December 23rd, at some point, had become unofficially celebrated in my extended family as “Christmas Eve Eve“. I honestly can’t remember if this started with me, my sister, or someone else, but it stuck and I’m glad it did. I have long been intrigued by the idea of the “eve” of something referring to the day before. Thursdays at work are always Friday Eve, and if I’m able to celebrate my birthday with friends next year, I will probably spend part of my Birthday Eve to reflect upon the current year of my life before my personal odometer rolls over one more time.
Seeing that today is two days before Christmas, which is something I celebrate, I have started to think about various holiday celebrations over years past and gifts I have given and received. This has been particularly fun to do this year, especially given the current pandemic and my choice to Christmas (v.) at my own home for the first time, ever. At some point years ago, the Dennises decided to call a gift-giving truce and mainly focus on the children. I’m getting the raw end of that stick, as I have no offspring, but it still gives me great pleasure to have been everyone’s favorite uncle.
It wasn’t always easy to find the perfect gift for everybody in the household in which I grew up, but one thing I knew I could count on was that my late father would appreciate, use, and enjoy a good fragrance for Christmas. If he would rather have had something else, he was a great dad for invariably acting like whatever aftershave or cologne I had given him was among the most important things he received that year. And Dad would actually wear it, liberally, to demonstrate that he valued my gift, even if it came from the shelves of the local Perry drug store. As many years as he has been gone, I still have some Polo left that I had given him, which I collected from the house after he had passed. I still wear it on special occasions.
It has been said that our human sense of smell is the one that can most strongly trigger memories. Where my dad is concerned, any of the following fragrances will remind me of him: Grecian Formula, Brylcreem, Aqua Velva, and Old Spice. It’s true that all of these brands are from the middle of the last century, but my dad was very old-school, in the best way. It may have been a benefit and not a hindrance to our relationship that he was literally old enough to be my grandfather, skipping a whole generation, but I have always thought it to be a positive that many of his internationally raised, wartime sensibilities and ideals got passed down directly to me.
My maternal grandmother, who today would be over a hundred years old, used to talk about rationing during the war. She and my grandfather valued thrift, and she would often remind me of this when I would ask for a treat while accompanying her while she did her grocery shopping. She also liked her Avon, which she would purchase from her friend from church named Opal. My grandpa would often receive some sort of Avon fragrance or aftershave from my grandma for the holidays. Once he was done with the contents, he would save the empty bottles made of glass with plastic end-caps, and gift them to me to add to my collection.
I recently came across these two blue bottles while looking for something else in my house, and I honestly don’t remember if they were from my grandparents or picked up from a vintage store somewhere. Still, I was really glad to have found them. In the Mustang is an aftershave labeled “Tai Winds”, which appears to have first been introduced by Avon in 1971. The model year of the Mustang is misidentified as “1964”. Perhaps the “1/2” would have seemed too fussy for Avon, but “1965” would have been more accurate.
Sniffing the decades-old remnants of that bottle, nothing in particular jumped out at me as seeming Asian, but I suppose that’s subject to interpretation. How amazing would it have been for “Tai Winds” to come in a bottle shaped like the then all-new Toyota Celica, but that simply wasn’t going to happen in the early 1970s from a U.S. institution like Avon.
Inside the 1955 Thunderbird is a cologne (not an aftershave) called “Wild Country”, a scent which appears to still be in production today, though in decidedly more modern, non car-themed packaging. I think the ’55 T-Bird was a great choice for evoking the image of the west and wilderness. While I feel that the shape of the glass Mustang was pretty well proportioned, given its application as a bottle for aftershave, something looks a bit off about the Thunderbird. There’s simply too much tail to twist off to get to the bottle cap.
There’s a different story behind this C5-themed fragrance, “Corvette”. This was a purchase from a discount department store chain in Chicago’s State Street shopping district about fifteen years ago. Fragrances keep for only so long before they go rancid, but great memories of going out for the night back then with a few squirts of “Corvette” on my neck come roaring back with just one spray of the atomizer. The C5 was in production from between 1997 and 2004, and it’s hard to think of it as being that old already. Surprisingly, this fragrance has held up really well, both the formula itself and the way this liquid smells in 2020.
The scent of “Corvette” is definitely more along the lines of something I’d wear today than either Avon product. While my dad’s fragrances of choice seemed to be the hyper-masculine sort that smelled like pine trees and leather, mine were and are more of the modern type with brighter, more citrusy notes. “Corvette” seems to fall comfortably between the former and the latter. All of this gets me thinking of what other car-themed men’s or unisex fragrances would smell like, today. Would “Challenger” have a powerful musk to it? Would “Accord” have a vanilla undertone? Polo does already have an “Explorer”, and it’s one of my favorites.
I have more fragrances in my medicine cabinet than I would be able to completely use up in a calendar year, but I like smelling good, regardless of whether anybody else knows or cares during quarantine. That these three scents came packaged in shapes evoking three members of United States Automotive Royalty was going to buy them a free pass with me, regardless of how they smelled. Whether you celebrate, have celebrated, or will celebrate any holidays this December, or if you don’t, I wish all of you out in Curbsideland a great rest of the year as the remainder of the sands of 2020 continues to trickle slowly through the glass. Stay safe.
Dedicated to my father.