Why these things have popped up in my brain I cannot figure out. I have been thinking about things that were so common decades ago when I was still a very young person. All of us have such memories stored in the best computer in the world (the human brain) but they do not always surface on a daily basis. Sometimes it takes a "trigger" and I do not know what my trigger was but it did set off some memories I can call "trivia from the past". When I grew up, it was in two small towns in Clay County. Neither town even approached the number 2000 population-wise. At that time there were few "newcomers"…there were "oldcomers"….descendants of early settlers and mostly long-term residents. Oh, there were new people but not nearly the number of new people in those two towns now! A few moved in and out of the towns but most of them were there to stay as their families had stayed for a couple of generations already. Everyone knew everyone else; people watched out for other people’s kids if they saw them getting in trouble of any kind. Everyone knew where everyone lived. The downtowns were filled with many many businesses and everyone shopped in their own town.
What I have been remembering is a lot of the small stuff of our daily lives. Things that have passed from the scene many decades ago and the younger generations would be amazed by some of the trivia that made up our living each day. So here are some of the things that have caused me to think about "those days" in the past days.
**the "sprinkler caps" that used to be sold in hardware stores. They fit the tops of bottles that were the same size as "pop" bottles, made of glass of course. No such thing then as plastic bottles. Each week brought a load of ironing for families because "wash and wear" or polyester fabrics that need no ironing were far in the future. So each week the Moms sprinkled the clothes from their sprinkling bottles with the funny little sprinkler caps attached. Sprinkled clothes were put into large bags and the clothes were meant to be ironed in a few hours after sprinkling. (after we purchased a chest freezer, it was sometimes used to "freeze" the clothes if you did not have time to finish all the ironing). If you did not get the sprinkled clothes ironed on time, they were likely to begin to smell moldy and had to be washed all over again, which was a major job since automatic washers did not exist, at least in my little towns. I can remember being the chief "ironer" when my sister was a small tot…my Mom was overly-loaded with other tasks and I learned to "iron". I remember getting very dizzy ironing one of my cotton sundresses which had tiny tiny purple pinstripes on a white background. Sometimes ironing the tiny stripes made me have to sit down and re-balance my brain or whatever caused the dizziness. You had to iron everything because everything was cotton or linen or some fabric that would wrinkle badly in the wash. Girls like me had cotton skirts we made ourselves, or our mother’s made them out of 3 yards of cotton fabric. We had matching blouses to go with one of the colors in the skirt which was usually a print….some of them very colorful and some of them very loud! I recall a "cotton chambray" skirt of mine that I dearly loved for the colors….horizontal stripes of yellow, peachy-pink, and pale brown. It was good I was the skinniest kid in town or my horizontal striped skirt would have made me appear to be a walking house! I had a yellow blouse for that skirt. And probably yellow "anklets". And probably black and white saddle shoes or later "white bucks with red soles" a’ la Pat Boone, one of our dreamboat singers.
**Pants Stretchers: These were devices made of metal that a pair of wet pants (my Dad’s pants, in our house) were put onto before they were hung out to dry on our clotheslines. They were adjustable for different sizes of pants but we only used them for Dad’s cotton dark green workpants. The pants were stretched sideways, matching up the side seams and they would dry and maybe NOT need to be ironed because they were not all wrinkled up like the rest of the washed clothes.
Long Gone Cereals: The one I remember best is Kellogg’s "Pep" flakes. They were shaped like "Wheaties" but they tasted more "wheaty" or like they had bran in them. They were very dark brown and I loved the change from the old Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Wheaties which seem to have been around forever. "Pep" flakes were NEW and unique for our day and I begged my Mom to order them from our grocery store which delivered our grocieries to our house each day. Another one I wish was still around was "Wheat Meal", a cooked cereal. It was a bit like "Ralston" but it was smoother and less likely to lump up in the cooking pot. I ate a lot of "Wheat Meal" in the cold winters since my Mom nearly always had cooked cereal for breakfast. "Coco Wheats" which is still on the shelves, was a real chocolate treat some mornings. It was like eating candy for breakfast.
Wooden Clothes Racks: Since nobody had an electric or gas clothes dryer in that time, wooden clothes racks were necessities in wintertime when you could not hang washed clothing out on the clothes lines. I do recall that before the snow was gone, if some of it had melted, women would struggle out to their clothes lines to hang up wet clothes which would then freeze stiff and have to be dried in the house on the clothes racks. The home smelled so fragrant from the frozen clothes drying inside. There were also "basement clotheslines " but the clothes got ugly down there; they smelled like the basement and basements did not smell nice in those days as I remember…..they always smelled like dirt or stuff that was a bit moldy. At least ours did.
Seasonal Fruits and Veggies ONLY: There must have been no shipments from South America back then. The only time we saw green or red grapes or watermelon or cantaloupe was a narrow window in the summertime when they came from places in the USA that were a lot warmer than our climate. Green grapes and watermelon were both such summer treats! Our mouths watered when those fruits arrived in our little locally owned grocery stores (6 of them when I was growing up) You never saw fresh green beans or strange varieties of greens for salads or fresh corn unless the local veggies became available. Now we see them year-round from some warmer climate…but they do not taste as good either! Nobody bought fresh tomatoes from a store; we just waited for July and August when EVERYONE had ripe red tomatoes from their gardens.
Corduroy Clothes: There was a lot of clothing for kids and teenagers made from corduroy. You could buy any color you wanted in the local stores that sold fabric. I had purple corduroy for a jumper, pink and red and white corduroy for slacks….everyone did. Girls had corduroy clothes that were often made by their moms. Boys wore corduroy pants for dress up on Sundays and later when "cords" became so popular for guys, they wore them to school every day in brilliant colors of the mid-fifties…..I recall blazing orange on one guy, mint green, cream and white (which has to be washed after one wearing and with no dryers, corduroy clothes looked stiff after being washed). There was a rage for pink and gray cords among both boys and girls. Black and Pink shirts and blouses abounded to wear with the Pink, Charcoal Gray and Black craze in clothing when it hit us hard. One of the grocery store owners even had a two- tone 1956 pink and black Ford sedan which all of us were dying for a ride in….his daughter often obliged us with very fast rides around town taking corners on two wheels until somebody reported her to her Dad who put an end to our harrowing rides in the pink and black Ford.
Sack Dresses: This craze hit when I was in my second year of college. I never bought one because I thought they looked so stupid. There was actually a big sack-like part of the dress in the back right about butt-lenth and I thought the girls who wore them looked like they were smuggling potatoes on their rear ends. But it was a true CRAZE. Ugly, but popular for about 2 seasons. This introduced the "waistless dress" style which exists to this day. Before the Sack Dress, dresses and other clothing always had distinctive waistlines. The Sack Dress became poplular among women and girls who lacked the skinny waistlines.
The "New Look" c. 1946: This new style in dresses and skirts hit the scene almost immediately after WW 2. With the new sense of freedom abounding and truly good economic times after the war, clothing designers must have felt they could use a lot more fabric in the styles. Long fitted straight skirts came into being—so narrow they had to have rather long slits in the back to enable the wearer to walk in the New Look. This lasted a long time, right until the Mini Skirt made its appearance in the 1960′s. All my skirts, as a teenager, were very long (ankle length), very tight and very hard to walk in. All the high school full length pictures show all girls wearing these long straight skirts with thick white bobby sox and saddle shows protruding from the skirt bottom. The non-tall girls look like stubby outhouses with white ankleted feet in saddle shoes sticking out from the bottom of the outhouses. This style was good for tall girls but there were few tall girls in my day.
Fiestaware in the "Bargain Basement": When Fiesta ware hit the markets the dishes were sold in bargain basements and dime stores mostly. It was a cheap dish set. My Mom bought a huge set of Fiestaware from Peterson’s Bargain Basement in the wide array of bright colors but we broke them as time went on and none survived— only one green gravy boat with a big crack which my sister continues to preserve in a glassware display cupboard. I think all our every- day plates, cups, dishes, saucers etc all came from the Bargain Basement as did our drinking glasses which were always of real glass. The funny thing is that now you can see these dishes in Antique Stores with huge price tags on them.
Fruit Juice Glasses with Oranges and Tomatoes on them: I loved the tiny glass juice glasses which had either oranges or tomatoes painted on the sides. They broke all too easily but they were so pretty. They came with a glass pitcher or bottle with the same oranges or tomatoes on the sides.
Movie Magazines: "Screemplay" and "Modern Screen" are the two magazines I remember best. We girls were wild to buy the latest issues of such magazins and I used my baby sitting money one year to order a subscription so the magazine came in the mail…an event I panted for each moon cycle. It was an inside look at all the movie stars we adored….Jane Powell, Betty Grable, Cary Grant, Ronald Reagan and his wife Jane Wyman, Van Johnson, Esther Williams….all the beauties and handsome men of the era who appeared in our movies we flocked to on Friday or Saturday or Sunday Matinees. Luella Parsons and Hedda Hopper were the gossip columnists of the movie magazines and they had all the hot stories about who was dating whom, who had been to the Brown Derby or the Mogambo Club or Ciros in Hollywood, who was married to whom and pictures of the children, et.al. No really juicy or truly HOT gossip was printed but I am sure there was a lot of it…..it wasn’t allowed in print though. Quite a change from today’s National Enquirer type of rags and newspapers that one sees in the shelves in grocery store lines now.
I am wondering if any readers remember things that have disappeared from the scene long ago. If you do please make a comment. I am a big nostalgia buff!