Tag Archives: family

The Danger of Borrowing Clothes

This is me, pretending to use a mixer in the home ec room of my high school.  The year is 1973, and I’ve just been awarded the title of Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow for my school.  At home it was a huge joke, because I was well known for my cooking failures.  My brothers called me Miss Betty Crocker.

I took home ec for three years in high school because half the year was spent on sewing.  Who could resist the opportunity to spend an hour of each school day actually sewing?  Not me.  And I somehow muddled through the cooking part, due mainly to the fact that I knew how to pick a good cooking partner.

Even though the award was given by a food company, there was no cooking ability involved in the process.  The winner was chosen purely on the basis of a multiple choice test that was given to all the seniors who were in home ec.  I may not have been able to cook, but I was a pretty good test-taker, and so I beat out all the girls who actually could cook, including my best friend who was the favored candidate (and teacher’s pet, it must be said).

I tried to be humble about the award probably because no one, teachers included, thought I deserved to win.  So I just forgot about it and tried to live down the teasing at home.

At the time I was seventeen and my sister Susan was ten.  We got new clothes for Christmas, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my baby sister had not only caught up to me in size, but also that Santa had brought her some very cute things to wear.  I knew better than to ask if I could wear them, but she and my brother left for school about twenty minutes before I did.  So I decided to raid her closet, knowing that I’d also arrive home before her and would be able to change into my own clothes.

I got a disapproving look from my mother as I headed out the door, along with a stern warning that I was playing with fire.  I just laughed it off.  In the photo of me you can see the outfit.  The pants are purple corduroy bells, and the sweater vest was just adorable.  The back was multi-colored stripes, but the front had little folkloric figures knit into the design.  I loved it.

I don’t remember a thing about school that day except that a photographer from the local weekly newspaper came by the school to take photos of anything that might be news worthy.  That’s how I came to be pretending to mix up a cake, and how ultimately, I got caught.

I was so excited about having my picture in the paper that I forgot that I was wearing Susan’s new clothes.  When the paper came out with my article, my time in the sun was short-lived.  The only thing Susan saw was her vest and pants.   As all heck broke loose, my mother said that she had warned me, and that I was going to just have to live with it.  And Susan did eventually get over being mad, but she kept a much closer eye on her closet from then on.

You can thank my little brother for the story.  I’d forgotten all about this until he brought it up at dinner last weekend.  I think all he really remembered was the yelling and crying!


Filed under Viewpoint

Two Special Photos

One of my loves is making and keeping journals.  Because this pasttime tends to over-lap into the area of scrapbooking, I sometimes look at scrapbooking magazines and books.  I’m amazed at what people are now chosing to document from their children’s lives.  No action is too mundane not be photographed and written up.  I truly believe that there are children in this country who cannot sneeze without Mom or Dad grapping the camera and snapping away!

In contrast are the children of the past.  Having one’s photograph taken was often a rare occurance.  I was recently thrilled with a special gift.  My Uncle Jesse, my father’s only remaining brother, found a photo taken of my dad when he was about 10 years old, in about 1936.  This is only the second photograph that I know of showing my father as a child.  It was taken by the family of the other boy in the picture, the brother of Jesse’s wife.

My father, Jack, is the one holding the gun!

This is my favorite photo of my mother as a youngster.   It was taken when she was 14 or 15, in about 1945.  Joyce, a  true bobby-soxer! Don’t you just love her tomboy look?


Filed under Vintage Photographs

The Size of a Wardrobe

My grandparents, 1929

The question has been asked, “A middle-class woman’s wardrobe would have been how big in the 1930s or 1940s?  What about upper-middle/upper class? ”

I really don’t have the specific answers, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some thoughts on the subject.  Generally speaking, I think it is safe to say that the average woman today has more clothes in her closet than did her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.

I’m 55 years old, (old enough to be a grandmother though I’m not) and today I have many more clothes than I did when I was 18, which would have been in 1973.  At that time, my mother had many more clothes than she had at age 18, which would have been in 1949.

So are women today just richer than they were in years past?  Or are we more style-conscious?  I really doubt that either is true, especially if you take inflation into account.  But one thing I do know is that comparatively speaking, clothing is much cheaper today, and clothing in 1973 was cheaper than it was in 1949.  I’ll use my own mother’s family as an example.

In 1949, most of my mother’s and grandmother’s clothing was sewn at home by my grandmother, who was an expert sewer.   She sewed because it was less expensive for her to sew their clothes than it was for her to purchase clothing of a similar quality.

Some clothing was purchased, such as coats and underwear, and they bought the highest quality they could afford.  My grandmother’s philosophy was that she’d rather have one nice thing than three shoddy ones.  From talking with other women of that generation, I don’t think her ideas about this were very unusual.

My mother did not sew, and even after her marriage, my grandmother continued to make many of her clothes.  When I came along, she made mine as well until she taught me how to sew around 1966.  But as time went on, we began to buy more and more of our clothing.   Two large discount stores had opened in our area, and suddenly it became cheaper to buy than to make.  The last thing I remember my grandmother sewing was a prom dress for me in 1972.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the discount stores were giving us a glimpse into the future.  Much of the clothing sold in them were imports from Taiwan and Hong Kong.  And of course today, most of the clothing sold in US stores comes from Asia.  And with such sources like Target and H&M, one can buy a whole lot more for a comparable percentage of one’s income than was possible even 25 years ago. It seems to me that a lot of quality has been sacrificed for sheer quantity!

My thanks to Mei for asking the question.  I’m sorry I don’t have the answer for you, but I bet many university papers have been written on the subject.  Those would be interesting to read, but I’m actually more interested in the stories of real people.  Anyone have stories of Mom’s or Granny’s closet contents that you would like to share?  Email me!


Filed under Proper Clothing, Viewpoint

The Significance of the Object

I bought this box of ribbon candy for my husband after he spotted it in a catalog and recalled how his grandparents always had a box at Christmas.   Ribbon candy seems to have made a bit of a comeback lately, probably more for its lovely design than for its taste.  I’ve seen it featured this year dangling from the Christmas trees in several style and how-to blogs.  And that’s great, because I  hate to think of this traditional 20th century treat as passing into obscurity.  And because this is mainly a holiday candy, I’m sure many families have stories associated with it.  And here is ours:

My mother was 13 in December, 1944.  My grandmother was in the new hospital of our little town,  having given birth to my Uncle Neil.  Every day after school my mom would walk from her school to downtown Canton to see her mother and the new baby.  For some odd reason, after centuries of women giving birth at home, it was somehow determined that a week-long hospital stay was now necessary.

One day in mid December, when Mama arrived at her mother’s room,  Mamaw was waiting for her with a dollar.  She handed to her daughter in a hurry, with instructions to run to the Company Store, as a rumor was going around town that there was candy to be had.

I can just picture my 13 year old mother running the three blocks to the store, as she (and no body else in the country!) had had any real candy in several years.  To her delight, there were boxes of ribbon candy, and though people were mobbing the counter, she was able to get her hands on a couple of boxes.  It was a happy day for the Bumgarner children, and for my grandparents as well.

My mother had a life-long sweet tooth, and I can’t help but wonder if  the absence of it in her late childhood somehow stuck with her – that even after candy was plentiful again she never lost sight of how very special it was.    I just hope that in our lives of plenty, that we all take the time to appreciate the specialness of the gifts we’ve received.


Filed under Holidays, World War II

Go Greyhound

I’ve never been tempted to take a long trip by bus.  I guess I just spent too many hours on the school bus as a kid.  I have been on a few tour buses in Europe, but somehow I just don’t think it is the same.

Buses had a lot of competition in the late 1940s and early 50s when these ads appeared in Holiday magazine.  Trains still had passenger service all over the US, air travel was becoming more common, and the American love affair with the automobile was well established.  So the bus companies had to base their ads on why they were a better choice than the other options:  it was cheaper, it was easier, it was connected to more places.

In the long run, the buses lost out to the car and to air travel.  I can’t think of a single person I know who has been on a bus trip except for tours, in the past 30 years.  The last person I know who traveled by bus was my Aunt Belle, and bus trips always remind me of her.

Belle grew up poor in the mountains of North Carolina, and she ended up living much of her life in Gastonia, a Carolina cotton mill town.  There wasn’t a lot of money for vacations and travelling.  When she was in her 70s, she and a friend were sitting around lamenting the fact that neither of them had ever been west of the Mississippi.  They both started talking about how they had always wanted to see Texas.

Pretty soon, the two of them  decided to just up and go.  So they called the bus station and found out that there was a bus to Dallas that very evening.  Without hesitation, they threw a few things in a bag, made a few sandwiches and rushed to meet the bus.  16 hours later, they were in Texas.  I never could get her to tell me what they did there.  It was always just, “We saw Texas.”

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Filed under Road Trip

A Toast for Your Birthday

I bought this cute card for my husband, the martini-meister, but I’m posting it today on my birthday just because it makes me smile.  This is birthday month in my family, with me, my sister, both SILs, two neices and a great-nephew all having birthdays in later March and into April.

Yes, today is my birthday, and it was a mighty fine one.  But rather than post about it, I was recently asked by Lisa of Miss Helenes why Lizzie is fuzzy.  Well, here’s the story:

While my mother was pregnant with me, they decided that if the baby was a girl, they’d name her Elizabeth Anne, in memory of my father’s mother who had recently died.  So when I arrived, that was what was entered on the birth certificate.  But within a day or two, after the novelty of having a precious little girl wore off, I suppose, it became glaringly obvious that my strongest feature was the unruly fuzz on my head.  For some reason my father thought it was funny, and he started referring to me as Fuzzylizzie.

This upset my poor mother so much that she called in the nurse in charge of the birth certificates and had the thing changed.  My new name was Sharon Elizabeth.  That somehow nipped the fuzzy nick-name, and saved me from a lifetime of embarrassment concerning my name.

Years later, the internet is new, ebay is new, and all of a sudden, I have to pick an identity.  At the time I was still teaching, and really had no thoughts of forming a business, but I did want to pick a name that meant something to me.  Life had been rough for the past two years; my father had just lost a two year battle with cancer, and my mother’s health was failing.  I was in a nostalgic  mood.  I kept thinking about the little story about my name, and so I settled on Fuzzylizzie as my ebay id.  And now it’s ebay and etsy and .com  and a host of sites where I’m registered.  It really is who I am in many ways.

Now tell me, does this look like a man who would call that adorable baby such a silly name?


Posted by Maggie:

Yes, your father DOES look like a man with a sense of humor! But where’s your fuzzy hair?Happy Birthday FUZZYLizzie!

Friday, March 27th 2009 @ 8:52 PM

Posted by Lisa:

Your dad was a very nice looking man, so it’s no surprise that he’d have such a fine looking baby. I just love your story. Happy birthday!

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 6:28 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Maggie, it’s so fine and light that it does not show in this photo. I was a year old before I had any real hair!Lisa, thanks for encouraging me to write this story.

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 8:23 AM

Posted by Swedishdrama:

Gosh, your dad was a HUNK! Great story and have a wonderful birthday.

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 10:11 AM

Posted by Lucitebox:

Thanks for the sweet story.

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 10:33 AM

Posted by gail:

My niece who has a daughter of her own is called Frizzie Lizzie. I have always refused to call her that.:)

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 12:56 PM

Posted by Sue:

What a great pic of you and your dad, and yes, he does look like he would come up with your ‘fuzzy’ nickname. um, Lizzie, where is the fuzz?Happy Birthday my friend!

Saturday, March 28th 2009 @ 1:42 PM

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Filed under Curiosities, Holidays

Roadtrip: Chattanooga, TN

I just returned home from a little trip I took with my sister.  We went to Chattanooga, TN, and then ended up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.  This was a general all-purpose vintage shopping trip, but we managed to throw in a bit of scenic splendor.  This is a view of “Lover’s Leap” at Rock City.  Rock City is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country, opening in 1932.  It has a very interesting history that you might want to read about on their website.

We didn’t go in, because we had too many other things to do, but we did take the ride up Lookout Mountain for old time’s sake.  Our parents had taken us there around 1966 or 67.  My sister was pretty young, so she only remembers a little about the trip, but I was 11 or 12, and to me it is one of the highlights of my childhood.

The birdhouse symbolizes the 100s of barn roofs around the South and MidWest that were painted to advertise Rock City.  Some of them still exist.  And below is the original ticket house, constructed in 1930,  And yes, that is a rare sighting of me!

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is an outfit in Alabama that buys all the lost bags and their contents from the airlines after 6 months goes by and the owners cannot be located.  It was pretty amazing some of the stuff they had for sale.  There was everything from a 2008 Dior gown (Originally $5670, they had it for $250!) to bottles of partially used shampoo.  I actually found a pair of great Kedettes, circa 1966.  They looked to be practically unworn.

If this had been our only hope at shopping, I’d have been pretty disappointed.  I spent a grand total of $10.71 there.  But the town also had quite a few nice antique stores and we managed to pick up the slack!  And we stopped at every antique and shop we could on the way home.  My favorite place?  Sweetwater, Tennessee.

I’d been to Sweetwater before, so I knew how great it is.  There are three antique malls, and several more smaller stores.  Here is a shot of one:

And on the top floor of that building is this wonderful room:

I could just picture that fab space converted into a modern home.  Loft living in the little town!  And in closing, I did manage to make a new friend…


Filed under Road Trip, Shopping