Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another One of Those Annoying "When I Was a Kid" Posts

Before any recess or heading for the bus on a wintry school day, the classrooms and hallways of my elementary school were filled with winter boots.

They were not the sleek and stylish kind of today that are warm and water proof. No, these were the kind with shoddy metal buckles that, after clasping properly for a month or so, would partially tear free from the boot leaving a hole where the buckle had been attached.

This type of boot was perhaps the most common and was an item designed to do nothing more than keep a foot warm and dry. Yet, when a hole appeared and when the sole purpose of the product was lost, we didn't get brand new boots to replace the old ones. Ingenious mothers knew how to get a full winter out of a pair of buckleless boots--the bread wrapper.

When I was a kid in elementary, nearly every other kid getting ready for a jaunt outside the building had his foot inside of a sock that was inside of a plastic bread wrapper that was inside of a boot. Lumberjack and Wonder were in style! I suppose it was too commonplace to be embarrassing--it is just the way that it was.

I don't think that the bakers of those days intended their bread wrappers to serve as foot liners inside mildewy boots. If they had loaves might have taken on a more foot like shape and the plastic itself might have been slightly thickened at the heel and toe. Concerned mothers might have purchased bread not for its softness or flavor, but rather for the wrapper's seam strength and toe-room.

That was the 60s.

In an educational conversation I had with my own ingenious Mother the other day, the discussion turned to even older days when nearly every mother sewed, spent hours ironing well starched clothes, and reused cereal packaging to wrap sandwiches.

One shocking component of Americana that I had never been made aware of before was the "feed sack dress."

When it was first mentioned I had this mortifying image of stylish teen girls strutting their stuff inside a burlap wrap. I wondered immediately if unfortunate (and dateless) girls spent a lot of time scratching themselves.

I was assured that all the girls wore them back in the day and that the feed sacks, unlike my childhood's bread wrappers, were manufactured precisely so that they could be used to make dresses, quilts, and (hopefully for all little boys everywhere) not trousers.

Prints, stripes, and bold colors dominated the feed sack market of yesteryear so that their recycled forms could become the sleeves and pleats of a generation. We are a disposable society today, and honestly, on many levels it is difficult for me to feel any real guilt over it.

We live in an entirely different world than that of only a few decades ago, and most of these changes have been good. We have boots that stay dry and warm on the inside and thankfully my daughter will depend on neither the feed store nor my sewing skills for her prom dress.

When my children are in their fifties I might let them in on the bread wrapper story. Their gasps will portend visions of disadvantaged ruralites with freezing feet at the mercy of a nasty Michigan winter.

I sincerely hope that when my kids finally reach my advancing age that they will remember the times of their yesteryears; times when their iPods had only 8 gigs and what was called television was but two-dimensional.

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