Our Fine Old Flat Chested Gal

March 14, 1983

Dear Sir or Madam:

Forgive the vague salutation. I could not determine the current president of the IBTC, so I am hoping this letter reaches the correct party. 

I want to share with you the story of my grandmother, who would have been a staunch supporter, probably a lifetime member, had she known about your group.  

I want to tell you how she could have used your help. 

I am sure that after you hear her remarkable history you will agree to induct her as an honorary member posthumously. It would have meant so much to her and her equally dainty descendants.

Please advise me as to who should receive the details of her biography and I will forward them gratefully.Warmest Regards, 

Ann Keebler-Gladstone

#

June 2, 1983

To Whom It May Concern:

Unfortunately, we are between presidents at the moment and will swear in our next leader at the end of the month in a tasteful (members only) ceremony at our headquarters, The Dome. You may know it as the “little yurt” from the media, or more playfully as the “breastquarters” from our longtime supporters.

In the meantime, as I am sure you will understand, we are fully occupied with the necessary preparations for this important event.

While we are in this transitory state, our resources are limited. 

We will contact you after the next term has begun. 

Sincerely,

Melinda Carriage

Interim President, IBTC

MRC/rb

#

August 10, 1983

Dear Interim President Carriage,

It has been two months since our last correspondence, a copy of which has been provided. 

I trust your new president is faring well during the transition. 

I realize you and your new leader have hard jobs: officiating functions and performing countless administrative tasks while simultaneously appearing proud of your organization, even though that may be difficult, even humiliating, at times. 

I am still hoping to obtain honorary membership for my dear grandmother Gigi. 

Please let me know the proper channels to follow so I can move the process forward. 

Much gratitude to your organization and its fine work. 

Warm regards,

Ann Keebler-Gladstone

Encl: (1)

#

November 3, 1983

Dear Interim President Carriage,

It has been three months since my last correspondence. I have included a copy for your reference.

My hope of obtaining a posthumous membership for beloved grandmother Gigi has not yet faded.

 Perhaps if I share some of the details of Gigi’s life, you may feel compelled to kindly expedite her membership. We have an upcoming family reunion in February of next year, and it would mean so much to the clan to share this honor publicly with the people who love and admire her most. 

Grandmother Gigi’s bright smile was her calling card. In her hometown of Glenford, Massachusetts, her body’s slim, straight profile was much admired when she was young. During the 1920s, when figures such as hers were fashionable, she turned heads and had her pick of partners for dances or walks on the boulevard. She was desired not only for her “bee stings” (her words), but for her kindness and generosity. The Gladstones supported a community hospital and were well known for its considerable endowment (unlike dear Gigi). 

Gigi was, in fact, well known for her parties and salons. I do not have copies of the guest lists, but I have been told they featured Glenford’s elite, the leading thinkers of the community, including the deputy mayor and the author of a regional cookbook which was in print until 1937. 

She was so well known in certain circles that a local swing band popularized a number especially written for her: “Our Fine Old Flat Chested Gal.” Perhaps you remember it? 

I have attached the sheet music for the IBTC archives.  

 She liked to fool people. This was part of her charm.

In our family, there are many tales of how Gigi successfully disguised herself as a youth, as long as she didn’t speak and kept her hat low and a scarf over her face, and her hair tucked away. She spent hours in saloons, on her secret “spy” missions as she called them. I am sure she was just listening for mentions of her own name, of which there were many.

After half a dozen of these adventures, she no longer donned the costume and would not reveal why. Her cousin Amory suspected she had been found out, for she avoided certain streets for the rest of her time in Glenford. 

Her brother Wilfred had a different opinion about what he called her “sinister exploits” but I choose not to reprint them here. During one such “incident” all of the handkerchiefs went missing from the house, only to be seen in the pockets of what Wilfred called “Lotharios” over the following months. As Gigi explained it in the family lore, these men had shown her a great kindness over the years, and she wanted to offer them a small token of appreciation. 

I do not share Wilfred’s opinion, but prefer to think of my grandmother as a true pioneer who, in entering public drinking establishments unaccompanied, broke barriers for women, secretly.

I do have a treasured photograph of Gigi in her heyday on the Glenford Green, a community park with many bushes, a gazebo, and a medium-sized fountain. Here, all of the town’s citizens, regardless of class, mingled.  

Apparently, my grandmother was fond of this place. After her saloon adventures, she would spend hours in the park reading books. Her parents were puzzled by this as her own book collection was scant and they never saw her reading at home. She explained that she checked them out of the library and returned them on the same day, according to a letter her mother wrote to a friend in 1927: “She is an intelligent girl, spending many afternoons on the Green, improving her mind. Her father often jokes that she has gone through the library catalog twice. I am puzzled by the state of her clothes after many of these excursions. They are sometimes torn, filthy or (forgive the indelicacy) soaked through with sweat. I do not know how reading could have caused this, but she assures me that she often chases squirrels for exercise in between chapters.” 

I find her pursuit of knowledge, combined with healthy exercise, is strong evidence of a well-rounded personality. 

There is so much more to tell, but obviously, assisting your new president fulfill duties is of the utmost importance, so I will close here. 

As I mentioned, her family had money, and so her hi-jinx were mostly tolerated. After all, she was Gigi Gladstone. 

I hope this letter has interested you enough to hear more. She did much to help our country (with the love and financial support of her family) despite her “scant endowment.” She was lucky to have been born when she was, come to think of it. Perhaps she would not have had so much fun in another decade. 

Please do let me know what the next steps are to receive membership for dear Gigi, a true hero to our country who used her small blessings as a remarkable service to the US of A – this information I can send in a separate letter, if you are interested to record it as part of her membership application. 

Regards,

Ann Keebler-Gladstone

Encl: (2)

#

November 12, 1983

Dear Ms. Keebler-Gladstone,

It has indeed been a busy few months! We have laid the groundwork for numerous projects which have been made possible by the generous support of both members and the general public.

With the help of our Platinum Club donors, our assets are growing. We are working with craftsmen, a landscape architect, and a plaque master on the initial designs for:

  • An official marker to be erected in The Plains, Virginia, at the birthplace of our founder Fanny Surrey 
  • A pool near the “little yurt,” which in its reflection of The Dome will create a pair of equally appealing symbols, one flat and one not – truly a clever representation of the beauty in all sizes that the IBTC champions
  • A small plaque to be placed at the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce (above what is now the door to the utility room) marking the first secret meeting of our group in 1949

We, like Gigi, have struggled mightily and overcame many obstacles to build an organization to raise awareness and acceptance for women who are large in spirit, if nothing else.

We have included the application packet here, along with other information we hope you will find interesting, including information about remembering the IBTC in your estate plan and making a monthly donation on a convenient schedule. 

Please do continue to let us know of Gigi’s illustrious history. 

Perhaps a small scholarship in her name can be established so that Gigi Gladstone can continue to contribute to our nation’s success long after she has moved on to her great reward.

Our new president tendered her resignation last week, citing exhaustion. Once again, I will be the temporary commander of our stalwart vessel.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

Most sincerely,

Melinda Carriage

Interim President, IBTC

CC: Morty Minkum, Membership Committee

Ann Smalls, Giving Fund 

Mark Tippett, Facilities

Lulu Morgan, Grants and Awards

B. B. Tatum, Estate Planning Coordinator

Candice Snide, Friends of the IBTC

Encl:(6)

#

December 3, 1983

Dear Interim President Carriage, 

I was delighted to receive the membership application and the accompanying materials about the many outreach/fund raising events and the upcoming capital campaign. Your group certainly does keep busy!

I will complete and submit the application soon. 

However, I did promise that there is more of Gigi’s story to tell, and I will include a few more chapters of her life here. I hope you will add them to your archives, so that her history can be documented in some official capacity. I am certain that after learning more about my grandmother, you may even waive the application process altogether. 

I have related Gigi’s charmed life throughout the 1920s, but after the crash her curvy sister Gilda, who looked well fed and strong, attracted all the attention. She was tall, kind, and slightly dim, always wanting to please. As a service to our returning naval heroes, she began spending time at the dock, welcoming home many sailors who were tired and shorter than she by providing an ample bosom upon which they might rest their heads. She was much admired for her charity at the dock, offering her “pillows” for exhausted deserving brave men who had spent all day scrubbing decks. 

This was a service that Gigi could not provide. 

She had been told for much of life that her boyish figure was coveted by men and women alike, but with the country’s descent into desperation, no one liked to be reminded of want. 

Gigi could have been twisted by bitterness and jealousy, for surely it is a trial for a woman once pursued to find that she is suddenly skipping away from nothing. But instead, Gigi spearheaded a new program she hoped would assist struggling citizens during this difficult time: The National Hope Chest. 

She asked for donations of pillows of a certain size, and, along with a friend whose former fortune was made in the garment industry, designed a simple harness to hold the pillows in line with the heart. She then offered these tools to the small-breasted women of the northeast and, using her sister Gilda as an example, spread the word that all females must do their part to support the troops. Petite women now could benefit from the boost of their augmented physique. Some say that the program was just as important for these dainty ladies as for the men to whom they offered succor.   

Gigi was hailed as a hero by the press and by the boys who so looked forward to coming home. Citing a tightening of the belt to sympathize with the struggling masses, generals and commanders often cut tours or missions short to give themselves and their men a most deserving reward.  

Unfortunately, our enemies were watching and (wrongfully assumed) recklessness on the military’s part. All they saw were brave men emptying their hearts and becoming weak when a slightly taller woman offered her services as a resting place for the patriot.  

Unbeknownst to Gigi, her program, while founded to support and strengthen our nation’s defense, was having the opposite effect to the outside world. 

But my poor grandmother had more serious problems, as the Gladstone fortune had, like so many of their friends’, been sucked away to nothing. For both the nation and the house of Gladstone, things were getting desperate. 

The few family photographs from that time show that the Gladstone women’s once magnificent hats could no longer be refeathered for the season, and now sat on their heads like damp owls. Gigi’s father’s scowl was deeper than normal because of his dwindling fortune, no doubt. 

But he had also grown to resent what he saw as the inappropriate attention both of his daughters attracted. He can be forgiven, I suppose, for not having the long view. He could not see how the sisters were giving women opportunities. They could now use their bodies to comfort strangers, a right that, as I understand, had been denied decent women until Gigi’s time. 

I must stop the story for now, as I am sure this is more than enough evidence to grant Gigi membership in the coming weeks. Perhaps our family can look forward to toasting to our dear grandmother’s acceptance into your fine organization over the holidays.

Warm regards,

Ann Keebler-Gladstone

#

February 12, 1984

Dear Ms. Keebler:

We were intrigued by your last letter and hope that your family was able to recover from the misfortunes suffered by so many of their generation. 

Unfortunately, at a minimum, we do require an application from all those who seek membership, and, of course, the application fee. Our general policy has been to induct only those members who could travel to The Dome for a swearing-in ceremony – an event, our members often tell us, they will remember for the rest of their lives. 

Perhaps after her application had been approved, you can travel in her stead. 

Morty Minkum

Co-chair, Membership Committee

IBTC

MMM/rb

#

February 12, 1984

Dear Interim President Carriage, et al:

How unfortunate that we did not hear from the IBTC before the holidays. 

However, our family reunion is but a few days away, and I wanted to send you the rest of dear Gigi’s story in the hopes that you will consider granting our beloved grandmother the place she deserves in your organization post haste. Unfortunately, I am pressed for time here and have not been able to complete the application, but surely you will be swayed after hearing how Gigi diminutive figure helped to save the country and regained the fortune that has sustained our family for many years and that will continue to buoy us along the future’s uncertain seas. 

After Gigi’s sister Gilda met her husband, a short but determined fellow with a permanent kink in his neck as a result of her stalwart comfort, she became a new model for women in the National Hope Chest program. Its participants no longer used their contraption to the benefit of our fine military men, but as a means to lure potential partners, and to eventually land “the whopper.” This method was effective and the ranks of the program’s participants rapidly thinned. 

Once the marriage was final, these new wives assumed the harness was no longer necessary, as their husbands surely were now devoted to their undersized assets. 

Sadly just as a wave of weddings had served to dissolve the NHC, in the next five years a new wave of broken homes was the result. These abandoned women, many of them mothers, came to be known as Gigi Brides and among their joyless ranks was Fanny Surrey, founder of the IBTC.

So now my grandmother had a new challenge: to give these women renewed hope and a way to earn a living. 

Meanwhile, a wealthy industrialist named Keebler, who had been able to ride out the Depression with most of his fortune intact, was looking for a lucrative way to help with the war effort as America joined in the noble fight to rid the world of horror and mayhem (as has continued to the present day). 

The troops needed everything, from pickles to blasting caps, and many resources to produce the goods. 

While pickles did appeal to Mr. Keebler, the meager profit available from such a venture did not. Eventually he settled on submarine customization. 

This project seemed doomed from the start, as installing the sub’s enhancements proved a challenge. Mr. Keebler’s hires struggled to maneuver in the vessel’s tight spaces. Most men who sought the work, despite having suffered from want, found themselves stuck and were quickly overcome by the panic of the claustrophobe. 

Gigi learned of the industrialist’s predicament when the headline appeared in the local paper “Grease Used to Free Panicking Submariners.”

Gigi realized she could supply all of the petite employees Mr. Keebler would need.

As family lore would have it, Gigi used her tomfoolery again and disguised herself as a potential hire wearing Wilfred’s last good pair of work boots, which ended up covered in grease by day’s end (and for which he never forgave her). But ultimately, it was for a good cause as she managed to insinuate herself into submarine spaces that no others had ever reached. Apparently, her disguise fooled no one. She was clearly a she.

As the foreman marveled, she wiggled and shimmied with such success and confidence that the entire group of job seekers forgot why they were there. 

As luck would have it, Mr. Keebler approached the job site at this moment and wondered what had captured the attention of this large group of men.  

From what I have been able to piece together, my grandfather saw my grandmother first when her petite derriere popped out of a port hole. He was taken with her moxie and her diminutive size and developed an instant affection for her.  

Gigi knew a man of quality when she met one and so it did not take much wooing for him to win her. 

So, Gigi found herself in the happy position of being married to a millionaire before she had quite gone to seed. She was able to offer many of the Gigi Brides an honest living as Keebler employees (or “squeezers” as they were nicknamed for their contortions). 

Mr. Keebler did adore his wife, and she gave him a son, my father, to carry on the Keebler name. Out of respect for the Gladstone’s well known generosity, he hyphenated my father’s last name. 

Keebler Submarine Adjusters, Inc. went on to make millions over its long operation, which extended for two decades after the war was over.  

When her husband died, my grandmother inherited the Keebler fortune, along with the company that bore her husband’s name, which she promptly sold to devote the remainder of her life to enjoying herself. And she certainly did that. 

In certain (lamentably dwindling) circles, she is still fondly remembered.   

I must close as there is much to do for our reunion, only a few days away. We will use the grand ballroom in Wilfred’s place, now occupied by his niece and her husband. Wilfred also lived a happy life, by the way. His fortune was made in handkerchiefs.

Please contact me as soon as possible with the (hopefully!) good news about Gigi’s membership. We especially hope to share it with my mother, the widow of Gigi’s only son who, regrettably, is in sharp decline. It would surely brighten her last days. 

Regards, 

Ann Keebler-Gladstone 

#

February 20, 1984

Dear Ms. Keebler-Gladstone,

It seems our letters of 12 February crossed in the mail.

We were unable to locate a telephone number for you using directory assistance.

The IBTC is delighted to inform you that we called an emergency session of the membership committee and have awarded Gigi Gladstone membership at the Platinum level, which entitles her (or in this case her descendants) to all full privileges and benefits. This exclusive group is comprised of our most admired members (one of whom is a state senator who prefers to remain anonymous). 

Please find attached a certificate stating her award which your family members can proudly display at your reunion. 

One of our representatives will be in your area in the coming weeks and can arrange a small ceremony at a location of your choice. We hope that your mother has rallied and can attend. 

At the ceremony, it will be a delight to meet you and your family so we can brainstorm ways to honor your grandmother publicly. Surely the new Heritage wing at our breastquarters (not yet under construction) should bear her name, and this impressive memorial can become a reality with your family’s generous support.

We are also in need of facilities support at the breastquarters, as the Official Fanny Surrey HVAC system has recently given out. 

We look forward to hearing from you about these and other ventures. 

Welcome to the IBTC family!

Melinda Carriage

Interim President 

IBTC

cc: Rebecca Sned, Co-chair, Platinum-level Membership Coordinator

Marie Longfellow, Undersecretary of the Undersized; Official Archivist

Morty Minkum, Membership Committee

Ann Smalls, Giving Fund 

Mark Tippett, Facilities

Lulu Morgan, Grants and Awards

B. B. Tatum, Estate Planning Coordinator

Candice Snide, Friends of the IBTC

#

April 10, 1984

Dear Interim President Carriage,

We were pleased to receive the materials about Gigi’s posthumous acceptance into the ranks of the ITBC at the exclusive level. 

Our family reunion was a success, though slightly marred by the disappointment that we could not claim an acknowledgment of her many accomplishments from your organization in time to share it at the gathering.

Mother departed this earth on February 20, the day your last letter was mailed. She has been buried in the family mausoleum, next to her beloved husband of 40 years. This fine marble monolith is also the final resting place of Gigi, who we hope is delighted in being reunited with her devoted daughter-in-law in the great beyond.

Along with this sad news, we must also regretfully but respectfully decline membership for dear Gigi. This was my mother’s deathbed request for being so shunned by the IBTC. I tried to change her mind (as I am sure you were simply overwhelmed with all of your fund raising projects), but as her eyelids descended for the last time she whispered her last words regarding your organization, which I do not wish to repeat here.

Such being the case, we must also decline your kind offer to meet us for a ceremony.

Best of luck to the IBTC, 

Ann Keebler-Gladstone 

#

April 20, 1984

Dear Ms. Keebler-Gladstone,

We were disappointed that your family has declined your grandmother’s membership, for surely she deserves this great honor. Ms. Snide of the Friends of the IBTC had been planning a welcoming weekend for your family which featured an awards dinner with an open bar and the reading of an elegy to Gigi Gladstone composed by our poet-in-residence (a three-time winner of the Bartley Farbus Award for Enthusiasm in the Arts). 

In preparation for this event, our archivist, Ms. Longfellow, has been researching Gigi’s history. We have found two photos featuring your grandmother accompanying your grand father to the annual Submariner’s ball at the White House, copies of which have been attached. We have also had them restored and framed, and are shipping them by separate post.

More good news: The IBTC is excited to inform you that we have named Gigi Gladstone as this year’s recipient of the Triple D in Spirit award. Lucky winners have a small bust carved in their likeness that remains on display in our hall of heroes in perpetuity.

We hope you will reconsider your decision. 

Most sincerely,

Melinda Carriage

Interim President 

IBTC

cc: Rebecca Sned, Co-chair, Platinum-Level Membership Coordinator

Ann Smalls, Giving Fund 

Marie Longfellow, Undersecretary of the Undersized; Official Archivist

Candice Snide, Friends of the IBTC

Harold R. Rosenthal, Attorney at Law

Grace “Cookie” Landon, Membership Recruitment

Encl:(2)

#

May 29, 1984

Dear neighbors, friends and correspondents,

We are moving and are sending this sadly impersonal letter. 

However, after this brief explanation, we hope you will understand why we had to share our big news in such a regretfully anonymous manner. 

The Fundación Apreciación de Mama of Central Costa Rica (the Breast Appreciation Foundation of Central Costa Rica) has purchased property adjacent to the world-famous Rancho Maravilloso and has invited Gigi’s descendants to the opening ceremony of Gigi Gladstone park, which includes 40 acres of gardens, ponds, walking trails, a gift shop and restrooms with innovative, state of the art, environmentally-safe plumbing. 

We have decided to remain in Costa-Rica, as the Fundación has kindly invited us to be docents in the Gigi Gladstone museum and to live on the property as long as we’d like – at no charge! We have accepted their generous offer and will be out of the country by the time you receive this letter.   

This was not a hard decision to make, even though other offers to honor Gigi have been proposed by at least three admired organizations in the last few months. We appreciate the sudden interest shown in our relative’s charmed life – but the Fundación went above and beyond to win our hearts. 

We will be closing up Gladstone manor for an indefinite time, though our staff will remain to maintain the grounds. 

We will send our new address by post to our friends and extended family sometime in the coming year. 

Again, apologies for this mass letter, but we couldn’t wait to share the news of our exciting adventure with our dear friends, professional contacts, and those who have shown interest in Gigi’s story. 

If you are ever near Rancho Maravilloso, please stop by and enjoy this beautiful tribute to our most deserving grandmother, truly a pioneer for small chested women everywhere. 

Here’s to Gigi!

Warmest wishes and kindest regards,

The Keebler-Gladstone family

Jenny Drummey is an author, painter and parrot adoption coordinator. Visit jennydrummey.com