Martha Stewart doesn't live here anymore
By Anthony Buccino
Essays, photography, military history, more
It is a natural progression from watching dad build a shelf in the wall for the family’s first TV to growing up and building your own magazine about creating things out of baling wire, frilly things, dead and dried flowers and that old mauve scarf.
It does not matter who you become, you will always be tied somehow to your growing-up roots. Even if your roots bring you humbly home to Nutley, New Jersey, from your haughty heights, then perhaps the cherished childhood memories will get you through one more tough day.
Just think of how home and hearth maven Martha Kostyra must feel as she sits in her lonely office suite month after month chronicling the planting seasons and hand-made knick-knacks for her modest little magazine Martha Stewart Living. Lately she has been living in Connecticut, but more often than not, she has been remembering her childhood years in Nutley.
She uses a prime piece of magazine real estate, the inside back page for her column remembering by Martha Stewart. Each month she remembers something different, usually from her time growing up in Nutley.
One story I recall was about ice skating at the Mudhole in the good old days. What with global warming and all, the Mudhole isn’t the old skating pond it once was. Perhaps that is why Martha, the folks in town all remember her as little Martha Kostyra, Stewart settled up yonder in Connecticut. We hear the ponds up there still freeze over in winter.
Another recent topic in her remembering column was about how her family finally, in 1962, got their first color TV at Two Guys in Harrison. Two Guys was a chain of discount department stores up until it went out of business. She even remembered, courtesy of her “Mom’s impeccable ledger” how much the family paid for both their first black and white TV and their first color TV 35 years ago. And of course, her remembering column talked about the few channels available in those dark ages. After all, there were only three networks in the 1950s.
But the point of her remembering column this month is not entirely the new color TV they bought in 1962 or the few channels available in the 1950s. The point is that her dad actually built the TV itself and also built it into the wall.
It is a natural progression from watching dad build a shelf in the wall for the family’s first TV to growing up and building your own magazine about creating things out of baling wire, frilly things, dead and dried flowers and that old mauve scarf. It was little Martha’s destiny.
Her remembering column reminds me of the Handyman magazines my own dad used to get delivered to the house. In the back the magazine always had those home do-it-yourself projects that offered plans to help you build furniture into walls. The boy’s rooms always had cowboys and wild horses on the wallpaper, and the girl’s rooms had purple flowers and ruffled curtains.
Oh how I longed for my dad to build me a home-made desk and built-in bureau with stained and shellacked bookshelves, and a slide-under storage drawer under the bed. Alas, he was consumed with all his other building projects, pigeon coops, crates, tool boxes, and never got around to building my dream bedroom.
Someone, who is now very rich, went on to found a successful company that builds custom-looking bedroom furniture that is all the rage. If only my dad had let me help him build that custom bedroom, who knows where I’d be today? Or what you would be reading at this minute?
Someone somewhere will sell anything to make a buck. A recent catalogue in my mailbox offered for $22.50 plus shipping, handling and applicable sales tax, a tile bearing five words: Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.
According to the information for item J, “You don’t have to make your own sachets, mill your own soaps, or clot your own cream but you will take pride in this ceramic tile parody, framed in oak and measuring 7-1/4 inches square. Comes ready to hang or is fully functional as a trivet...”
They could sell a lot more of these trivets in Nutley if they added “anymore” to the quip on the trivet. There are certainly folks here who try to keep up with little Martha. Some people remember the big run on baling wire when Gantner’s hardware store closed.
The police were standing by but fortunately no one was arrested when Lardier’s Drug Store had its big sell-off of paisley wrapping paper. In fact, if you look closely through Martha’s magazine, on occasion you can spot some of the famous swirled prints in the photo spreads.
Perhaps it is simply ironic that the woman who made such basics as baling wire and Elmer’s glue into household words for the 90s has taken the next step into making her daily TV show interactive through the Internet. Anyone who can’t get enough chili-rubbed salmon with papaya and scallions or vegetable-salad burritos, can now go on-line with little Martha at her new Web site and be totally up to date on the day’s recipes.
It wouldn’t hurt for the Web site to catalogue for readers all of little Martha’s remembering columns. The Web site could offer every warm memory she has shared and, for a nominal fee, list directions to that quaint little town of Martha’s childhood memories, that which you and I know as Nutley.
There’s no telling what the Web site directions could do for our tourist industry, not to mention our street fairs, festivals in the park, ethnic feasts or the traditional Nutley-Belleville football game. With just a little shameless promotion from our little Martha, Nutley could be the next Branson-like nostalgia center of the country.
If dressing up like the Cleavers on weekends would help sustain the tourist trade, I’m sure a lot of Nutley-ites would turn out for the old hay ride. If it could help pay our property taxes, many of us would endure the yokels peeking in our windows to espy a genuine Nutley family watching the black and white TV mounted with lag bolts into the wall.
First published in Rambling Round column as "Martha Stewart doesn't live here anymore" by Worrall Community Newspapers, on September 11, 1997.
New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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