|POSTSCRIPTS – The way we were|
|Wednesday, December 29, 2010|
By MARGARET PARTEE
Things used to be different. For instance, when I was growing up, there was no place in Lebanon to purchase children’s clothing. Especially if your mother wanted to dress three sisters identically! Jeans were nearly unheard of at the time. I always wore dresses or skirts and blouses or sweaters to school -- even in college. I don’t think I even wore pants to play in until I was 10 or 11 years old. We had two choices – shop in Nashville or have them made.
There was a lady who lived on West Spring Street and her house was dark and she was old and I did not really like to go there. But she made our clothes for years. Later a lady living on West Main Street sewed for us. She even made some of the clothes I took to college. Mother dressed us alike until, I suppose, we were too old. It was cute when we were little and in my photo albums -- where the pictures are black and white -- I even remember the color of some of them.
A lady always wore stockings. During the war you could not buy them. Mama had this stuff that looked like foundation that women wear on their faces. She smoothed this over her legs so it would appear that she wore stockings. It didn’t tan her legs, just colored them like paint. Ladies were delighted when around 1945 they could again purchase a pair of stockings. They had a seam up the back and it was a chore to be sure that the seam was straight and not veering off to one side.
When we were old enough, we made shopping in Nashville an event several times a year -- especially in the fall to get ready for school. We dressed up and Mama wore a hat, and we drove there for the day. We shopped downtown at places like Cain Sloan, Loveman’s, Harvey’s and Castner Knott. An attractive, tall, slender, dark-haired lady was a sales woman at Loveman’s. We would be seated on a padded bench in a big open room with dresses hung in alcoves around the sides – not jammed on racks throughout the room like now. Then she brought dresses over to show Mama – items she thought would be attractive on her and Mama would try on some things.
We shopped until lunchtime when we refueled at Cross Keys, Morrison’s or Kleeman’s Cafeterias or the lunchrooms at Harvey’s or Cain Sloan. Kleeman’s was famous for apple pie; at Cross Keys I ate a shrimp dish that had lots of horseradish in it. I remember because it made my nose run. Cain Sloan’s famous dish was creamed chicken on egg bread. The only place we ate that endured until recent years was the Satsuma Tea Room. They had Southern bridge club food like frozen salads, casseroles and yeast rolls.
As we “matured” every outfit worn to church or “dress up” required a hat, shoes and purse to match and always a pair of white gloves. No real lady was ever without these essentials. Mother even had hats especially made for her by a gentleman at Loveman’s. This more ladylike form of dressing continued until about the ’70s, before the more casual and not so attractive styles took over. And girls always wore dresses unless they were playing or involved in sports.
One thing I really hated was getting hand-me-downs from my cousin, who was seven years older than I and taller and heavier. I remember getting some of her stuff made over for me. I still hated it but apparently did not have much choice at the time. I seem to recall woolen suits!
We wore shorts and sundresses in the summertime because the heat was so intense in the South. Air conditioning did not make it to the area until the ’50s when our house on Castle Heights Avenue was one of the first in Lebanon to be air-conditioned.
My sister Roberta had scoliosis or curvature of the spine. She had surgery in 1953-54 (I was away at college) to straighten it out and was in bed with a body cast for several months. Daddy bought window air conditioners so she would not be so miserable in the cast.
So you see that a simple trip to a shopping center to buy a pair of jeans has not been a possibility for that long. I am sure many of you have no memory of life without shopping centers, but some of us do! And we’re doing all right.