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When I was 8, I wanted to grow up to be a nun.

I had done very thorough research on this career path and had decided that since nuns did a lot of singing in the hills, rode bicycles, and had picnics with lovable Austrian children, it was definitely the career for me.

But my dad said we weren’t Catholic (which was apparently against the rules if you wanted to be a nun — bummer!) and so I turned my career attention to something infinitely more sensible:

I would be a detective with a cool sports car and a bouncy ponytail.

This may have had something to do with spending many days after school pretending that I was one of Charlie’s Angels or intrepid girl detective, Nancy Drew.  My aunt had loaned me her large Nancy Drew book collection which I read under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping at night.

Nancy Drew - The Secret of the Old Clock

In defence of my disobedience, our parents put my sister and I to bed at 7:30.

Yep, 7:30.  Until we were about 13.

This is why I need 12 hours of sleep to function, now.  Which, of course, I can never get, even though I go to bed practically immediately after supper.  But, I don’t drink coffee and I almost never get 12 hours of sleep.

So, excuse me if I seem a little dazed and confused.

Anyway,  (YAWN), I used to I read with my face squished up against the pages of each Nancy Drew mystery, so I could try to see the words with my curtains closed and the covers over my head.   Inevitably, I ended up needing glasses at the ripe old age of seven.

Me in glasses

And, then I looked a lot more like Anne Sullivan than Nancy Drew, but that’s another story.

Here are some of the reasons (YAWN again) I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I grew up:

1)  She had a blue, roadster convertible.   I believe it matched her eyes.  Obviously, every independent woman needs a car that accessorizes her best features.

2)  She had “titian” hair.   I knew what that meant because the author, Carolyn Keene, was kind enough to tell me that it was a vintage term that denoted reddish-blond.  However, it was a word I had read, but never heard spoken.  I remember wishing that my boring sandy-blond head would turn a lovely shade of “tie-teean”, with all my heart.

3)  Nancy had a “kindly housekeeper” named Hannah Gruen.  I always wanted a kindly housekeeper, like Hannah or, if she was unavailable, then Alice, from the Brady Bunch (who seemed, somehow, slightly scarier to timid me).

4)  She had a boyfriend named Ned Nickerson.  At 8 years old, I didn’t give two hoots about the boyfriend but, I was already a pushover for some good alliteration.

Now that I’m older and (gulp) wiser, I have lots of reasons I’m glad I’m not Nancy Drew:

1)  I have a Fiat 500 with a squishy-back roof (um…I don’t know the official name for this so I came up with something technical).   Way-y-y-y cuter and more interesting than a blue convertible.  Maybe I’ll paint it turquoise to match my eyes (I’m pretty sure that if  I lean right up against the car, my eyes look turquoise…yes, indeedy).


My little 1970 Fiat, “Bellina”

2)   I now have brown, not “titian” or “tie-teean” hair.  It might not be as interesting but I was able to pronounce it correctly, even before I heard the word spoken.  Although, to be fair to “titian”, I also pronounced “nonchalant” as “non-kallent” until I was about 14 and heard somebody say it.   I was an “A” student…honest.

3)  I don’t have a kindly housekeeper but I have a kindly house husband.   He won’t deign to respond if I call him Hannah and he definitely won’t wear a cute vintage apron, but that’s okay.  His banana bread makes me forgive anything.  There was never a peep about Hannah Gruen’s banana bread in all the Nancy Drew books.  Kindly only goes so far, I guess.   Poor Nancy.

4)  Practical Man’s name doesn’t alliterate but it kind of rhymes with Darth Vader.  Even I know that Star Wars trumps Nancy Drew.  Every.  Day.  Of.  The.  Week.

My entire collection

Despite my Nancy Drew adoration, I actually only owned three books of my own so after I returned my aunt’s books to her, I was left with:

#1 – The Secret of the Old Clock

#14 – The Whispering Statue

#32 – The Scarlet Slipper Mystery

I practiced my detective skills–like developing spy codes and writing backwards–for hours, in case I was ever pressed to write a secret telegram or message.  I can still write backwards almost as quickly as I can write forwards.  Call me if you can think of any useful application for this skill or if you live, trapped, in an alternate world behind a mirror.

You can probably tell, what with my squishy-back-roofed car and my brown hair and my writing backwards, that I would be a good stand-in for Nancy Drew, if she ever wanted to take a weekend mini-break or a sabbatical (with or without her “keen” friends George and Bess).  My mysteries could be:

#1 – The Tupperware Mystery

# 14 – The Case of the Backwoods Boler

# 32 – The Secret of the Frightened Fiat.

This weekend, I made progress on (re) building my Nancy Drew collection.   I found #3 – the Bungalow Mystery, copyright 1960 at a garage sale for the bargain price of 50 cents.

Bungalow Mystery

I now have exactly 10 Nancy Drew books (not all sequential) in my desired 1959-1970 vintage editions.  I saw a whole collection at an antique shop last weekend too, for $5/book, but that’s no good, when they’re just all sitting right there in front of me, now is it?

So, now, I’m all grown up (at least in theory) and I didn’t become a nun or a girl detective in the end.  Honestly, who can get to bed by 7:30 (YAWN) and cope with any of those jobs?  But, I still like to play the “what will I be when I grow up?” game.

I am a career counsellor, after all.

This week, I picture myself as the Bionic Woman.   The Bionic Woman can bah-bah-bah-bah-bah run-in-slow-motion bah-bah-bah-bah-bah towards her next vintage treasure and beat everyone to the bargoons.  How fun would that be?

But, I still love you, Nancy Drew.  See you in the morning.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Nancy Drew's Guide to Life

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet



Poor Practical Man.   How’s a fella supposed to get his beauty sleep?  Not that he needs it, except that, oh yeah, he’s married to ME.

me and my typewriter

Me and my typewriter on Christmas morning – circa 1975?

The problem with Practical Man’s beauty sleep has its roots in the summer I was 11.  I had a children’s typewriter and my aunt Heather, who taught high school typing, taught me the Home Row that summer.  Not unlike today, I was a somewhat reluctant participant in The Nature and all that outdoorsy stuff.  Sitting inside huddled over a keyboard seemed like my idea of a perfect, clean, bug-free, non-sweaty activity.

Me and my neuroses never looked back.

Being a bookish child with a love of words and long, piano-playing fingers seemed to help me flourish with my new talent.  I could picture words and sentences in my head and my fingers just naturally seemed to be able to follow.  I quickly became a freakishly-fast typist.

Not that I cared.

I was too busy having fun typing the content of my Nancy Drew books and skillfully avoiding fresh air and The Nature to notice that I seemed to be some kind of typing savant.

In grade 8, my parents bought me an antique typewriter.  Black and huge, it made me feel like I had arrived, y’know, typing-wise.

My already reasonably-trained piano fingers became like Olympic athletes in typing.   It was the early 80s so I only had homemade lemonade and a pile of 45 records on my Mickey Mouse record player to propel me to heights of typing greatness.

This kind of oddball talent today tends to be encouraged with energy drinks, typing boot camp, and possibly even a YouTube channel.

I had Olivia Newton John and Blondie.

The manual typewriter had little round keys that connected to a lever that bent 90 degrees and went all the way up inside the machine.  It had a triple ribbon with black on the top, clear in the middle and red on the bottom.  I often liked to type in “invisible ink” by using the clear strip in the middle.

In addition to fancying myself as Nancy Drew, I also aspired to be Enclopedia Brown.  Invisible ink, writing ciphers, writing backwards and hieroglyphics were going to be key to my future, I just knew it.  Typing could only add to my impressive arsenal of burgeoning detective skills.

At first, I had problems with several keys jamming in an inky bundle on the surface of the paper, when I went too fast.  But gradually, I learned how to pace things so that the regularity of my pace enabled me to go faster and faster, without a jam.  Soon, the sheer force required to get an ‘a’ or an apostrophe to WHACK on the page caused me to have the strongest baby fingers in the West.

Well, East actually since by that time we had moved back to Ontario.

Anyway, I had a pinky swear to be reckoned with.   Kids in the neighbourhood knew not to try some kind of noodly pinky swear about being Best Friends Forever, on my watch.

Faster, faster, faster I would type.  Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da then FLING!  I would hit the carriage return and the typewriter would re-set itself on the next line with a tremendous THUMP.

Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da FLING!


Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da FLING!


Every few lines, I had to drag the typewriter back in front of me as all the WHACKING and FLINGING  and THUMPING had caused it to travel to the right edge of the desk and  nearly fall off.

But finally, progress out of the dark ages of typing.

While hanging out at my dad’s office in the summers, I got to type on the Cadillac of typewriters at the time:  The IBM Selectric.  It had letter balls that could be changed out (all the better for me to type the formulas that Dad needed for engineering) and a quiet hum of electricity that didn’t even come close to competing against the furious pounding of my fingers.

I had developed my speed on an antique, manual typewriter.   This Selectric made my fingers supersonic with barely any effort (I also fancied myself the Bionic Woman).  I pounded way too hard for this sensitive keyboard but my freakishly-fast typing got even faster.  Like, 120+ net-words-per-minute-I-got-entered-in-contests kind of faster.  My typing won me…ta dah!  A Laura Branigan record and a case of Coke.

Sigh.  It was the 80s and again…if only there had been YouTube.  I could have retired in a vintage Airstream at the age of 16 off the royalties from my wildly successful “Teen Typing Talk” videos, TV show and of course–since every famous person seems to have them–perfumes and cookbooks.

My freakish talent did, however, land me well-paying summer jobs and allowed me to live across the Atlantic with my ability to dazzle people world-wide into giving me a secretarial job.  There’s nothing quite like causing an entire office of cubicles to go completely silent as you finish up your timed writing, to get you a job offer (on bended knee, no less), and a hot cup of tea.

I was the Sophia Grace and Rosie of typing.  It’s almost as good as being Nancy Drew, I reckon.

Yes, typing’s been good to me, but these days, I am a true vintage relic, with my home row and use of all 8 fingers and right thumb.  Yes, these days boys and girls, it’s all about the thumbs.  Thumbs rule.

That leaves me sad and wandering around with surplus finger energy.

In memory of the good old days, we have a vintage typewriter on the table in our front hall.  The paper in it conveys different messages, depending on the season.  Sometimes, it simply says “Beware the Sleep-Deprived Man“.

Our typewriter

Our typewriter

Because, yes, Practical Man may be wandering  in a typing-induced daze out in The Nature of our yard.  And, it’s my fault because with all that surplus finger energy, I have been Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da FLING!  THUMPing the dialogue from my dreams, on his arm, all night long again.

But tonight will be better, I pinky swear.