I've always enjoyed the era, but in all honesty I knew little about it. So, when I heard the true story of Joan Hunt Zimmerman, how she came to this country from England after WWII with only $30 in her pocket, and how she ended up buying a wedding dress with four other women before accepting a job in Nuremberg, Germany in the Palace of Justice working under General Robert Partridge, only to return to the States and then marry a soldier she met halfway around the world (and in the dress), I knew I had my homework cut out for me.
Watching movies is one thing. Immersing oneself in an entire era is another. Where to begin?
I contacted my good friend (and fellow author) Dan Walsh. Dan had several era-laden books that had done well and I hoped he'd be a fount of information. Ironically, his answer was the same as my mother's might have been were she still "with us."
"I watched a lot of movies set in that time period or filmed in that era," Dan told me.
Well, all right then ... I began by watching episodes of Bomb Girls (because of the fierce independence of the female characters, even though the era is about ten years ahead of Five Brides) and Call the Midwife
Because most folks--and certainly not the young women who lived on Greenleaf in Chicago in the early 1950s--had a television, radio met many of the entertainment needs. I went online and found uploads of classic shows (Our Miss Brooks
Of course fashion was a big issue. I typed "Women's Fashions of the 1950s" into a Google search and had a field day, especially with some of the old McCall's and Simplicity dress patterns for both men and women. I had already noted from the movies that women wore gloves and both men and women wore hats. I also noticed that the way a woman moved in her clothes was different from today. There was a femininity I found myself missing ... mostly that which had could recall from my own mother.
I studied every detail of life. Shoes. Hair. Dining experiences. Cars (oh, boy, did I look at cars!). As I wrote, I listened only to the tunes of the 50s. Everything and anything I thought would draw readers into the 1950s.
Then, it was time to get specific. Chicago, 1952 ... Nuremberg, Germany, 1954 ... Charlotte, North Carolina, 1956 ... and most importantly the iconic Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company
I'll be honest ... some days I found myself wishing I'd been born 25 years earlier than what I had been and some days I found myself so enraptured by the era, I allowed myself to simply stay there, even after my writing workday had come to a close.
At the end of the near-year it took me to write the book, I felt I knew and understood the world of the real Joan Hunt and her four roommates better than I could have ever done, even if all five of them were alive to tell me every little detail. I also found myself a little bit madly, crazy-in-love with an entire decade.
|Joan Hunt Zimmerman and her husband Robert on their wedding day.|
Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson
One dress, five women, a lifetime of memories.
Five single, fiercely independent women live together in a Chicago apartment in the early 1950s but rarely see one another. One Saturday afternoon, as they are serendipitously together downtown, they spy a wedding dress in a storefront window at the famous Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. After trying it on―much to the dismay of the salesclerk and without a single boyfriend or date between the five of them―they decide to pool their money to purchase it. Can one dress forever connect five women who live together only a short time before taking their own journeys to love and whatever comes happily ever after?
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