Monday, October 10, 2005

Prissy Pinafores and Shiny Shoes

When I was young, people only washed their hair about once a week. The theory was that it would harm hair and dry it out too much if washed more often than that. Odd, isn't it? Of course, there were many ideas back then that would later prove to be misconceptions.

On Saturday, mom would wash my long hair and in the winter, I would lie down in front of the gas firelogs in the living room fireplace and take a nap while my hair dried to the heat of the stove. It was a lovely feeling and one of my strongest memories. I always felt as if I had never slept better than when I was by that gas stove, with its enveloping warmth. I would wrap up in my knitted afghan, the one mom made with fuschia and brown yarn, with tassels all around.

My hair was kept braided all the time, in two pigtails tied with ribbons to match my outfit of the day. Mom sewed almost all my clothing until I was about 10, after which I decided "store-bought" was much preferable to "mommy-made". How wrong I was! She made pretty cotton dresses, with puffy sleeves and rick rack or lace trim, and organdy pinafores to match. A pinafore was a sort of decorative apron, used to catch whatever soil I came in contact with during the day, and thus save the dress from getting dirty. In her theory, I could wear the dress with the pinafore and then another day without it, and have 2 different looks. In practice, I hardly ever got dirty. I could have worn the same dress 5 days in a row and it would still look as fresh as it did the first day. I finally learned to get a little dirty, so that I wouldn't have to wear the same dress 2-3 days in a row!

My school shoes were black patent Mary Janes, polished to a high gloss with petroleum jelly; I wore them with white socks, sometimes trimmed in lace. Can you imagine the girls of today going to school dressed like that? I enjoyed looking like a princess, but of course it had its bad points. If we girls got on a swing, the boys were always watching to see if the skirts would fly up over our faces so they could yell...."I see England, I see France, I see Judy's underpants". I learned quickly to tuck my skirt under my legs so it wouldn't fly up. Forget trying to climb on a jungle-gym in a dress without showing everything - but we did it anyway - mostly when the boys were off playing ball or marbles or jacks. Somewhere I have a photo of some classmates perched on the jungle-gym at school when we were in the fifth grade. Good times......warm memories......and what I am learning through these reveries is that it was a very good childhood.





21 comments:

La Bella said...

Ahhhhh... what great memories those are...

I remember when I was a kid, my Mom made us shower every day... I hated it! LOL But looking back now, we were kids always getting dirty, so it make sense. LOL

btw, Hi, Michelle sent me!

Jamie Dawn said...

Your post makes me imagine a Norman Rockwell painting of a girl on a swing. Perfectly lovely.

YellowRose said...

I loved this post...my grandmother and mom made alot of my clothes when I was a child. I loved remembering that. Thanks!

panthergirl said...

You mean the boys didn't figure out that they could see up your dress just by looking into your shiny shoes?

;)

Great imagery...btw.

Pirate said...

Life was simpler at one time at least for us. I wonder how the youth will look back to today.

poopie said...

I had pinafores too. I still think they're cute ;)

Angela said...

Ah, the girls got wiser as the generations went by--I always loved wearing my girlie dresses to school, but I always, ALWAYS wore shorts underneath so that I could hang upside-down without shame ;)

Jennifer said...

I really, really miss my Mary Janes. And my saddle oxfords, too. But I definitely DON'T miss have my wet already curly head rolled up in rag curls on Saturday night before church. Nope, can't say as I do. Not one bit.

David Parsons WV said...

Mom always washed my hair in the laundry tub with Fitches shampoo for men. Little boys weren't supposed to use Halo or Prell. The "theory" on infrequent hair washings that too much washing removed the natural hair oils and was bad for your scalp. Some kids washed their hair with Ivory soap.
Clothes "back then" were made mostly of natural fabrics and required care when cleaning. All cottons had to be ironed. Wools went to the dry cleaners. Going to school filthy or wearing disheveled clothes was considered something for street urchins. Mom said soap was cheap and there was no excuse for anyone to be dirty. She was right. Most all household cleaning products and personal hygiene products didn't contain ingredients that couldn't be pronounced either. Sometimes what is called progress is actually taking steps backward.

Raehan said...

Kenju, The "don't wash your hair too often" isn't entirely a misconception. I have a friend who is a very well trained stylist (charges big $) and one of her big points of advice is to not wash your hair everyday, but rather to simply rinse it.

I am so addicted to my baths and showers that I can't sleep without one.

Your childhood sounds lovely.

vicki said...

I'm like Raehan, Judy. In the summer it's shower morning and night; in winter I cut back to one shower or hot tub/day. I know it dries out my skin but I just need that water!. I remember that Saturday morning chores included polishing everyone's shoes and when I was flying back from Florida in comfy clothes yesterday I remembered my Grandmother making sure we were always dressed up to travel.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

Such memories you brought back to me. My mother made ALL my clothes. Mostly out of flowered flour sacks. She was wonderful with it. I was proud of my dresses.

brendalove@gmail.com said...

Why does everything have to be so difficult now?

colleen said...

Then they came up with this powder like stuff you could sprinkle in your hair so you wouldn't have to wash it. Bath night was once a week for us too...until we got older, then maybe it was a couple times a week.

Peter said...

I really feel sorry for people who aren't from "our generation" and it keeps getting worse, our Kids had it pretty good too but their kids just don't know how great it used to be.
Not that we had all the luxuries, just all the fun and freedom.

utenzi said...

Most people are more fastidious than I am, Judy. I only shower every other day. If nothing else, it conserves water and keeps people at a distance. :-) But I can't go more than two days without washing my hair. It get greasy very fast.

srp said...

Dad said that everyone took a bath on Saturday night even if they didn't need one. I think they had a set of good overalls for church and regular for school and chores. Of course he walked to school, two miles, uphill both ways in four feet of snow. Right. Grandma had four boys before finally getting a girl to dress in pinafores. But the fun of putting a watermelon in the stream to cool, swimming in the creek, breaking open the melon with a rock and scooping the innards out with your hands on a hot summer day, priceless.

Ben said...

Fascinating how perceptions have changed. Everything that was good is abd - everything was that was bad is good!

Weary Hag said...

This was such a touching post. You KNOW I love nostalgia... I could just imagine this little girl lying by the heater with her long, wet hair. You've done a great job bringing us all right into the era. Wowzer!

We bathed on Saturday nights at our house (largely because dad was working that night and with five females and one male in the house with one bathroom, it only made sense)

Sadly, mom even took the water conservation further by doubling us kids up in the tub. Ew. Just ew.

The pretty dress and shoes for school made me sad because I often envied my friends who attended public schools - they got to wear neat clothes. We were stuck in dark, plaid uniforms with boyish oxfords for eight years. Oh but we looked like little dolls on Easter!

Mom made many of our clothes too but I always cringed when wearing them because by the time they got passed down to me, I never knew if a sleeve would fall off or a hem would come out while walking to church!

Mary Janes? Don't laugh, I came very close to buying a pair about a month ago. Nothin' like 'em.

Thanks for the wonderful (and the "ew") memories!

Angie said...

I dressed my girls when they were small the same way. I hate the things in stores for children now. If this new baby is a girl I have many of the my kids dresses packed away that we will use and I will make many more. Nothing says little princess like a lacy dress and black patent leather shoes. I also keep Gracie's hair braided or pulled up and her bows always match her clothes.

That's the difference in living and living well -in my own humble opinion.

I really get frustrated when I see other little girls and no one has bothered to brush their hair properly and it is stringy and hanging in their face.

Why don't many mother's pay closer attention to their daughters these days? That is a VERY sore spot for me. I see children at school with dirty faces and hands and clothes. I know they have not had a bath!! No excuse for it.

I think I should step down off my soapbox now.

Laura said...

It was so interesting to read the followup comments to this post also. I don't have memories of the weekly baths or of fireplaces,but I do remember waiting and waiting for my older brother to get out of the shower so I could get in. 5 people and a one bathroom house. that wouldnt sell these days.

Mom used to make a lot of my dresses till I got too old to want her to do so. lol

Everything was so much simpler back then, it's a shame we lost touch with the ability to just send our children outside to play together.

Great memories, Judy. :))