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Cotton Clothes

Cotton Clothes My grandparents grew up in the late 1800's, in rural north Louisiana. Fortunately, as a child I was able to watch and learn the way things were done on a farm in the nineteenth century. Even though I was born in the 1930's, they were doing things the same way they had as teenagers and young adults. This is a story about one small part of 'wash day.' I did grow up in 'a house by the side of a dusty little country road, where, by tradition, all of us we were a friend to man.' Sharing and 'making do' was a way of life. Life was simple. Friends and neighbors cared about one another. It was a time when caring and sharing was taught by example. Children grew up with concern for others. However, I do digress, the country vignette is below.PIn the 1940ís, all of the shirts were made from cotton. Any other fabric that might have been available was being used in the war effort. Everything of value to the war effort was rationed. If a family didn't have rationing stamps, they did without during the early forties in Minden, Louisiana, and everywhere else. There was no perma-press. And, there were no colored shirts for men folks in the 1940's. White was the only color of choice. I do remember during World War II that women were out of luck if they wanted to wear silk hose.PBack in the forties Mothers and Grandmothers tended to starch anything that even looked like clothes. Cotton fabrics tended to wrinkle, and starch surely did keep that from happening. I had shirts that could 'stand alone' in the middle of the living room floor. They snapped, they crinkled, they crackled, they popped, and they scratched when I tried them on. Boy, did they scratch. It would take me several tries just to get my starched shirt on. If the 'r'were to be left out of 'shirt,' the meaning would be the same. The back of my white shirt was absolutely smooth, and when I moved, it made a crinkling sound, like writing paper being crushed.P Mothers and grandmothers always 'sprinkled' a starched shirt with water before the shirt was ironed. When my mom was in a hurry to get us to church, she didn't have enough time to completely dry out the collar of my white shirt. Now the pain was twice as great for a young kid. The shirt was scratchy, plus damp around the neck. It was enough to make a young miscreant hate to dress up for church or even go to town on Saturday. Even though years and years have passed, and perma-press has become popular, I still cringe when I hear the words Faultless Starch. Faultless? Not on your life. My grandparent's lived in rural Bienville Parish, Louisiana, and my grandmother starched all washed shirts and pants. All of the ironing and starching might not get finished until Wednesday. As a side note to the cotton clothes, my grandmother and mother sewed using an old foot-peddled Singer sewing machine, and they often made shirts for little kids with material that began life as a feed sack. I can remember looking at sack after sack of cow and pig feed until the right colored, patterned sack was found. We kids always enjoyed choosing the best looking cloth for our next shirt.P Until the next time we meet, put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry.P

Nolan Bailey Sr, LA, entered 2011-01-13
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