Monday, August 9, 2021

Mount Rushmore and Beyond, A Wild Ride

 It's been a while since my husband and I have taken a road trip. This one was with our adorable grandchildren, ages 10 and 13 and our destination was Mount Rushmore, a place my husband and I had visited once before and one that I had visited with my parents when I was growing up, one of many road trips I took as a child.

But my eyes had never looked at the monument quite like it did this time. That's the beauty of revisiting places you've visited in the past.

Several things caught my attention, several political. 

I found it interesting that South Dakota was looking for a way to draw people to their state when they settled in on creating Mount Rushmore. The original idea advocated by the state historian was to focus on Western heroes, but when they engaged their US Senator and hired the sculptor, the emphasis became more national.  Another interesting tidbit was that the sculptor, a Danish immigrant named Gutzon Borglum, after insisting that the sculpture be national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history, and who was a Republican, voted for Calvin Coolidge, a Democrat because he supported the project over Coolidge's opposing contender. I also found it interesting why each of the four presidents were chosen, i.e. each represented an "eternal reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty." Washington because he was the father of the country who chose not to be a king, Jefferson, not for his role in the Declaration of Independence, but for expanding the country by half with the Louisiana Purchase under his presidency, Lincoln for saving the Union, and Theodore Roosevelt who, by building the Panama Canal, expanded trade for the country and for the world and who encouraged the business side of the country's goals. 

To see people from all parts of the country and of the world come together to marvel at the accomplishment that began in 1927 and culminated in 1941 after fourteen years of hard work and clever innovation, made me feel that there is hope for our country. Mount Rushmore to me renewed my belief in democracy. Even though I did see different representations of America, for example, the Amish, a few Black families, some bikers that were attending the nearby Sturgis rally, I still felt there weren't enough of us Americans there to see this incredible site and to rethink what makes our country great. 

Another new observation occurred to me as I traveled to and from my destination, that of the country surrounding the site, the cowboy culture of the West, the rise and fall of the indigenous people, the gold rushers, the collective dissatisfaction of visitors like the bikers and ranchers and residents who reside in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. It's a different world out there. One can start a bit to understand why they value their independence and why, somehow or another, they need to be brought in under the big tent of democracy as spokesman as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The City of Angels

 It's been a while since I have visited the City of Angels. What a contrast to my tiny quiet ski village where I have lived for the past three years and to the mid-sized city of Denver where I lived before that for thirty years.

What struck me more than anything else was the complete acceptance of diversity throughout the city. Though I did not go everywhere, my impression was that races, genders, elders, and youth all seem to want the same things: good hotels, nice restaurants, enjoyable pastimes. It was a replica of all the commercials we see on television where everyone gets along and has a good time together, no matter whether you're the worker or a family or a group of friends.

Of course the traffic is ridiculous and the means of getting around daunting. To one of our destinations we were on a two way busy street for at least ten miles! And the homeless tents line the avenues.

Still, I love all the references to the film industry and Hollywood. In my home town you would never see a blockade adorned with photos of Matt Damon and his new movie Stillwater imposed on it or vintage pictures of Charlie Chaplin in a historic women's club.

The bougainvillea and hydrangea bushes are in full bloom, so rich you can't even see the branches.

And the California cuisine? Inventive with abundant amounts of kale, arugula and lesser known greens, a farmers' market entirely devoted to fresh fruits and vegetables, and creative versions of produce like canned kiwis and marinated plums.

The beach summoned us although the boats in the harbor all needed paint jobs. (Blame it on the pandemic). We saw tons of volley ball games, kids playing in the sand, girls in summer dresses, fancy parties in individual stalls.

The bevy of activity is exhausting but invigorating. It renewed my appreciation for why people live in megacities like the City of Angels despite all the problems that go along with that choice.




Saturday, July 3, 2021

America

The memories of my childhood education are the foundation for my beliefs today. 

They are from a white middle class suburban community where in the 1950s and early 1960s schools were supposed to be a microcosm of American society. 

Probably my highest achievement was giving the graduation speech for my grammar school, "Good-bye Cleveland, Hello High School." I guess that meant my teachers thought I was somewhat of a role model and also that I would get the job done. I was also proud to have been selected to be a member of an after school singing octet with my amazing music teacher, Mrs. Smith. I know I enjoyed the practices almost as much as the performances.

It was not all success for me in the cocoon in which I grew up. I didn't make cheerleading in the eighth grade, only in the seventh grade. I was selected to play the viola in the school orchestra rather than the coveted violin slot. 

My school, a lovely blonde building in the middle of a residential neighborhood, became the backbone for the life I would later lead. 

It was there that I learned to sing the Negro spiritual "Ain"t a That Good News" from Mrs. Smith and where I learned to diagram sentences from Mrs. Norkett and memorize the preamble to the Constitution from Mrs. Lago. It was there that I wrote a paper on "A House Divided." It was with my schoolmates that I played jacks at recess, traded baseball cards with the guys, and traveled to see the Chicago stockyards on a field trip.

After school many of my classmates and I would often walk home together after stopping at Tom's candy store to get a treat. And when I got home to my 1500 square foot house, I would relax with my brother as we watched Howdy Doody, Clarabelle and Mr. Bluster, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie and later Spin and Marty on our twelve inch television. Tim Considine (Spin) was so handsome.

I guess those easy, breezy days had to end when we said good by to Cleveland and hello to high school. For me, the competition would get greater and the ability to stand out would become more difficult. I always admired those who were comfortable with their innate abilities who just seemed to fall naturally into place. Most of us wanted more and struggled to find our places.

Those early happy days are the basis for everything else I have done in my lucky long life. I am usually pretty optimistic. I take my defeats and move on and try to alter the steps I take to gain some progress. As my father always said, you take two steps forward and one step backward. And I take moments off from my continual fierce ambition to just have a good time. What could be more American?


Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Harvey became a movie in 1950!




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Denver Public Library and Me

A few days ago I gave a virtual presentation to the Denver Public Library about my book on Denver Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Mary Coyle Chase. 

First, it was a thrill for me to address the library audience and they did not disappoint. There were, according to librarian Andrew Wickens and host, twenty people in attendance and the best part is that they were all book and library lovers. You can't have a better audience than that!

My assignment from Andrew was to tell a bit about the book and how I used the library to help me to tell Mary Coyle Chase's story. That was no trouble at all since I spent countless hours there doing my research.

The joy for me, whenever I give a presentation is the feedback after my talk and my slide show. Becky Toma, a long-time follower of Denver theater, was "present" and talked in detail about the time that Jimmy Stewart appeared at the 35th anniversary celebration of "Harvey" at the Bonfils Theatre. She recalled how glamorous Jimmy Stewart and his fashionable wife Gloria made such an impression on the Denver audience who were aghast when he made an appearance. She had many other memories of Mary Chase as well since Mary Chase sat on the board of the Bonfils Theatre.

One of those in attendance had a copy of Mary Chase's book "The Wicked Wicked Ladies of the Haunted House" with her. Another attendee wanted to know if I had spoken to members of the Chase family and how they reacted to my book. 

To me there is no better gratification for these presentations than meeting those interested in my book about Mary Chase. I learn so much when we can connect.



Friday, May 14, 2021

And the Award Goes To...

When I was seven years old I won first prize on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, a local ABC television production in my hometown of Chicago. I sang "Chocolate Ice Cream Cone" and I wore my Bluebird uniform since the contestants on the show were all Camp Fire Girls. My award was a cash payment of $75 and a Gruen wristwatch engraved on the back "First prize winner, Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, 1950." When I returned to the show to compete with finalists from the the show's winners for the entire season, I lost. It must not have disappointed me too much. Throughout my life I still entered all kinds of contests and competitions, some of which I won and some of which I lost. I was a finalist for homecoming queen but not voted into the court. I lost every year I tried out for cheerleading except one year in middle school. In my senior year I won the lead role in my school musical but only after several rejections in prior years. And on and on.

They say that to be a writer you have to have a tough skin. I can attest to that. I have a drawer full of rejections. But I've had some successes too of which I am very proud.

In my old age, I am still entering contests and over the past year submitted three applications for my writing. I was chosen to be a finalist in one category. The winner is still to be announced. I have to admit that I was disappointed that I did not win in at least one of the other two categories, but I've learned through the years "you win some and you lose some." My husband's favorite saying is one by Winston Churchill that goes "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase.

Find out more about her at mimipockross.com



Monday, April 19, 2021

Drama Queens

 

Recently I sat in on a Zoom meeting of aspiring writers of all ages, but mostly young ones. The range in age was twenty to seventy-something and I was the seventy something. I had been invited because I had recently published a book and some were curious as to how I was able to do this. The subject for the evening was a general discussion of writers, playwrights and poets and the frustrations of trying to advance one’s career. 

 

There were about twelve of us and the median age was around 40. The twenty-year old was a student and had to leave in the middle of the meeting to study for exams. Another was struggling to write in between taking care of her ailing spouse. Another was in between jobs after she was let go during the pandemic, and another was a wife and mother of four grown children teaching at several schools while trying to write on the side. 

 

The complaints for all were about gender parity, ageism, writers’ block, rejections and a frustration with why they weren’t making as much money as Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. 

 

I looked at the shining beautiful faces of these women and I was not at all upset that I was in my older years even though my books have never yet made the best seller list. I sympathized with their struggles. They are basically mine as well. But there was a certain acceptance on my part of my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and my limitations that I believe only comes with old age. And I had very few of their obligations! 

 

Perhaps the reason that I am relatively content is because of my latest project, a book about a woman named Mary Chase who in 1945 when women were not a major part of the work force, won a Pulitzer Prize for her play about a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. She was 37 at the time, a wife and a mother as well. She was never able to match or exceed her initial success as a playwright but she continued to write until she passed away at the age of 74 because she said that she always felt the most content when she was writing. 

 

Unlike most of my peers, who have long since retired and are either on the golf course each day or by the pool, having lunch with the girls or going to book clubs, I feel the same way as Mary Chase even though my achievements are not anywhere near the ones of Mary Chase.

In my old age, I still want to keep plodding along. I’m just happy that so far my health has held up and I can take daily walks, enjoy my grandchildren and have fiery political discussions with my husband at breakfast as we read our morning papers.

 

I shared some of my life stories with these women and they were actually appreciative even though I was hesitant to offer them. I told them about all of my rejections before I was successful in finding a publisher. I told them about gender disparities I experienced when I was a speech and drama coach and all the sports coaches received extra stipends and I did not. And about the lack of pay for a weekly column I wrote for two and half years and for which my publisher paid me a paltry salary and offered me golf clubs instead. And I talked about the need to balance one’s life with other pleasures rather than spending every moment trying to do better.

 

To be appreciated for my contributions to the discussion was a great feeling and one I did not expect, the feeling that by sharing my experiences and struggles, they might actually find some comfort. I’m looking forward to hearing more about their accomplishments. And I will not be envious.




Monday, April 5, 2021

My Pandemic Book Launch

At the beginning of March in 2020, I was still at work editing my manuscript for Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase when Covid struck. 

At the beginning of March I was one of the first to come down with a case of my own that lasted several days. Almost on schedule, the final touches were being made to ready my book for publication. The book was due to be published in October, and, with the exception of a few glitches, actually did appear then.

I slogged through the next few months getting ready for my "launch." Not sure if there would be any launch, but I got ready anyway.

I wrote some articles which I was lucky enough to get published. I made up a virtual presentation for Zoom. I wrote to  all the bookstores and to my mailing list to let everyone know that my book would be out in October. And, I started to use the social network outlets that I had been avoiding dealing with.

The good thing about this past year is that I had to be even busier than I would have been normally, just not on what to wear or where to go or who to visit. The bad thing is that everyone had to consolidate their businesses and, of course, that meant me too. Thus independent bookstores that would ordinarily at least have entertained the thought of doing a book signing reserved their efforts to selling best sellers or books listed by trade publications, not boutique publishers like my own. 

Still I can't complain. I've honed my virtual presentation and have been delighted that there have been quite a few of them. And regularly Amazon ranks me high, although it varies when I don't check in on Facebook.

When I published my last book, these barriers did not exist and life was sooo much easier. 

Still I am grateful for all my cyberspace communications. There have been so many delightful moments in a year when so many tragic moments have occurred all over the world. It puts life into perspective. I'm not sure I was going to win the National Book Award anyway. It humbles me. I am grateful for all the wonderful things about my daily life and for realizing that even if my book launch was not on the Red Carpet, I have survived.

On to my next book that I am mid-way of writing.





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.