I continued my speech teaching career for several years and then applied to Northwestern’s graduate program in communications.  It was ironic that at the same time, Frankie had been accepted into their PHD program.

 

Frankie was always in a hurry and had little time for me.  She was always “fitting me in” to her busy schedule.  I think the last time I saw her she had been in an automobile accident and asked that I bring her something to eat at Evanston Hospital.

 

The next thing I knew she was the first African American White House correspondent for CBS.

 

Although I don’t know the specifics, I know her career evolved through stints on public television and ultimately wound up with her professorship and deanship at the University of Maryland. Once I found her on the internet at a roundtable with the iconic African American journalist Gwen Ifill. Wow!


Five years ago  I received my regular Northwestern alumni magazine and when I thumbed through the pages, I stopped on the obituary page and rested my eyes on the photograph of someone who looked very familiar.  It was my friend Frankie Thornton (later known as Lee Thornton) who I had met in Washington, D.C. in 1965 when she and I were both in the same teaching program in the DC public school system.  She was only a few years older than I, and she had died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.

 

Her death came as a shock.  I have so many feelings that I harbor inside of me though our relationship was really pretty superficial. 

 

The most important is that I was honored to meet her and the many other accomplished and able African Americans that were in my DC program.  Their stories were pivotal in formulating my own view of America.  I was never the same after that year.  These women ran the gamut of reactions to the suppression of their race.  Some were angrier than others.  Some were more lighthearted and not as committed to “the cause.”  I was especially proud to have been in the company of Frankie/Lee.  She was someone to look up to and admire regardless of her race and her humble upbringing.



http://mimipockross.com

                                                                 








Sunday, January 24, 2021

Harvey's Year in Review

 

 

Harvey’s Year in Review

 

 


http://www.mimipockross.com

 

 

“Pockross certainly pulls a delightful and informative biography out of her hat”—Talkin’ Broadway

 

A charming book about a theater legend”—Sonya Ellenboe, Colorado Community Media

 

“An entertaining and absorbing biography of Mary Coyle Chase”

Mark Kappel News Notes

 

To all of you who have learned about my book on Harvey and Mary Chase and especially to those of you who have purchased it and even better written about it, THANK YOU!!!!

 

Despite the fact that we all have been under quarantine and trying to find some happy moments during a difficult year, we have muddled through and hopefully can look forward to happier moments this year. I hope Harvey has provided some comic relief in some way.

 

It has been a very rewarding year for me since the publication of my book in October of 2020.

 

I have written and published two articles about Mary Chase and Harvey, one for Colorado Heritage Magazine and one for Colorado Life Magazine.

 

I’ve given presentations to the Denver Woman’s Press Club and my own book club.

 

I’ve been interviewed for the University of Denver Alumni Magazine, the Vail DailyColorado Community Media, and for a film on Mary Chase sponsored by the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame that is scheduled to be completed in March.

 

I’ve been reviewed by Broadway Stars and New York Theatre blogs and I have received mentions by PlaybillBroadway World and Mark Kappel’s News Notes and Dance Blog

 

Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for your support and for making Mary Chase come to life.










\



toggle search form

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What a Bumpy Ride!

Here we all are at the end of 2020 and surviving as well as possible despite the many glitches that have made the process a bit challenging. Among my own: my husband and I contracting covid in March but thank goodness recovering and having a positive antibody test, my grandson's virtual bar mitzvah, staying in touch with friends and family, getting through a contentious election, the launching of my new book without any possibility of book signings, learning to order groceries by Instacart and life's necessities on Amazon.

How amazing to have had the internet and especially Zoom to help us get through these trying times. So helpful.

May we all enjoy a less stressful New Year and appreciate all the special parts of of our lives that we took for granted in the past.

Onward to 2021!




Thursday, October 22, 2020

                                                                                

 

Harvey “Karats”

 

FROM MIMI POCKROSS’S NEW BOOK

Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase

 

Harvey debuted on Broadway

on November 1, 1944. It ran

for four-and-a-half years.

 

Now available on line 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat

Friday, October 16, 2020

Who You Gonna Vote For?

This article appeared in the Vail Daily on October 16, 2020. 

 

 

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you. And I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for. That’s up to me.

 

What I have learned is that, depending on where we come from and what our life experiences have been, we’re inclined to use that as the basis for our decisions. 

 

So here’s mine: I grew up in a fifties suburb and had a perfect Eisenhower era education. I attended a suburban high school where we were a microcosm of the country. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I later earned a master’s degree.

 

My life has gone through many reinventions since those idyllic years when I was growing up. 

 

Among the many influences in my life: teaching in the inner-city schools of Washington, DC, in high schools in the Illinois prairies near an Air Force base, in a college community, and in the suburbs like the one which I attended; working in a mega media corporation; and owning and operating a small business. Among the strongest influences were the jobs I held before I became a college graduate: as a waitress, a receptionist, and as a counter person. I have enjoyed a long-time marriage and have a great family.

 

I’ve watched life change from those ideal Eisenhower era days and I’ve tried to change with them. I am grateful that I have a relatively comfortable life especially here in Vail.

 

I think my experience and my background skew me to deliberate beyond my own needs. I understand what it’s like to have experienced small-town life, what it’s like to be a military brat, how a corporation runs, and what it means to be a parent. 

 

So as an American, and as this election is upon us, I ask myself a lot of questions. Do I make my decisions based on my pocketbook? Do I make my decisions based on thinking of the needs of others? Do I make my decisions based on who I want to represent me in the world? Do I place more importance on the needs of my state as opposed to the needs of other states that might be very different than mine? Who do I think would know best how to run our country?

 

Rather than getting on the bandwagon and just voting with the herd, I ask people to individually examine their life experiences and think carefully as to why they are making their personal choices. 

 

I consider myself open minded. I just want to know why people vote the way they do. Maybe it comes down to whether you vote with your head, with your heart or maybe both.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Little White Lies


One day I remember taking my children with me to the grocery store. They were probably about the same age as my grandchildren are now, maybe 9 and 10, something like that. 

For some reason we wound up talking about not liking something, not sure whether it was a person or a grocery or what, but the subject came up as to when you tell the truth and when you tell a "little white lie." It seemed like it was OK to say you don't like carrots but it wasn't OK to say you didn't like your friend's friend, Bobby Anderson.

Basically we came to the conclusion that you never want to purposely hurt someone's feelings so you might "fudge" a bit. Instead of saying you don't like a person's friend you might say who you like to play with. Or instead of saying you didn't want to go to someone's house, you might say that you have to baby sit for your brother or that you are grounded or that your grandmother comes to see you on Saturdays. Maybe you have to use all those excuses before that person finally gets the message that he is not on the top of your "go visit list." Whatever your "little white lie," I cautioned that you never really want to get caught, so be sure to avoid saying something where the truth would finally get out. Perhaps you had no grandmother or your mother volunteered to your friend that you weren't grounded or your brother is too old to have a baby sitter.

Finally we all came to the conclusion that we could always tell the truth to each other because we're family. It was just not always a good idea to tell others! There was comfort in that. 

Figuring out how to craft a perfect "white lie" doesn't always work for those of us who like to tell the truth. I always had difficulty with this. And it always amazed me when others were so good at it.



http://mimipockross.com

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48768527-pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=RRvlZMsj1S&rank=1

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat-mimi-pockross/1134735749?ean=9781538131688

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD (LIMELIGHT EDITIONS): https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538131688/Pulling-Harvey-Out-of-Her-Hat-The-Amazing-Story-of-Mary-Coyle-Chase


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Family

At my book club the other day everyone was talking about how they were occupying their time while we are all relatively on lock down. A lot of people talked about cleaning projects such as using a toothbrush to clean the bathroom grouting. Neighbors talked about getting together once a week in someone's backyard to visit and drink coffee. I talked about my new liaison I am having with long lost relatives and the attempt by all of us to bring some sort of a semblance to our past.

It all started when the youngest children of members of our extended decided that we needed to know more about our roots. At the start, there were seven children in the family, four daughters and three sons. The parents had come from Ukraine and had settled in Chicago in the early 1900s. The grandchildren did the research on the ancestry websites and then we have all emailed and zoomed together at various times. The remaining son of one of the brothers (the father of one of the granddaughters) then put his thoughts in emails and provided all kinds of interesting anecdotes about growing up in Chicago and why the families had difficulty staying in touch. The network of cousins has expanded to three different siblings of the original seven. Each time we have gathered, out host cousin has posted a backdrop of the town in Ukraine where the original family was from and then we have exchanged memories and continue to try and clear up facts. When did they arrive? Where did they live?

It's been a delightful segue during a time when we're all trying to make some sense out of our current situation. The last time we met we traded favorite recipes that our mothers had inherited from their mothers. I offered my German mother's plum cake recipe and my cousin gave her grandmother's strudel recipe. I was amazed to discover that the family had lived in a bustling city of 64,000 and not in a tiny village like the one from Fiddler on the Roof and that they weren't at all like Tevye, the milkman. They were actually pretty comfortable. We also found that we had a lot in common. For example, a thread of being frugal seems to run through the family, and there is a tendency toward longevity. I liked too that so many of my cousins were academics even though I am not.

I hope there will be more discoveries to come in the future. So far it's been a great ride.







Thursday, July 23, 2020

Policy

When I first owned my art gallery, a customer brought back an expensive pot after he had purchased it three months before and asked for his money back. I was devastated. First my self-esteem was hurt, but second, I didn't have five hundred dollars in cash to give him his refund.

Once I had reluctantly found the money to give to him, I decided it was time to make my policy on returns more defined and more noticeable.  I had to think about this and decide what was fair to both the customer and to me, the struggling owner of the gallery.

Soon after I posted my return policy right by the cash register and repeated the policy in my quarterly newsletter.  It turned out that you had to return the merchandise, assuming it was in good condition, within ten days or else there was no refund. The refund would be reissued in the form that it was originally paid for. 

Each time that a customer made a purchase I reminded them of the policy. 

For the most part that took care of the problem, but there were still exceptions. One time, someone custom ordered a headboard and then complained that he didn't like the item when it was delivered. Another time a customer complained that the lamps he custom ordered were uneven and he couldn't live with that. In each case I had to explain that art was never perfect. I settled differently in each case. I can't remember exactly how, but I think I gave them each credit and just took back the items and then eventually resold them.

Since my college days, I have always been interested in policy. I think it's always a matter of establishing guidelines that work and then making sure everyone understands the rules. What I didn't understand until I was a store owner is that regardless of the rules, some people will always try to get around them. Then it's up to the person in charge to figure out what to do. Litigating is time consuming and expensive. Going to the press is another alternative. Learning from your mistakes was what I settled on. 

Back to the drawing board, I went.




COMING IN THE FALL OF 2020!















Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I Wish

The year was 1965 and my husband Keith and I were newly married and decided to move to Washington, DC where Keith worked on a National Science Foundation grant and I worked as a traveling speech improvement teacher in Washington, D.C.'s inner city.

I had grown up in a very segregated suburb of Chicago where the tribal wars were between Jews and non-Jews. With the exception of a friend's cleaning lady, I had never met an African-American. It was a new experience to be in a world I knew nothing about. Sometimes when I was making my rounds of my schools I was often the only white person in the school, a role reversal of sorts.

It had only been twelve years since Brown v. Board of Education had passed and the seven African-American women teachers on my team of ten were still feeling the sting of attending school in segregated times. Often they would share with me how they felt during those years.

Being with these women changed my life as did teaching in some of the poorest black neighborhood schools. I developed a respect for the teachers who had accomplished so much and would go on to  even greater heights after I left for Illinois the following year. It was a joy to learn about scrapple, eye-opening to see six-foot tall teenagers in my seventh grade classroom, and touching to deliver one little black girl to the projects when we completed an after-school activity that she so enjoyed.

I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to a culture so different than mine. Maybe that's what all of my fellow Americans need to do: put themselves in places other than where they feel most comfortable. Maybe then we would all learn to respect one another.

Mimi


                                                   COMING IN THE FALL OF 2020:




Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I Saw a Purple Cow






So I'm hearing about young parents trying to figure out how to get through the day during these trying times and I'm remembering my own trials and tribulations.

What comes to mind is:
     Living through brutal Chicago winters with an infant and a toddler. One day, stuck in the house after another blizzard and with my husband downtown and me an hour away in a suburb, throwing the two kids on a sled and pulling them through the snowy terrain to the local merchants' district for a hamburger and fries at Shelton's Grill.  And then pulling the sled back again. It took up most of the day.
     Being stuck in the house for several weeks while all three of us were sick with the flu and dramatizing a book  (I think it was Dr. Seuss) with lifesize posters and dialogue. Our goal was to entertain for an upcoming Thanksgiving.
     Climbing up three flights of stairs at the local YMCA for a kids' class, hauling the umbroller and the two kids and getting to the top and finding out that I had the wrong date for the class.
     Taking my two year old to Moms and Kids swimming lessons in the bitter cold winter even though I hate to swim.

Still I look back at raising my kids as a great time in my life. I bought all the books of activities to do with kids and found the Sesame Street Activities Book and I Saw a Purple Cow to be a great source of ideas. Thank goodness that every afternoon after their naps I could place both kids in front of the television to watch Sesame Street. I actually watched too and that was followed by Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. We made cookies for every occasion always using the basic butter cookie recipe from the Sesame Street Activities Book.

No regrets!


COMING SOON!!!






   

Monday, May 11, 2020

I'm Mrs. America!

Nostalgia set in last Sunday when I was watching a segment on CBS's Sunday Morning that featured entertainment icon Martha Stewart.  There she was with her signature blonde casual haircut, garbed in a sunny yellow sweater and speaking from her shining stainless steel kitchen outlined on the top of the screen by an array of at least twenty-five spotless copper pans and standing behind her counter where an ultra deluxe mixmaster sat next to a bowl of freshly hatched eggs from her nearby chicken coop.

When I was a young mother, Stewart was a fast rising star that used her domestic talents to create an empire that eventually included dozens of cookbooks, several television shows and that still produces a regularly published magazine. Except for her controversial stint in jail for insider trading, Stewart is an ironic example of how she used women's traditional skills to build a wealthy empire.

In the same week that Martha's segment on how to make everything but the kitchen sink cookies during the coronavirus was taking place, I had just finished watching the fifth episode of Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett, an FX miniseries about the seventies and the women's lib movement, a time during which I was a young wife and mother.

Blanchett stars in the role of Phyllis Schafly, who rose to the top as the spokeswoman against the Equal Rights Amendment. Also featured in the series are the high profile feminists of the time who opposed her: Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, and Bella Abzug.

I recall the times vividly. My peers and I were all struggling to figure out which side of the argument to support. Did we want to be domestic like Martha or did we want the instant equality of opportunity that Gloria and Bella were proposing? Phyllis believed that by diminishing the line between women's and men's roles that society would suffer. She gathered legions of followers that impressed the Republican establishment and made her a power player all while living at home with her lawyer husband and five children.

All of my friends were in favor of the ERA and, though I'm more of a sideline person, I signed the Illinois petition and once joined a protest in Chicago's Grant Park. (Of note: Schafly was from Alton, Illinois and the amendment failed in the state).

Many of us during this time decided to work part-time work while others stayed home and hunkered down as full-time mothers who filled in with book clubs and volunteer work. I personally took a part-time marketing job at a small shopping district near my house and worked for several women merchants, also mothers and wives.

Recently I gave a talk to a group of women some of whom had no knowledge of this time and never had to fight for gender equality. They were professionals and mothers and had never thought about staying home. It was a shock to one that I had any guilt about trying to balance a professional life with being a mother. Her kids were raised in day care and had learned at an early age how to take care of themselves.

This week's television programs on Martha Stewart and Mrs. America revisit women's choices and let us all reevaluate the women's movement. Can a domestic queen like Martha Stewart receive adoration for building an empire based on the tools of a homemaker? Was Phyllis Schafly trying to balance her own ambitions with being a homemaker? Were the feminists all just bitter women who had an axe to grind and made the movement their job? Is it a good fight to specifically legislate that women should have equal opportunities in every sector of American life?

The question of the ERA amendment is currently being revisited and could possibly do better this time. We'll see.












Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Living with a Pandemic Bird


We live in a beautiful home in the mountains. From every window opening we can see in the near distance the snowcap peaks. Tall imposing evergreens and aspens dot our property. From time to time moose have bunked in our backyard, deer have visited regularly and a friendly fox often has whizzed by our back patio. Every winter my husband puts up bird feeders that attract small wrens, bluebirds, and all types of indigenous birds.

So being quarantined in such a lovely place is not all bad. We make do ordering from Instacart and take regular walks in our neighborhood that is located at the bottom of a national park trail. We are grateful that our family is doing as well as can be expected and that we are regularly able to stay in touch by phone and on Facetime.

It was a surprise to us when an uninvited visitor, an angry bird, began pecking at our tall two- story high hall window from day to night. He was a large red-breasted brown speckled bird and he was relentless. It seemed he didn’t want us to feel that we weren’t being affected by the virus. He wanted us to experience a bit of suffering. Maybe he thought we needed something to do during the countless hours of the day.

From early morning to late dusk, Mr. Angry Bird knocked at the window, only to be deterred momentarily to branches of our front evergreen tree for short periods of time.
It took a while to figure out what we might do to discourage him. (We had no idea if it was a him or a her.) The window is a combination of stained glass and clear glass and on the ledge we have a wildflower arrangement that is surrounded by a glass covering. We decided to hide the glass flower arrangement. That worked for about a half hour.

We turned to the internet for advice. It recommended hanging something with movement and that shines in the window. We up put an old dream catcher and affixed it to the window. Nada.

Then we called the wildlife division of the Parks and Recreation Department. He said birds don’t like raptors and we should try putting an image of one in the window. Two efforts failed. The pounding went on.

Then we called the wildlife company that had gotten rid of the squirrels that were running around in the rafters above our upstairs rooms. She explained the situation was that it was mating season and birds seeing their reflection think what they’re seeing is a prospect. “Block the windows with some covering.” We search around for old posters, newspapers, magazine covers and old calendar cover sheets. Success.

The next day we go downstairs to our family room to do a television yoga session and guess who’s waiting for us at a window in the room? Our visitor, the angry bird. We interrupt the yoga session to put up more paper. We get through the session. Still the bird finds an opening at the bottom. We put up the board and the front cover from our Risk game on the ledge. We can see him sitting on the ground figuring out how to widen his entry. 

This has now been going on for almost two weeks and we’re still not sure that it’s over and that our menacing visitor won’t return again.

If anything, our angry bird has put it all into perspective. An annoyance like him is a pain, but it’s not the end of the world. He’ll go away someday and hopefully so will Corona-19.