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The Call of the Wild from the Hettrick Mfg, Company

Working non-stop to clean out two houses left me with only enough energy in the evenings to search eBay for treasures. Good sporting sources are getting harder to find, but I am good at spotting them. Take this 1920s catalog, for instance. At first its little eBay thumbnail photo didn’t look too promising, and then I noticed the auto tent.

I’m not at all interested in truck covers and tarps, but auto tents always attract my attention.

The catalog is just full of mid 1920s camping supplies. The Hettrick Company started out as a maker of canvas goods, making items for the late 19th century farmers such as horse and wagon covers. They were evidently willing to change with the times, as the 1920s brought cars and more leisure hours. Hettrick turned to canvas car covers and tents.

Today we might look on Instagram to see the ideal camping setup. In the pre-internet days, catalogs sold the perfect camping experience.

In the 1940s and 50s Hettrick turned from canvas items to metal outdoor furniture. Those metal gliders and chairs we all enjoyed as kids could have been made by Hettrick.

The caption for this great drawing could have been written in 2021 as millions of Americans flooded our national parks looking for some soothing nature.

Hettrick also made striped canvas awnings, tents, yard swings, umbrellas, and other accessories for the modern backyard. In the 20s they also began making clothing for outdoorsmen.

I have two of these wonderful old reclining chairs. It’s time to replace the canvas.

This catalog still has a small selection of wagon covers and horse coats, but as America moved from farms to the cities and suburbs, Hettrick was able to transition to a leisure hours supplier. Funny how the cover focused on their past as a maker of farm supplies instead of what the catalog actually was focused on.

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Side Tracked

“Honeymoon Catch, Sept 1912” The bride is not identified but it looks as though she was a successful angler. It’s hard to see, but she’s standing in mud, a situation with which I, unfortunately, can relate.
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You might not associate hurricanes and tropical storms with the Appalachian Mountains as we are 300 miles from the Atlantic, but when the perfect storm forms over the Gulf Coast we can get heavy rains that funnel through the narrow river valleys. This happened last week when Fred came through. It was sudden and devastating to communities on the rivers. Lives were lost. Two hundred homes were destroyed. Many small, local businesses, including our fabulous little brewery were damaged.
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I was lucky. My husband’s childhood home which we own but do not live in, is on the Pigeon River in Clyde, NC. Unlike 2004 when Hurricanes Frances and nine days later Hurricane Ivan both brought 4 feet of water into the house, we had only about 5 to 8 inches. There was a thick layer of mud on the floors, but thanks to the best friends in the world and the kindness of strangers, the house is now clean and dry.
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One thing that helped was that money was spent to develop a flood runoff park just upstream from my little town. It’s an example of town planning that worked to lessen the impact of this flood. Upstream the situation was much more devastating.

The 2004 floods were referred to as 100 year events, but here we are seventeen years later with another one. Only fools think climate change is not real. We need to look at the attitudes toward climate change of candidates at all levels of government. We simply cannot continue on this path.

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Downsizing

I know; it’s been a while. As the title says, we are in the process of downsizing. What that means is that we are selling the adorable little cottage where I have stored my collection for the past sixteen years. So between sorting through everything, and getting my priorities straight, time and energy have been short.

We bought the cottage after my mother-in-law was flooded out of her house in 2004. We thought she might want to live there, but as it turned out she didn’t. But we kept the house anyway and over the years it has been a source of joy to me. We held family gatherings there. And I have spent lots of happy hours with my stuff.

But now the cottage has to go, and it’s really more for its sake than for mine. We simply can’t keep up with the maintenance of a 116 year old house. It’s for the best. And yet, here I am forced to reassess the items I’ve accumulated over the past two decades.

So please bear with me while the sorting and rehoming continues! But don’t worry, the vast part of my collection is staying with me.

And now for a public service announcement:

Get the covid vaccine. This is not rocket science, but it is biology. Vaccines work. That’s why you don’t have to worry about polio or the measles. That’s why smallpox is no longer naturally occurring in our world. This is not political. It is doing the right thing for humanity.

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The Fabric of a Town, Fountain Inn, South Carolina

I recently met friend Liza in the little town of Fountain Inn, SC. We were there to see an exhibition at the local museum, The Fabric of a Town: What We Wore from 1860 – 1960. Neither of us had ever been to Fountain Inn, which is just a few minutes south of Greenville, so we didn’t know what to expect. Small, local museums like the Fountain Inn Museum try very hard, but resources are slim, and there’s a lot of making do with what one has.

That said, we were delighted with what we found in Fountain Inn. The director of the museum, Kenzie Galloway, wanted to do a clothing exhibition, but the museum’s collection did not have enough garments to put on a good show, so she reached out to long-time members of the community and asked for loans of their clothes, and those of deceased family members. The result was a well thought out exhibition, with every piece a part of the story of the town.

This is not just a clothing exhibition; it is a collection of the stories of the people who are Fountain Inn. The wearer of each item is identified, any there are short stories about the wearers presented through the exhibition space. With the exception of exhibitions that feature the clothing of one person, you just seldom get this type of provenance.
Another advantage of this type of show is that you usually can get a good, close-up look. We were especially lucky because Kenzie walked through the exhibition with us, telling us even more about how she planned the show, assembled the garments, and recorded the stories.
This dress was one of my favorites, partly because it is so pretty, but mainly because of the woman who wore it. Emmie Stewart was in her mid thirties when she agreed to marry town dentist Doc Fulmer, provided he built them a large house and that he did not expect more than one child.
The dress was bought after the wedding and was Emmie’s afternoon receiving gown.
As you can see, she got the house and the one little boy.
This garment appears to me to be a dressing jacket, or a combing jacket. There is a matching corselet and petticoat (or skirt). It was made by one of the Mock sisters, Mattie and Maggie who were born in the 1860s. Both were accomplished seamstresses, which you will see once you know that the eyelets were all hand embroidered.
The sisters never married and lived together until Maggie died in 1940.
There are also men’s garments in the exhibition. This is a class coat from Furman College (now University) worn by Fred Wood. Fred graduated from Furman in 1930.

Furman’s college colors are white and purple, and the use of them has been traced to the early 1890s. My guess that the use of light blue and black for Fred’s coat indicate this was his class’s colors, which were different from the college colors.

And yes, there was a bit of sportswear, including this circa 1915 swimming tunic and bathing shoes. Unfortunately the bloomers were missing.
And there was this perfectly charming 1960s Jantzen swimsuit with matching cover-up or blouse.
Jantzen and Catalina made a lot of these matching sets in the 1950s and early 60s. It was fun to see a set that has remained together.
This is a beautifully preserved wedding gown from 1942. It was made by Carolyn White’s mother for Carolyn’s wedding to Luther White. Note the painting. This is Carolyn’s self-portrait of herself wearing her gown.
The display includes the sewing pattern!
You really can’t take us anywhere. Liza thought the veil was obscuring the beauty of the neckline. She was right.
A big challenge to small museums in displaying clothes is that mannequins and dress forms greatly enhance the way the garment looks, but these are not always available. Some of the plainer garments were hung on padded hangers, which pretty much worked. But some of the garments were much too fragile to hang and so were put in display cases. In the case of this late 1800s dress, there was no way it could have been displayed any way except flat. The silk is disintegrating, as you can see. It’s a shame, as this was a lovely dress.
This dress sparked a lively conversation about the stories that are often attached by family members to heirlooms. According to the story this dress was worn to a garden party in 1925. I’m not saying the story is not true, but if it is the wearer must have felt dreadfully out-of-date and overdressed.
There was a bassinette full of cute little baby things. Gwen Walton’s little feet wore these beautifully crocheted slippers.

I want to congratulate Kenzie for a job well done! The exhibition is running until July 30, 2021, so there is still time to see it if you are in the Greenville area.

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Jantzen 1936 Style Book

Jantzen is one of those companies that seemed to get things right from the very beginning. It was established in 1910 by Carl Jantzen and John and Roy Zehntbauer as the Portland Knitting Company, with their products being woolen sweaters and accessories. The founders were active in rowing, and in 1913, they designed wool knit trunks for members of their team. From there a one-piece men’s bathing suit was designed. By 1915 bathing suits became their main product, and the name of the company was changed to Jantzen.

The three owners were also avid swimmers, so they worked on the knit until it was good for swimming and not just splashing about in the water. In 1921 the team at Jantzen began marketing their suits as swimming suits instead of bathing suits. By then Jantzen suits were being marketed to both men and women, and their famous diving girl logo had been designed.

The Jantzen story is well-documented. The company advertised heavily and they also released catalogs for both retail and wholesale. I have a fair collection of them, mainly from the 1950s, so I was glad to get this earlier one.

Unlike some companies, Jantzen maintained an archive even after the original families sold the business. They have not only a nice collection of Jantzen swimsuits, but catalogs, artwork, and copies of the in-house magazine, Jantzen Yarns.

My 1936 catalog has this nifty color chart. Color can be an important clue when determining the age of a vintage piece. Colors, like everything else in fashion, come and go.
The 1930s brought a lot of changes to swimsuit fashion. The wool knit suit was still pretty much standard for suits, but makers were always looking for ways to make them fit better. They were much more form-fitting than 1920s suits, just as 1930s dresses were more fitted than the dresses of that decade.

The Take-Off model came with a removable skirt that doubled as a cape. The straps could be adjusted for three different looks.

The two-piece suit was making its appearance.
“Maximum exposure”
Changes were also coming to men’s swimsuits. In 1932 Jantzen introduced the Topper, in which the top could be removed from the trunks by way of a zipper. This was considered very risque in some areas.
By 1936 some men were doing away with the top and just sporting trunks. But for more conservative tastes, Jantzen still made the old-fashioned one-piece.
Things got really cute with kids’ suits.

Jantzen developed several textured knits, like the Kava knit seen throughout this catalog. Lastex thread had been invented and marketed starting in 1931, but it took swimsuit makers a few years before they fully embraced the new (and improved) technology.

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1970s Charlie Chaplin Beach Towel

In the past I have written about the early 1970s nostalgia craze. Retailers were quick to catch on, and so it was easier to buy a shirt decorated with the face of Little Orphan Annie than it was to find one featuring current rock stars. One favorite was Charlie Chaplin.

I’ve dated this towel to circa 1973. In that year one could also buy a sweater with Chaplin’s face, and if you had acted very quickly before the product was pulled from the market due to copyright issues, you could buy a Whiting & Davis mesh handbag. 1973 seems to be the year that Chaplin made a comeback. It was the year after he had been awarded an honorary Oscar for his ground-breaking work in film, so he must have been on people’s minds.

It almost seems like there are two types of vintage beach towels. There are the very thin, brightly colored towels with printed beach scenes. I’m betting most of these were actually sold in gift stores and beach shops at the coast (Anyone else remember the fabulous Gay Dolphin store in Myrtle Beach? It’s still open!) I have several of these, dating from the 1950s through the 70s.

The other type is like my Charlie Chaplin towel. It’s thick and full, and the design is woven in rather than printed onto the terrycloth.

Royal Terry International was one of the trademarks of Barth & Dreyfuss of California. The company was an importer, mainly of household and novelty towels. Being made in Brazil, this was one of the first wave of imports that led to the eventual collapse of towel manufacturing in the USA.

That RN number on the label proved to be the key to the company that produced the towel. There is an online database where you can type in the number, and it tells you who owned the label. It’s a handy little tool.

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Currently Listening to: Haptic and Hue

A report came out several weeks ago about how the pandemic saved podcasting. It seems as if podcast growth had slowed until people with more time to listen and more people with time to record, discovered the medium.

I love the idea of the podcast, but the sad truth is that so many of the ones I’ve tried to listen to just don’t work (at least for me) for various reasons. Some times the production quality is so poor that it’s impossible to hear. One podcast I’ve followed for years has shifted focus from fashion history to modern fashion issues. And another is hard to follow because the hosts spend so much time laughing and I feel like I’ve been left out of the joke.

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy to have discovered Haptic and Hue. The podcaster is Jo Andrews, who is also a handweaver. But the topics go far beyond weaving. Jo covers textiles of all types. And I’m really impressed with the professional nature of the podcast. Jo manages to be conversational without being silly, serious without being stuffy.

You can listen on any podcasting app, or if that’s not your thing, all the episodes are on Jo’s website. There are photos that illustrate each episode, and best of all, a written transcript. That’s great because some of Jo’s guests are French and their English is sometimes hard to follow.

While Haptic and Hue has a very polished, professional feel, I don’t think that’s entirely necessary in order for a podcast to be effective. The best example is Bande à Part, which is a weekly telephone conversation between friends Rebecca Arnold and Beatrice Behlen. Rebecca teaches fashion at The Courtauld, and Beatrice is fashion curator at the Museum of London. Their conversations run the whole range of fashion and arts topics. They are always fun.

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