Rag Dolls and Purple Coaches: A Memoir part 9

Continuing my mother’s memoir written to my daughter when she was little . . .
for the previous episode, click here:


“We made a lot of our Christmas gifts.  We always made and gave each

other jigsaw puzzles.  For those we would look till we found a good
picture, paste it on card board, and when it was dry cut it into many
pieces.  A good gift for a father was sleeve-holders.  All the men wore
those.  They were made by crocheting a lace band and putting elastic
covered ribbon through the holes in the crochet.  If a man’s shirt
sleeves were too long these held them up.

In the winters we did lots of sliding down hill.  Sometimes the snow
was so deep and the wind had blown it into hard drifts you could ride
right on top.  Also there was often an icy crust on the snow and we
surely went fast on that!

When the big boys rode with us they had what was called “bobbies.”
These were two or three sleds hooked together with long planks on
them.  Eight or ten people could ride on those with one big boy doing
the steering.

Some of the boys had “skip-jacks.”  These were made of one short ski
with a short post nailed upright in the middle and a short board on that
for a seat.  The boy would go down hill fast on that, holding up his feet
and steering it by lightly dropping one heel when needed.

We had to dress very warm when we went out.  It took a while to get
dressed for play or school.

Our house was heated by three wood-burning stoves.  It was always
warmer nearer the stoves and quite cold in some of the rooms.  We
children didn’t mind the cold though.  I can remember getting up
early on winter mornings.  We would run through the cold rooms to
see which of us could find the most beautiful window all painted with
frost.  Sometimes they looked like beautiful gardens with trees and
big ferns and flowers.

We wore long flannel nightgowns to bed.  In the mornings we always
got dressed by the parlor stove.  One would put almost all one’s clothes
on under the nightgown–then presto! Off came the gown to see who got
dressed first.

It took quite a while to put all our clothes on.  First came the long-legged
to-the-ankle knitted underwear.  Then a petticoat and the dress.  The
hardest part was getting the long cotton stockings on over the underwear
legs so the underwear would not be all wrinkled and ‘bunchy’ underneath.
Last of all came our shoes, which were high above our ankles and had
buttons on them for fastening.

To go to school or out to play was easier for the boys to dress.  They wore
pants called knickers just below the knees and high laced boots with wool
socks.  Also heavy plaid coats called mackinaws.  Boys didn’t wear long pants
(like slacks) until they were about sixteen.  The first time a boy got long
pants was a big day for him.

For outdoor we girls wore knitted leggings that came to our knees and went
on last over our overshoes.  Then of course warm caps and a scarf, sometimes
another scarf tied around the head over the cap–and mittens–two pairs!
Once one got one pair of mittens inside another pair one didn’t take them
apart except to dry them if they got wet with snow!

Well, that is the way things went.  Quite pleasant but sometimes a trouble or
a scare.  I remember one night my father became lost on the mountain above
the pasture.

It was a rainy, foggy night and the cows who usually came to the barn
before dark didn’t return.  They had to be milked.  Also two of them had
baby calves and it would be dangerous for them in the woods because there
were bears on the mountain.   So my father took the oil-burning lantern and
went to look for them.  He didn’t come back and it got very dark.

We listened and listened and could not hear the cows’ bells ringing.  So my
mother had an idea.  She took the big horn off the phonograph and went
outside and shouted into it, “Jimmie! Jimmie!” over and over and over.

At last we heard a faint far-off ‘Hello! Hello!’   Mother kept calling and
Father’s ‘Hello!’ kept getting closer and closer.  And that is how she guided
him and the cows home that dark night.”

more about a special cow in next installment . . . and a special dog, too!

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4 Responses to Rag Dolls and Purple Coaches: A Memoir part 9

  1. booksilver says:

    This is great — thanks!

  2. Mary Jo says:

    WOW! My Mom was born about 8 years later than your mother, so this is eye-opening to me, about their clothes. Although she was born and raised in the city, (probably no bears eyeing the bell cows!) I think the clothes would have been the same. I did not realize their boots were buttoned! I can see that now in some old photos. She did tell me about her “Pa” getting up early and adding coal (or maybe wood?) to the living room stove before everyone else got up; her little bedroom was off the living room, and at night Pa would wrap a heated brick in flannel, and put at the foot of her bed to warm it up. “Those were the days!” I love these old stories!

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Hi Mary Jo–nice to hear your old memories,too. And that
      family had a lot of kids, too–I know of, heard a little about
      “Pa”, too—always a kindness story. Thanks for the comment.

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