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Silver Threads: Oh, for the days of suntans and wrinkle cream

According to The Times-Picayune weather frognosticator, temperatures are going to reach a high of 89 here on Friday, which means that summer — delayed last week by overcast skies and rain — will hit us with a thump.

And with summer comes sun-blockers, which in my youth were rarely thought of and certainly not as well-merchandised as they are today. I think my generation of women must be the most-wrinkled ever, what with our enthusiasm for frying on terrific tans without benefit of any protection at all.

Or maybe it was just me and the other girls in my college dorm who routinely lay out in the noonday sun on the risers in our football stadium, spotted like lounging lizards up and down the 50-yard line.

It’s not that my mother and grandmother didn’t warn me. But sun bonnets and parasols had gone out of fashion, along with the reason for using them in the first place. Deeply tanned skins were in, in the ‘50s, and every summer I sported one of the finest and darkest you can imagine. I thought it was wonderful, but Mother and Mam-maw, not looking so much to the future as to the present incongruity of light-blue eyes set against a mahogany face, were horrified.

I finally got it when, 15 or so years later, somewhere in my 30s, I sunbathed and failed to tan — developing unattractive spots and splotches instead. But it was too late; I’ve since developed the topography of a weathered clay pot whose glaze has been improperly applied.

Ah, well; these memories bring to mind wrinkle cream. I recall a season in the ‘40s when a traveling salesman penetrated the piney woods surrounding our tiny Texas town and offered his skin-care line to numerous housewives who included my mother and aunts. He was selling “wrinkle cream,” said my father and uncles, and the rush to obtain it caused much merriment among their ranks.

Men can afford to hoot at wrinkle remedies because their facial skin ages more slowly. They have facial hair follicles and a different muscular system beneath the skin of the face. In addition, Daddy and the uncles hadn’t been culturally programmed to worry about wrinkles at all, an unconcern that’s changed over the decades, judging from the numerous skin-care products offered solely for men.

Mother and my aunts had always depended on Ponds cold cream applied at bed time to combat the ravages of the weather and passing years (they were in their 30s and 40s at the time). Wondering if the Ponds company is still in business, I Googled it, and found that, yes, it certainly is! Bigger, of course, than ever.

Quoting from the internet, “The impressive track record of Pond’s began when Theron T. Pond, a pharmacist from Utica New York, introduced ‘Pond’s Golden Treasure’ in 1846, a witch-hazel based wonder product. In 1886 it was relaunched as Pond’s Extract and in 1914 Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream marked the brand’s evolution to a beauty icon. By the mid-1920s it was reflecting this positioning with endorsements by society beauties. “

Remember when a satiny smooth-faced Hedy Lamarr was one of the Hollywood beauties who posed for Ponds ads? If you don’t know who Hedy was, then you’re much too young to be reading a column like this.

My mother and aunts were already in good hands with Ponds. This traveling salesman must have offered something special, but let’s not go into that kind of humor, shall we?

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living Section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at


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