opalmatrix (opalmatrix) wrote,

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Notes on "Turning Points"

Writing Turning Points was a little different from the previous Yuletide stories I've done, because the original story is very firmly fixed in its real-world historical era. I felt I needed to research the time in which my future fic took place. In addition to re-reading Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes, I also re-read Curtain Up (a/k/a Theater Shoes), and The Painted Garden (a/k/a Movie Shoes), which mention the sisters' later lives. I also looked up information on clothing (because clothes were always important in the book - the girls were not well-off and had trouble getting appropriate clothes for various occasions) and U.S. food of the era (because food was discussed in specific a number of times in the original), and I nailed down a number of details of the canon timeline and my fanon's details about the sisters' "current" lives, just for my own comfort.

The Prompt | Timeline for the Fossils | Clothing | Calendar | Names | Food

The Prompt 

Noel Streatfeild - Ballet Shoes (Pauline Fossil/Petrova Fossil/Posy Fossil)
"Details: I want to know what their lives are like ten, fifteen, twenty years later. I want to see them grow up, how they change or stay the same, how their relationships with each other change or stay the same. Anything from a short vignette to a long plotty story would be wonderful.

"I loved this book when I was a child, and recently re-read it and realized I still do. I love that the girls love each other even when they don't understand each other. I love that the girls take care of each other and their family. I love that the girls go for their dreams. I love that being a mechanic/chauffeur/pilot is just as good a career choice for a girl as being a film star or a ballerina. I love that ambition is good, and rewarded, but that doesn't mean you should be a bitch about it.

General Notes from Dear Santa Letter: "As a general rule, fics with bad grammar/spelling drive me nuts, and also ones with major plot holes (for instance, when characters are made stupider than they otherwise would be so they don't notice the obvious so dramatic tension can be increased). Basically, just make sure you have a good beta to help you and you should be fine. Passing the Bechdel Test (i.e. having at least two women in your story who talk to each other about something other than the men in their lives) will win you bonus points with me. Please, no slash or explicit sex."

Timeline for the Fossils 

Streatfield makes a mess of the difference between Pauline's and Petrova's ages in the beginning of Ballet Shoes. When Posy shows up as an infant (Ch. I), Nana says "Here we are with Pauline rising four, and Petrova sixteen months." We later find out (Ch. X) that Pauline's birthday is December 9, Petrova's is sometime in August (Ch. XII), and Posy's is in September (Ch. I). So the elder two appear to be between two and three years apart in age. But when Pauline and Petrova are enrolled in Cromwell House School (Ch. I) and are showing off their new uniforms, Petrova says "You wouldn't think ... that here is a child who won't be five till August," and Pauline answers "Now, anybody can see I was six last month" - which puts them only about 16 months apart. Therefore Posy arrived in December, shortly before Pauline's birthday, at somewhere between two and three months old.

This 16-month age difference seems to be the true one: Petrova turns 12 (and is therefore able to work onstage) just before the audition for "A Midsummer's Night's Dream," which runs from September over Christmas and beyond, and Pauline turns fourteen (and therefore no longer has to bank a specified amount of her pay) during its run.

So ... now that I've hashed that out to my satisfaction, here's the larger timeframe:

Dec. 9, 1920 Pauline's official birthdate (from her first license, reproduced in the book)
August 1922 Petrova's approx. birthdate, derived as discussed above
September 1924 Posy's approx. birthdate, derived as discussed above
January 28, 1936 Death of King George V, cutting short the runs of Pauline's and Petrova's holiday pantomimes that season
mid-March 1936 Madame Fidolia is taken ill and goes abroad for treatment. Posy, left without a teacher she can respect and facing her last few months as a non-earning student, starts acting up at the Academy.
May 20, 1936 Posy sees Manoff in "Petroushka" and decides she must learn from him. Also: premiere of Pauline's first movie.
May 21, 1936 Posy runs off to the theater where Manoff's troupe is rehearsing and brazens her way into dancing for him, then returns home to say that he will train her in Czechoslovakia. Pauline's agent comes to the house with an offer of a 5-year Hollywood contract at an impressive rate of pay, which will pay for Posy to go with Manoff (and Nana). In the midst of all this, Great-Uncle Matthew returns and upon hearing about the plans for the other two, says he will take Petrova and find a house near an airfield so she can learn to be a pilot. End of Ballet Shoes
August 1943 During the midst of World War II, the three Forbes children end up in London at the Academy. Madame Fidolia offers them scholarships from the Fossils and explains that Pauline (now 22) is still making movies in Hollywood, Petrova (just 21) is an airplane ferry pilot in the WAAF, and Posy (almost 19) is dancing "under another name" in the movies (presumably also in the U.S. - Manoff's troupe is said to have escaped before the Germans show up in Czechoslovakia). (Curtain Up)
Autumn 1948 The three Winter children end up in California because their father has collapsed (apparently with depression/PTSD after accidentally killing a child with his car) and needs to recover in a sunny climate. Rachel, who is a student at the Academy, is given information to contact Posy Fossil. Posy arranges for Rachel to spend the day with Posy and Pauline (and Nana and Sylvia) at Pauline's Hollywood house. Pauline (now going on 28) shortly thereafter gets good news about a Shakespeare role onstage. Posy (now just 24 - in her prime years as a ballerina) is working with Manoff's troupe - he is choreographing a new ballet about the bird of North America. Pauline and Posy explain that Petrova (now just 26) is working in the experimental part of "an aeroplane factory" - location not given. (The Painted Garden)
May 1956 Literally 20 years after the end of Ballet Shoes.
~ Early December 1956   My story: Posy (now 32) and Pauline (about to turn 36), both in final rehearsal for shows opening the next week for the Christmas season in New York are joined by Petrova (now 34 and on TDY with a Canadian aircraft research group) for dinner. And they talk about what they're up to - they all have decisions to make.

Fashion/Clothing Links for 1950s  

Given the constant issue of suitable audition dresses during Ballet Shoes, it's unlikely that Pauline (if I'm in her POV) would not be conscious of what she and her sisters are wearing when they meet the night of the story.

Calendar, December 1956  

December 1956
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

I think they will be meeting on the night of Monday, December 3.

Names of Incidental Characters, Places, etc.  

These are all fictional. Streatfield did not generally use the names of real movie companies, ballet companies, etc. in her books.

  • Loretta Casey, gossip columnist, author of the column "Top of the Town"
  • Alec Armstrong, Pauline's husband of 4 years: a character actor famous for his roles in Westerns; born in Scotland, but has worked in the U.S. for 20 years now
  • Metropolitan Ballet, the NYC company at which Posy is a guest artist this season
  • Hotel Lorraine, where the sisters meet and where Pauline is staying while in NYC
  • Baron Theater, Broadway theater at which Pauline's play will be staged
  • Doctor Valensi, the head of Petrova's current research project
  • Doug Bassett, a co-worker of Petrova's
  • Liza Alter, a co-worker of Petrova's, and also her best friend and roommate.
  • LeRochlin, the aircraft company in Britain for which Petrova worked after WWII
  • Northland Aviation, the Canadian aircraft company and laboratory at which Petrova now works

Restaurant Food in the mid-1950s  

smillaraaq found me an awesome site with images of historical restaurant menus, including from this period:

Menu Collection:
smilla says: Try doing a 195* search for "continental" as cuisine type and "expensive" as the sole keyword
Regional History, Los Angeles Public Library


FYI: see this also for samples of the original Ruth Gervis illustrations for Ballet Shoes.

Tags: research, writing, yuletide
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