Monday, March 1, 2021
March 1, 2021

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Check It Out: Get a flash from the past and embrace retro-centric reads

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I am a big fan of movies from the 1930s and 1940s. Ask me about current television series, and I’ll give you a blank stare. But ask me to list some of my favorite films, and I guarantee that most will fall in the black-and-white pre-1950s category. The other evening I watched “Mrs. Miniver” for the umpteenth time (Greer Garson is pure perfection), and any time “The Best Years of Our Lives” is showing on Turner Classic Movies, I’m front and center in complete classic movie heaven.

My predilection for older movies began early for me. I grew up near Las Vegas, and in the 1970s one of the local stations aired a classic movie in the afternoon. The program was hosted by a local personality named Gus Giuffre, who would introduce the movie and offer interesting facts and commentary to viewers. I wasn’t able to watch it when school was in session, but summer vacations provided the perfect opportunity for me and my mom to plop down in our den and spend a blissful couple of hours watching classic films. If you’re wondering why I wasn’t outside playing, remember this was Las Vegas, where summer is like our winter. You spent most of your time indoors to avoid the weather — in this case, scorching heat.

I bring all of this up because while I was enjoying yet another viewing of “Mrs. Miniver,” I realized that part of the appeal of watching older movies is paying attention to the clothing and hairstyles, the types of vehicles being driven, the furnishings and decorations filling the movie-set homes. It’s a view into our past.

Something that seems to be popular no matter the decade or generation is embracing all things retro. Whether it’s a 1940s hairstyle or a 1960s dining room set, a 1970s muscle car or 1980s leg warmers, retro is cool and comebacks are king (although I hope that the oversized shoulder pads also from the 1980s fail to be revived). To prove that retro is hip and a huge influencer in the publishing world, I scanned the library’s catalog for retro-centric titles. No surprise — there’s a lot. So, in the spirit of celebrating the past — from watching 1940s movies (Thank you, Mom!) to redecorating your home with a “Mad Men” vibe — embrace vintage by selecting a title from the list below. If you don’t see something that piques your interest, remember that there is much, much more to be found at your local library.

Final thought: sometimes another person views something as retro when you don’t. This can be slightly depressing. When my husband and I recently took an Uber from the train station to our home, the driver — in his early twenties at the most — was listening to music from the 1990s. I made a comment about one of the songs, and he replied that he was the only one in his group of friends to listen to music from that decade. The 1990s, retro? News flash to self: I’m old. But I’m young at heart, which is totally tubular.

• “Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors,” by Michelle Gringeri-Brown: Maybe you live in a 1960s or 1970s ranch-style house. Just because your house is retro doesn’t mean you have to live retro. See how other ranch house owners are embracing the modern while appreciating the past.

• “Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies,” by Kevin Smokler: I may be a devotee of 1940s movies, but I was a teen in the 1980s, so “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” — yeah, I feel ya.

• “Car: The Evolution of the Automobile,” by Rod Green: My husband and I used to own a 1970 F-350 flatbed truck we named Esmeralda. She was 100 percent retro … in a not so good way. This book showcases retro automobiles … in a very good way.

• “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: A Modern Guide to Sewing Fabulous Vintage Styles,” by Gretchen Hirsch: I don’t wear dresses anymore, but watching Bette Davis or Rita Hayworth rock the dress styles of the 1940s makes me wish (for just a second) that I could pull off a vintage silhouette. Sigh. But I’m confident others can, so this book is for you.

• “Living Retro,” by Andrew Weaving: Ready for a change? Why not go back in time and give your 21st-century living room a 20th-century makeover?

• “Retro Baby: Cut Back on All the Gear and Boost Your Baby’s Development With More Than 100 Time-Tested Activities,” by Anne H. Zachary: Too much technology can have a negative impact on an infant’s development. Go “retro” by unplugging and learning how to spend non-tech quality time with your baby.

• “Vintage Hairstyles: Simple Steps for Retro Hair with a Modern Twist,” by Emma Sundh: Go beehive, or go home!

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