A breezy memoir about growing up in the 1940s and ’50s along the California coast.
This isn’t Archibald’s (Accidental Cowgirl, 2007, etc.) first memoir, but the focus here is on her early years—from her birth in 1938 in the small town of Soquel, California, until the early ’60s, when she was in her 20s and living on her own. She writes that, as a child, she knew how to make the most out of the adoration she received from loving parents and grandparents: “Besides being winsome, I was terribly spoiled, the center of attention in my family....I soon discovered that my wish was their command, and I was the Great Manipulator.” The family lived for two years in Dayton, Ohio, during World War II, while her father was in the Navy; there, the author discovered a passion for the stage that would eventually lead her to join a part-time traveling chorus line while she was still in high school. After the war, the family returned to California, first to the Berkeley suburbs and then to the Walnut Creek suburbs. Eventually, she was a single woman living in San Francisco, navigating what she characterizes as a tricky path between being attractive to the opposite sex and maintaining a well-honed sense of propriety. The author presents her lighthearted recollections in a series of vignettes that paint a vivid portrait of small-town life as America weathered the end of the Great Depression and wartime. Archibald shares little moments that create lasting images; for example, she describes her mother applying leg makeup when nylon stockings were hard to come by: “She’d sit at her dressing table, hold one shapely leg aloft by the ankle, and starting there, guiding the pencil with her thumb and index finger, she’d draw a thin line all the way up the back of her leg, and then I’d get to check it carefully to make sure her ‘seams’ were straight.” However, readers should be prepared for some chronological confusion, as Archibald’s story tends to go wherever her memories take her at any given moment.
A pleasant reflection on mostly good times.