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Trivia -- Week of October 31, 2005


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Happy Halloween, everybody! No scary stories from me this week, though I have a good family story I just finished telling on another website. I told this for the first time in public for a genealogy club I used to belong to, whose members used to beg me to retell it to their friends. I posted it on the Internet about five years ago, but I don't think I've shared it with my friends and fellow posters here, so let me tell you how my grandmother bobbed her hair . . .


Grandma told me she was 18 or 19 at the time, which meant this would have happened in 1920 or 1921. Bobbed hair was just becoming popular among young women at that time, and she and her three sisters used to talk about who was going to be first in their family, since their mother was dead set against it. So they decided that Grandma was going to be the first, since she was the oldest of the girls.


On a day when their mother was visiting a neighbor and their father and brother were still at work, the four girls marched down to the local barber shop (no beauty salons in Pittsburgh back then), and Grandma hopped in the chair and asked the barber to bob her hair. While her three sisters watched, the barber carefully cut off Grandma's long tresses straight across the back of her neck, and put them aside for her to take home, as she had asked. He then brushed out the rest of her hair, trimmed the ends a little, and that was it. Quick as it was, Grandma said it was the longest five minutes of her life.


But her sisters squealed about how good she looked, and they walked home happily. Then Grandma started thinking about what her parents and older brother would say. Dreading the worst, she went upstairs to her room and didn't come out for the rest of the afternoon.


When her mother called everyone in for supper, Grandma was the last one to the table. As she came into the room and sat down, the room grew strangely quiet. Grandma said she could literally feel everybody staring at her. Nobody said or did anything for about a minute. Then her mother got up, strode over to Grandma, pulled her out of her chair by her hair, and slapped her face, saying "You HUSSY! Leave this table!" And Grandma left the table without her supper. She cried herself to sleep that night.


But over the coming year, her three sisters all got their hair bobbed, the youngest for her 14th birthday. Her mother still protested, but a little less each time, until she finally threw up her hands, like what could she do?


My grandmother first told me this story when we were going through one of her trunks of memorabilia, and she pulled the long skein of hair that the barber saved for her that day out of a shirt box. It was thick, a deep auburn color -- and it must have been four feet long! Grandma was always a tiny woman, and I'll bet she could have sat on her hair.


After she died in 1986, when my mother asked us kids if there were any of Grandma's personal effects that we wanted, I said that I wanted her hair. Needless to say, this drew some strange reactions from my other family members, but when I explained further, we turned several of Grandma's old trunks looking for it, but to no avail. I never did find out what happened to it (I have some theories, but can't prove anything). Nevertheless, I'm thankful that Grandma left behind some wonderful family stories which either she or I wrote down in the few years before she died . . . and that's a great legacy in itself.


Whew! Now, on to this week's movie trivia . . .

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Hmmm . . . not quite.


Yesterday's answer: Ernest Hemingway's favorite film adaptation of his own work was Mark Hellinger's 1946 production of THE KILLERS -- at least the first 15 minutes of the film which stuck quite closely to Hemingway's original story.


John Huston adapted Hemingway's story for the screen, but couldn't take screen credit because he was under contract to Warner Brothers at the time. Years later, Hemingway told Huston that he felt that THE KILLERS was the best adaptation of his own work. Huston then revealed he had done the adaptation, and then -- as Huston related it -- Hemingway "called me a dirty word."

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