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Lou Speranza: Our folks knew how to dress to the nines

Like many people, I enjoy watching movies made in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. It’s great to see the old movie stars and, in particular, the way life was lived during my parents’ time as young adults. It gives me a perspective of how different times were and what my folks were like in the “good old days” compared with the last half of the 20th century and our current new century.

I especially enjoy the scenes where the actors are out on the town, going to clubs dressed to the nines, dancing, drinking, smoking and having dinner. It was a period where you would have a “gay old time,” which obviously is a phrase that long ago drifted out of our modern lexicon.

I realize that these movies were made to entertain the public, but they were also a reflection of the way many people lived during those times. It seems that even the not so wealthy had at least one good suit or dress that they could head out on the town with. Who knows, maybe it was their wedding outfit.

Considering the long Depression, bread lines and world war, our parents, for the most part, seemed to be able to handle the great challenges in their lives and get out and have a good time. The tuxedos, elegant gowns and big band music paint a colorful picture of what social life was like for many during those days. Not to mention the big old cars and fancy looking clubs. Going out to have dinner and drinks, dancing, and listening to the big bands and crooners was the thing to do if you could afford it.

My parents were regular, middle class people in Buffalo during those days. A steelworker and a quintessential Italian-American housewife. They would share their stories of the challenges of employment, economic depression, and World War II, but also the nightlife that they would partake in with their friends and family.

My parents would talk about the Glen Park Casino, the Town Casino, the Canadiana and the Crystal Beach Ballroom. They would dress up, go out and dance, drink, smoke, have dinner and enjoy themselves. This mostly took place before the kids came. Then, at least for my parents, everything seemed to change.

I am fortunate to have photos of my folks all dolled up and out on the town on dates. They wore suits and pretty dresses, as opposed to the gowns and tuxes we saw in the movies of those times, but were still very attractive.

What is amusing to me is the stark contrast of the way we dressed in the ’70s and ’80s when I was out and about. While we hit all of the clubs in the area and listened to all of the great bands Buffalo had to offer, we were never dressed in suits and gowns unless we attended wakes or weddings.

Yes, we drank and smoked and listened to music, but the absence of getting dressed up really stands out when compared with my parents’ generation. Jeans were our primary mode of dress and still are. We went to great clubs like McVan’s, Mulligan’s and Uncle Sam’s and saw great bands too numerous to mention – but never in a suit or gown.

Over the years, I’ve watched the dress code for businesses, wakes and restaurants change to a very different level from the days of my parents and the old glamorous movies of their young adulthood. I wonder if it has been a change for the better. Should we bring back the “good old days?”

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