To Tell the Truth —The Finale

by Jan Vaupel

It is the spring of 1970, an exciting time for seniors. High school graduation is fast approaching.  Tonight is prom night.  I am wearing a hot red dress but have no appropriate jewels to adorn it.  I delve into my mom’s jewelry box, but the only nice piece I find in the hidden compartment is an emerald necklace with frog-like earrings.

My sister, Carol, who is two years older than I, is home from Alaska and living with us until her Air Force husband, Doug, returns.  She hates it when I borrow her things but into her room I sneak and search until I find her jewelry.  There it is! The piece I need to wear with my diamond studs.  A diamond teardrop! So gorgeous and iridescent in the pale light.  

My mother takes pictures of us in our finery with her Kodak Brownie camera.  Soon, the chauffeur rings the bell, and off Jim and I go in the limo with our friends.  This year the dance is held in the ballroom of the Vandenburg Inn.  Our second million-dollar hotel in Santa Maria. There is a revolving light, and my classmates comment on the sparkle of my necklace throwing off brilliant images on the walls.

There is a revolving light, and my classmates comment on the sparkle of my necklace throwing off brilliant images on the walls.

Jim is in the Air Force, and I am planning college at Allan Hancock. We will be wed in June.  When I return home that night and start to undress, I reach up to undo the clasp but no necklace! In a panic, I call the hotel. The front desk says they will check and call me back. This was in the far past day of landlines, and it is very late, so I plead to hang on while he treks to the ballroom.  

Alas, no diamond necklace on the floor or in the bathrooms… 

The next morning, Carol states,” My necklace is missing from my jewelry pouch. Where could it be?” Shall I fess up or play dumb?  Well, I am blond, so I feign innocence.

But I know I have to replace it, so I talk with Jim and we go to the three local jewelry stores and discover the necklace costs $2500, a fortune for us in those days. Meanwhile, my sister sees the prom pictures and knows who stole her necklace. I can almost see the smoke coming out of her ears, as she vents her anger, calling me a thief with lots of adjectives in front of the word.

We decide to forego our seven-day bargain Hawaiian honeymoon but only get back $500. So, I don’t attend college and go to work at a local dress shop and carhop at A&W.  

It takes three years to save this vast amount, because we have rented a small house and the rent is $85. Gas is about 50 cents a gallon for our Pontiac Grand Prix and MG Midget; ground beef is three pounds for a dollar, and potatoes ten cents a pound.  

We don’t see Donovan, Cher, or Neil Diamond in concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  I don’t become a teacher, and the good news is that I’m pregnant.

Finally, we have the $2500 and go to the jewelry store and purchase a necklace that looks just like the one I lost. My sister and her family still live in town, not far from the A& W.  In fact she is working the day shift there while I come in at night after selling ladies’ clothes for eight hours.

 So, I wrap up the necklace in its fancy gray velvet, silk-lined jewelry box and we go over one night after dinner with it.

My sister is surprised when I pull out the box as it’s not an occasion.  I say, “Carol, we have been saving so we could buy this replacement necklace for the beautiful diamond one I lost on prom night. I am so very sorry.”

She is speechless as she opens the package with its rainbow colors flashing, “Jan, that was when cubic zirconia was the hot thing.” 

Now I am speechless at this surprise!

by Joan Weaving

When I was a very young girl, I went to a sleep away camp in the Adirondack mountains.
It was a small camp, hugging the shores of Lake Balfour, with a boy’s camp down the road. I
loved it there. Coming from a chaotic home, I loved the independence, the comradery with my bunk mates, and the team spirit of color war…the end of summer competition which involved sports and writing and performing team songs and cheers. It was always a special event when color war “broke” as we never knew exactly when or how to expect it.

One of the older girls at camp was a short but attractive brunette with intelligence, poise, and grace, who we all looked up to. Her name was Ruth Bader, but we called her KiKi, and she was the niece of the camp owner. But she didn’t need that relationship to be noticed. Her very presence commanded attention. Whenever a leader was needed, Ruth was the natural selection, She even acted as a rabbi at our Saturday morning Shabbat services each week. There are pictures of her in a pants suit leading the service as we sat around her in our blue shorts and white shirts singing Adon olom. She told us that as young women we could be whatever we wanted…. this at a time when getting married and being a housewife were society’s preferred goals for women. Ruth was always nominated as the girl most likely to succeed. And she didn’t disappoint.

And we who were there with her felt  tremendous pride, even as we were awestruck.

We followed her career avidly. Her graduation from law school; Her successful argument before the supreme court that women were as entitled as men to the full protection of the constitution; Her election to the Supreme Court. She championed not just women’s rights, but the rights of all groups who were overshadowed by the white patriarchy. As a SCOTUS Justice, Ruth traveled in elite circles, and worked with people in the stratosphere of government. But she never forgot her roots in Camp Che-Na-Wah. In biographies and interviews, the camp’s name was always cited. And we who were there with her felt tremendous pride, even as we were awestruck.

Ten years ago, Ruth, now well into her 70’s, was asked to make a video for Che=Na-Wah, in which she addressed that season’s campers about the many opportunities open to women today and urging them pursue their dreams. She had gladly agreed to do this, and never once suggested that her time was too short or too precious.

Here was this lofty woman, speaking without pretense to young girls, talking about the opportunities awaiting them that she had helped to create. She was just one of the girls, and positively delighted to participate in the next camp ritual: She looked directly into the camera and announced, “This is color war.”

Jan Vaupel retired from teaching school in California to begin her adventure in Florida and was delighted to discover OLLI-USF. She has enjoyed many cooking classes, especially Italian and Spanish, but her passions are writing and hiking with Gail Parsons. She enrolled in Gail’s classes, including the Exploring Hillsborough County Wildlands and Bird Watching and is now part of the OLLI Hiking SIG. She has also taken creative writing classes and several watercolor classes with Harvey Berman. She is currently in an OLLI writing group called the Imaginative Crew.

Joan Weaving embarked on a successful business career as the first woman Product Manager for Nabisco, Inc., and a Corporate Vice President for Equitable, before starting her own consulting company in 1988, specializing in leadership development and executive coaching for major corporations. Joan has been an active OLLI participant and has played a key role in the conceptualization and execution of the annual Board of Advisor’s retreat. Joan leads our Exploring Leadership Opportunities class in the fall term.

14 Replies to “To Tell the Truth —The Finale”

  1. Delightful stories! Both are excellently told and carry the reader on excitedly.
    I think Jan’s story is false 😉 and I think Joan’s is true.

  2. Wonderful pieces of writing. I agree with Marilyn’s observations. Jan’s is false and Joan’s is absolutely true!

  3. Jan’s story seems somehow familiar. Is it a common occurrence, or a fish tale? I think it’s not true.
    Joan had me at Adirondacks! I learned a few lessons there as well. It has to be true.

  4. I always enjoy the short stories, whether fact or fiction. I believe Jan’s story is false and that Joan’s is true.

  5. I think that Jan’s story is a take off on The Necklace…well done, but not true
    Joan’s rings true….I like to think well of Justice Ginsberg in any case

  6. Nicely told stories. Much as I enjoyed it, I’m afraid I don’t buy Jan’s tale. Joan”s story must be true–i certainly hope so.


  8. I enjoyed Jan’s story. It brings to the mind of the reader the phrase, “If I had only known, I would have done things very differently.” How many times in life do we experience this emotion? The surprise ending makes the reader sigh a big “WOW!”
    Hopefully that season’s campers were inspired by Joan’s remarks many years after her own experiences as a camper (provided her story narrates true events). I believe it does.

  9. I believe Jan’s story is true. As for Joan’s story, I don’t believe RBG would have said, “This is a color war.” Thus, false.

  10. I enjoyed both stories. Knowing Jan for several years, there are several things that could be true.; but I believe Jan wrote a good fiction story. Not true!

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