Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oklahoma City - Mother City of the Modern Metropolis

I'm off to Oklahoma City for Christmas and my aunt's funeral. That's sort of like saying you're going to a party to celebrate with rat poison and champagne, but that's the reality.

Often the butt of jokes, I thought I'd present two bits of invention that even natives are unaware of -- the parking meter and shopping cart. Now what would our 21st century lives be like without them. While Ira Gershwin pondered that the movies and radio might be passing fancies (no doubt having a vision of DVDs and podcasts even back then), he did not include these two jewels of urban convenience.

The parking meter, I must admit, has little personal connection, but not so the shopping cart. The invention of one Sylvan Goldman, a great plains Jewish entrepeneur who headed the old Humpty Dumpty chains. My mother was his personal assistant in the mid-1950s, a time that included only one brief vacation to San Francisco with my dad and sister. She came back, and learned that she was expecting.

When she went into Mr. Goldman's office to announce the news, he told her that he had been eyeing her for the position of the first female VP in his chain, and really encouraged her to consider daycare as soon as possible afte the pregnancy. She would not re-enter the work force for another 16 years. I've always wondered if the child carrier on those carts was her parting shot or something Mr. Goldman dreamed up as she left the room.

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