Happy Lefthanders Day from Retro Dee/

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

Hello folks it’s Retro Dee and this week I’d like to wish y’all a Happy Lefthanders Day. The very fact that I know when Lefthanders Day is (August 13th) probably has you surmising that I am, indeed, left handed.

This year Lefthanders Day falls on a Friday, which makes it Friday the 13th. Back in the 1600’s, we lefties used to get burned at the stake for being witches and consorting with the devil. Cool, huh? So it fits that it’s on a Friday the 13th, since Friday the 13th is considered bad luck… I suppose it’d be real bad luck if you were left-handed in the 1600’s.

Witches, warlocks, sorcerers, freaks and just plain clumsy… We lefthanders have been called lots of things, and if you’ve ever read my blog before, you’d know that I used to have a lot of issues with being left handed, and I don’t just mean because I have trouble with a can opener.

Yep, I always hated being a lefty, but all that came to an end last year when I made a most amazing discovery about two of my very favorite stars of all time: Don and Phil Everly, better known as The Everly Brothers.

Donald Everly (b. 1937) and Phillip Everly (1939-2014) were both born left-handed. This was an even bigger problem back in their time than it was in mine, several decades later. Their father, Ike Everly, taught his sons to play guitar right-handed so that they wouldn’t be called “Lefty”. The last thing you wanted in those days was to be considered a freak. Can you imagine such prejudice existing today about what hand you use?

If you’re a Righty, you might be wondering what the big deal is, but discovering the brothers’ left-handedness came as somewhat of a pleasant shock to me. When I found a photo of Phil signing for a couple of young fans, it at first made me wonder if the picture was photographed in a mirror. But he was writing with the arm his watch was on, which in those days would most definitely be his left.

Phil Everly signs an autograph with his left hand, 1958.

Shortly after, I discovered Don signing an autograph, also with his left hand, just like his brother. Although left-handedness comes but one in ten, it’s possible for two siblings to both be left-handed, especially if it runs in the family. This is, apparently, the case for the Everlys.

Don Everly signs a young fan’s cast. Photo ca. 1961.

In an interview for Elmore Magazine, Don Everly verified that although he plays the guitar right-handed, he is “totally left-handed” and that “it’s a screwed up world for left-handed people.” See? That’s what I said. And it’s for sure not entirely untrue.

Still, it could have been worse for the Everlys…

My grandfather told me about how he was forced to keep his left hand behind his back as he painstakingly learned to write with his non-dominant hand. The teachers in those days were very cruel and unrelenting about this. If a child even attempted to use their left hand during penmanship lessons, they would be smacked across the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Ouch!

My great aunt recalled the same treatment in school. The children who were forced to use their non-dominant hand to write spent twice as long learning as their right-handed peers, not to mention the added humiliation.

Don and Phil were somehow spared those atrocities, perhaps they just made it past the days children were forced to write right-handed, or maybe they slipped through the cracks. Either way, by the time they were signing autographs, they were writing left-handed.

In my early school days, in the late 80’s, teachers would force me to use an ugly, green left-handed scissors left over from the 70’s. They were always peeling and rusty. It frustrated the hell out of me because I’d already taught myself to use a regular scissors perfectly. Many of us adapt to things made for a right-handed world such as a car’s ignition, and the mouse on a desktop computer.

I also recall Girl Scout leaders who would would remark, “Oh no, you’re not left-handed, are you?” when I’d start a project. And perhaps, most notably, was the time my friend Tiffany told me to step aside when her family got a pool table because “Lefties can’t play pool. They can’t bowl either.” That’s not even true, and besides, I scored a 130+ most of the time in bowling, and I even used a regular ball!

Lefty scissors from the 70’s and 80’s

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not freaks, we just use a different hand than 90% of the population does, that’s all. However, still to this day, I see articles written about how scientists are trying to figure out what causes left-handedness. What “causes” it. Like it’s a disease!

So how can two people as perfect as The Everly Brothers be left-handed? I guess it’s not a flaw after all! And if it is, I’m happy to share it with them.

As inconvenient and annoying as it will always be, there’s something special about being left-handed. We only make up about 10% of the population. That’s a pretty small club!

In case you didn’t know, Men are 23% more likely to be left-handed then are women, with a ratio of about 1:22. As lefties, we tend to notice other lefties immediately, even from across the room. I don’t know why this is, maybe it’s because we naturally recognize that we’re different and migrate towards our own “kind”. (Of course I say that jokingly.)

In a previous post regarding this topic, I compiled a list of Famous Leftys, so if you like, please take a look. Personally, I don’t really care about the list, since Don and Phil are all the proof I need that being a Lefty isn’t all that bad.

Special thanks to Sherry Davis for contributing information to this post.

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