If ever you wanted to learn about life, one of the best sources of information is old women. It is usually shocking to find out what they have experienced and have done. At the same time you are experiencing shock and disbelief, it is also very funny.
Young women, teenagers, college students, and women in their twenties, think that they are so daring, so rebellious, such risk takers, and breakers of rules. These women usually look at grey haired old women as being boring and no fun at all. The truth is, that most grey haired women have done more daring and riskier things than the young women today.
There was a woman that I worked for, who was 82 years old, I will call her “Cathy”. Cathy was from a farm in Canada, her family were Ukranian. After she finished high school, she went to school to become a nurse. After graduating from nursing school, she went to California to work as a nurse, this would have been approximately 1950.
California was booming in 1950. This was probably the peak of the glamour and prestige of Hollywood. California and Los Angeles were beautiful. Beautiful weather, beautiful people, new fancy restaurants and clubs, famous people, stars, celebrities, sports cars, and mansions.
To look at Cathy, a plump, grey haired, soft spoken, polite, considerate old lady, you would think that she had been a quiet housewife her whole life. Living a simple, boring, plain, ordinary life. This was not the case.
I talked with Cathy for many hours. In her home, were miscellaneous boxes of old photographs and old books. As I mentioned earlier, Cathy had grown up on a farm in Canada. For any woman who had ambition back then, becoming a nurse was a very respectable thing to do, and nursing offered many opportunities to young women to go wherever they wanted, be independent, and have financial success.
I saw about ten or more photographs of Cathy when she was in nursing school. This was very serious business back then, she and all of the other young ladies were wearing very formal nursing uniforms, and they looked very sharp and dedicated. The nursing school had zero tolerance for anything below excellent performance and conduct back then.
I found some of Cathy’s books from nursing school, such as medical anatomy books, and very large books on specifications, diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment for all known medical conditions and diseases. These books must have been incredibly expensive, much more so than college text books which are usually expensive. Inside of these medical books, on every page, were Cathy’s very neat hand written annotations in the margins. Cathy gave these books to me because she was old, and she could hardly see anymore.
When I was looking through more books, and more photographs, I found some things that didn’t belong. I looked over my shoulder at Cathy, she was sitting in her chair, saying nothing, but she had a faint smirk.
I knew her as this 82 year old, plump, quiet, soft spoken, considerate grey haired old woman. I also saw her as this dedicated, serious, staunchly dressed nurse. Who were these people in these photographs?
Above Los Angeles, in the Hollywood Hills, we have all seen old Time-Life photographs of the celebrity mansions, and estates of movie stars in the 1950s. Or, we have seen old news reels from MGM studios showing the home lives of their movie stars. Why did Cathy have these personal photographs of these estates, with glamorous celebrities and beautiful women out by the pool or veranda, overlooking Los Angeles below?
After looking at them for some time, because they were incredible photographs, I said to Cathy, “Who are these people in these photographs?” She said something like, “What photographs are you talking about? Oh, I don’t know.” And she continued to smirk.
Within a day or two, I found a book which was a biography of a very famous and internationally known male celebrity. Inside the cover of this book, was a hand written note to Cathy, blah, blah, blah… Then I figured it all out, the photographs of these glamorous women in bathing suits out at the pool or veranda of these celebrity estates and mansions, these were photographs of Cathy.
Cathy could tell that I had figured everything out from the expression on my face. She said, “Well…”. I said, “Cathy, I have been looking at all of these photographs from Hollywood of these women out by the pool, and I found this biography with an inscription inside the cover from this famous person. Were you a party girl or something?” She replied, “Well, I don’t know about that, I suppose.”
Just a little bit more about Cathy. Cathy never had children, but she did get married when she was about fifty years old. She married a man her own age that she liked. Cathy was Ukranian, and he was Polish, they could each understand a little bit of Ukranian and a little bit of Polish. Cathy married for companionship and perhaps love. She was a millionaire, back when a million dollars was a lot of money, from having invested quite a bit of money in the stock of a pharmaceutical company, which had doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so on.