Party People

pwder pizza box
Ah, the Seventies!  A time of maxi-dresses, big lapels, powder-blue suits and eye-shadow, pizza-in-a-box and fruity cocktails.  At 2394  Pyramid Crescent, things were happenin’!  There was no “swingin’” going on, but the food was flash, the drinks were frothy and the chat was cheerful. These were the Davison dinner-parties and as a little girl, I was “party” to all the festivities – the craziness before, the cacophony during and the chaos after.
My parents were always big on entertaining.  They had a close circle of friends – originating on my mother’s Nova Scotia side – two ladies (and their partners) who had moved from Mom’s small coal-mining hometown of Glace Bay to the hoity-toity highlife of Toronto, Ontario and the parents of one of my friends at school, whom they had befriended at church.  This was the Fabulous Four and their parties were always a hoot because of the wacky sense of humour of the husband of one of the Cape Breton ladies, the presence of my dad’s rich Irish laugh and the clear, Scots’ accent belonging to my friend Susie’s mom.  As well, her dad was an accomplished Chef who had worked in the finest hotel-restaurants of Bermuda and when he prepared a meal for one of their parties, it was fit for a king.
My parents loved to fill the house with the smells of good food, the sound of music,laughter and chatter and to enjoy good conversation on just about any subject from politics to film.  I heard it all.
beefwell2 grasspie
Having a chef in their group put a bit of pressure on my mom and dad. They wanted to prepare dishes that were equal to that of their talented friend – my mom particularly had a sense of pride about this and so, between my mom and dad they would come up with some pretty elaborate meals.  I recall one party where they actually made pastry and wrapped it around a choice cut of meat to bake in the oven.  This, I think was their piece de resistance – a Beef Wellington!  Mind you, there were many other select dishes over the years: Coquilles St. Jacques appetizers, homemade soups, Beouf Bourguignon, Round steak in a Parma-cheese and tomato crust, Roast leg of lamb, Stuffed Salmon etc. – all accompanied by potatoes and vegetables done to perfection and finished off with Strawberries Romanoff, Grasshopper pie or Chocolate Mousse.
avostove
This is not to say that things always went well in the kitchen.  We had a pretty small house – a bungalow, with not the largest kitchen and not the best appliances – no gas ranges, no microwaves, no double-doored refrigerators – no, we had a Frigidaire olive-green stove with 4 burners and 2 inner racks and neither did we have a whole lot of counter space.
buckles
I can recall my mother, her hair piled high in a bouffant do, decked out a long, floral, jersey dress and black patent square-toed shoes with pirate buckles, sporting a half-apron as she checked whatever was roasting in the oven. The Deilcraft dining-table with the extra leaves would be set with the Wickerdale Spode and the Oneida silverware on a colourful linen tablecloth and a centrepiece of fabric flowers would be placed dead centre. Meanwhile, my dad would be prancing around in his y-fronts and undershirt, his just-shaved face stinging from the styptic pen he’d used to cauterize the blood from a cut.  Mom would be yelling at him, “They’re going to be here any minute!” To which he would yell back, “Betty. I’m going as fast as I can!” If you hadn’t sent me out for such and such at the last minute, I’d be in my suit right now, ready to go.” And so it would go, until the doorbell rang and then it would be all smiles and belly-laughs and shrill shrieks of delight and knowing looks. The party had begun!
Along with great food, there was a trend in the Seventies to concoct some pretty fantastic drinks – the likes of which you could only get at a fancy cocktail lounge or in the finest restaurants.  Though not given to overly excessive indulgence (at least not on a regular basis), my parents did like to, shall we say “tipple” and my dad, who was the soul of generosity, would spare no expense to accommodate all tastes – running from aperitifs to after dinner liqueurs. (I got to taste them all  by the way, despite being waay under-age.)
oster1
The advent of the personal blender made all these decadent concoctions possible and the Oster blender guidebook that came with the machine allowed for experimentation with as yet unheard of potent potables.  One night it was the fruity orange blossoms made with gin blended with orange sherbet, served in a bowl-shaped champagne glass, and on another, it was frozen strawberry daiquiris.  A canned piña colada mix brought a taste of tropical lands to the Davison living room where the room was a-buzz with shouts and strident talk, punctuated by sipping ladies and quaffing gents. The fellas had their favourites too, but they tended to lean to the more traditional screwdrivers, rum and cokes and gin and tonics.  Of course, there was also always a goodly amount of the popular Canadian brews in the stubby bottles cluttering up the shelves of the small Frigidaire.
labatts
The one thing my parents had literally no clue about was wine.  I am appalled to admit that along with such great banquets they were wont to serve the likes of Maria Christina (an overly sweet Canadian white wine that today would make anyone gag), or a bottle of Mateus (you know, the kind you would let drip with the wax of candles when using as a centrepiece?) or some rudimentary red that caught my dad’s eye when he scouted out the liquor store.  Occasionally, a trip to a new restaurant in town resulted in the trial of a new wine that my dad would latch onto. He was quite set in his ways was my father, and when he found something he liked (even if others did not, he held to it like the mast of a sinking ship). My mother still considers “Black Tower” to be the height of wines for a fancy meal.
Thankfully, as they aged, so did their wine selection and I must take some credit for introducing them to a full-bodied Merlot, or an unoaked Chardonnay.
Drambuie_7
Along with wine, my father loved to have an impressive selection of liqueurs.  Coming from an impoverished Belfast family and having made good over here in Canada as a Chartered Accountant for the Canadian Government, he liked to put on a good show and a storehouse of alcohol was one way he did that.  He had built a solid wooden bar in the family room in our basement and liked to stock it with anything that struck his fancy.  We had Tia Maria and Drambuie, Crème de Cacao and Amaretto, Cointreau, Cherry and Peach liqueurs – you name it!  And my father had absolutely no compunction about giving me a bit – especially since it was “only a tiny glass”.  It’s a wonder I’m not a full-blown alky today! Then again, “familiarity breeds contempt”(did Shakespeare say that, or was it the Bible?) so, I’m not inclined to even taste liqueur these days – alright, I’ll admit, I do like a bit of Bailey’s in my coffee and Kirsberry Cherry liquer doesn’t go amiss. Oh, and then there’s Kirsch in the fondue…
spoons
There remains a legend left over from my parents dinner parties and it gets blown out of proportion every time it is told (naturally). The wacky Jack (a stocky character with prematurely white hair, sparkling blue eyes and a devilish grin) was known to be a bit of an imbiber in these brouhahas.  He was the joke-teller who often crossed the line into the blue zone, if you know what I mean.  He was the card, the wit and the one inclined to get “in his cups”.  He was also the one who supposedly pilfered the silver from the dining table and after acting as usher at the next day’s Sunday mass, handed over the goods from his jacket pocket with a guilty grin and a guffaw.
Jack is no longer with us. He died from Cancer a number of years ago, but we will always remember his laughter and also his good heart.  He once cooked up a fabulous full breakfast for me and my sister as we watched him manoeuvre around his kitchen like a pro. He was a good egg himself.
I hope somewhere, my dad and Jack are having a bit of a laugh – raising a highball or tipping back a tiny glass of the nectar of the Gods.  I miss them both–I miss those days.
(Next time, we’ll have a look at some of my own parties – from little girl birthdays to big girl bashes.)
Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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43 thoughts on “Party People

  1. Hi Kat:That was a blast from the past indeed. My upbringing was quite different– my folks tended toward the anti-social– but definitely remember things like Oster blenders & olive-green kitchen appliances. By the way, “familiarity breeds contempt” is usually acribed to Aesop.

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  2. Hi Kat – I can only remember my folks having one party but they went to lots in the 70s. My mum had a couple of dresses made and a couple of wigs fitted. (that was cool then)Lots of James Last. I love the shoes ( I want them still) and I'm hungry for grasshopper pie. Just layer it and you've got something worthy of Canadian House and Home.

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  3. CP – The picture of the shoes was the closest I could find. They were actually shiny and black and a bit lower. My mom had a wig too. It was kind of silly because it was almost the same colour as her own hair, but a bit shorter. I wore it for Hallowe'en – it was itchy.(I'm thinking a grasshopper pie is in order very soon.)Kat

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  4. You have managed to capture some wonderful memories there and the story they paint is quite charming.I recall parties like these myself and always fancied I'd entertain like my parents did, but I don't. And Drambuie? We don't get along well and subsequently, I can't stand the smell of scotch either-I don't care how long it's been aged. Same for Boone's Farm Apple wine, though that is aged for what, 30 seconds?Thanks for today's entertainment.

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  5. what a rich past you have. How exciting to have parents with friends and parties. The picture of your mother with the half apron and those marvelous shoes – standing in front of the green stove – just glorious. What age are you as your recall these memories? Maybe I missed that, but I kept struggling to see YOU at a specific age – I was thinking 8, then 11…Knowing you like wine, I wish I could send you some bottled in Oklahoma. It's a growing industry here.

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  6. Rudee – I'm the same as you – although I do like to entertain, I rarely hold dinner parties and never with more than one other couple. Weird huh?I like Scotch, but only once in a while. As for Boone's Apple wine, I imagine that's like Wild Vines or something right? I'm not a wine-cooler or fruity wine kind of drinker. Yuck!Jen – Well, I would have been anywhere from about 7 to 17 when the parties were going on. Actually, they had dinner parties well into my 20s and after I left home. My mom still likes to entertain the odd guest and cooks a Sunday dinner for Kev and Me every other week.Kat

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  7. Oh yes (to above) but now I'm so darn hungry that I have to go & will come back on the 'morrow. My family was ultra-social…but of course, my mother had four galley slaves as I reminded her!

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  8. Kat – Remember “Harvest Gold”? It gave “Avocado” a run for its money! “Burnt Orange”, of course, came in a close third! The only thing missing is the shag carpeting! I love reading your reminiscences.

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  9. Giulia – Welcome – Bienvenue! I am pleased to see you here and hope you will become a regular visitor to Blasts From the Past. Please make a visit to my main blog, Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes if you have a chance.Galley slaves? très drôle!Kat

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  10. That sounded like it was fun for you to recall. Your description of everything was fun to read. I would have a hard time remembering many of those things myself.

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  11. What no Harvey Wallbangers and Chex Mix?My parents parties were mostly in the summer at our camper with the family next to us. It was all Noxema, Citronella, and Beer. But those were some good times!

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  12. This is a wonderful Blast From The Past. I can see it all in my mind, and it feels like great times. I love the pictures, too! Your family sounds like my husband's family. They love a good party, which is great. What a beautiful and warm portrait you have given us here. Thanks so much for the time traveling!

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  13. TFE – Sorry, I missed you! We don't have the stubby bottles anymore, but we do have an inordinate number of Canadian beers from the big breweries as well as scads of microbreweries. I'm more of a foreign beers gal, myself.Dominic – I'm glad you discovered this blog. There's lots of stuff in here if you dig around. It started out as a video-clip thing and ended up being my memoirs.Brenda – It WAS fun. The strange thing about these posts is that I don't really plan them, they just sort of evolve through conversations and memories that come up with my mom or friends and family. I'm glad you're enjoying them.WOR – Ahh yes! We DID have the Chex Mix, but no Harvey Wallbangers – at least not at the house.Lenore – I miss those colours, actually. ha ha.Julie – If you can see it in your mind, then it's working. Yay!Kat

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  14. What a great memory trip (as always). And I remember many of those things. Speaking of, why did they stop making green (we called it 'avovado')appliances? Was that color really all that bad? Yeah, okay, it was.

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  15. Deb – I disagree. I think avocado was a great colour, but then I'm a retro-girl.Liz – I'm pleased you enjoyed it. These memories bubble up periodically and I enjoy sharing them.Thanks for adding me; I'm looking forward to writing for Haiku Day.Kat

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  16. Your memories are so real that it makes me remember the 70's even though I wasn't even born until '77.BTW. I will save you a kid next year. 🙂 But if you're serious you'll need two. They need a buddy!

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  17. Ha ha, Carolyn. Wow! I must be doing it right then.I wish I could be serious about the kid(s), but we don't even have a gate on our yard and the winters are so harsh. We have a shed, but it's chock full of stuff and I don't think the cats would be much of a welcoming committee to some billygoats they couldn't boss around. I wish.Kat

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  18. Egads, avocado green comes back to haunt me! 🙂 I too remember the Harvest Gold [that was my Mom], Burnt Orange and that delightful brown everyone referred to as Coppertone. Hubby and I still laugh about how our Moms, who didn't know each other at the time, both decided to “antique” our pianos. Remember that: paint on a color, brush brown on it, wipe off and now it's “antique”? His mom did Burnt Orange, mine did Avocado Green. I was never so glad as when they finally restored that piano to it's natural color. :)As always, fun to visit!

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  19. OMG Kat!!!!!!You brought me back to those fun times in when I was a kid!!!My parents also loved to entertain with their so retro 70's bar that was in our livingroom. I use to get so excited when they had parties, because of the spread of food my mom use to put out. I also remember a room full of bouffant hairdo's us kids would sit there and make fun of.Have a great evening!Lydia

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  20. This was fun; I so recognize some of the items you bring up (the avocado green colour), but some of it is not as familiar as I spend my 70s in the East Bloc.;)Thank you so much for stopping by my place and for leaving a wonderful comment.;))

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  21. Wonderfully detailed journey to the past, Kat! No wonder you love cooking, you had a great example in your mother. And, does anyone give dinner parties like that anymore? I surely don't.

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  22. My dad had a tux that looked very similar to the one in your post…scary! I also still have and use the blender just like the one you posted a photo of. It belonged to mom and I stole it when I moved out. It works like a dream and has held up way better then all of the new appliances out there!

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  23. I was born late in my parents life and I don't recall parties, but that's not to say that they didn't attend them.My mother took olive green out of the kitchen and into the living room. Orange replaced the olive green in the kitchen and my Mum dressed more like Sophia Loren… with hats as opposed to wigs.She looked a bit like her too for a time.Mmmm memories…. kinda warm and fuzzy and a bit prickly too :-)best wishesRibbon

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  24. I had a sick cat to contend with yesterday (we got him back on track with home remedies) so I didn't have time to respond to comments, but I will try and do so today.Thanks to all who have been reading and relating to this post (and responding)!Kat

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  25. Wow, it sounds like y'all had fun. My parents never entertained. We had small family groups, occasionally, but it wasn't fun.Say, I've missed ya at Facebook. :o)

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  26. My parents had some wicked parties back in the day. Of course I was in high school and was beginning to develop my own interest in parties. The first house we bought was full of avocado appliance.

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  27. I was just going to mention the avacado appliances in my parents house but Neetzy beat me to it. I remember my parents parties as well and staying up to listen to them playing either George Carlin or Cheech and Chong on the stereo. I don't think I understood most of it, but I knew I wasn't supposed to be listening!

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  28. I remember Tupperware parties when I was a kid, and loved them. The toys were brilliant and I loved the colours of the tubs if we had picnics!Thankyou for your comments, by the way, you may be alarmed to know that I'm not a genius nutter or a drug lord, but I drink tea and take my inspiration from family!! Keep up the good work, I love this trip down memory lane!

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  29. I loved reading your memories of the Seventies! Your parents' list of favorite dishes to cook sounds like right out of Julia Child's (whom I happen to love – nothing beats the old-fashioned flair of her cooking shows, even my kids loved to watch the re-runs – I learned cooking thanks to her).

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  30. Poetikat, it sounds like you had so much fun and entertainment growing up. Your parents sound like the absolute tops. I'm nodding in recognition of the wine. What else did people serve in the 70's other than Maria Christina? Or Baby Duck, or BLue Nun. That was a wine wasn't it?Funny how many people had elaborate home bars back then. I wonder why that isn't the case anymore. My uncle bought a bar with an orange quilted-button vinyl front. We thought it the very height of luxe. The description of your cocktails made me think of Trader Vic's. I think we've discussed Trader Vics before. Talk about being trasported to the South Pacific!

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