Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Old Things

Recently I thought about how the old fashioned “parlors” were in the long ago, and how differently we ‘lived long ago, and by that I mean when I was a little girl, and everybody knows that was LONG ago.

Ladies crocheted so much back then. Others could even “tat” and that made a pretty lace edge for things. My husband’s aunt could not only crochet but she could tat.

When we married in 1948, already girls were not using so much of the crochet and tatting as we went in for plainer things, more tailored. However, this aunt made me the loveliest pair of pillowcases. I still have them, as I never used them.

She crocheted an oval with a raised rose in the center, and appliquéd that to the pillowcase. She then embroidered out from the crochet in the same color of rose that she used for the oval crocheted piece. All around the edge of the hem she tatted lace edging in the same rose.

They were ornate, to the “nth” degree. I never could bring myself to use them because I never know how they would look after being washed. No permanent press fabrics back then, just wrinkled· material that had to be ironed, not just pressed.

Also, every home had crocheted-doilies that I think were called “antimacassars” that were placed on each upholstered arm of a chair and one on the back where the head rested or even touched the chair.

The same doilies were placed on sofas. Each table had a crocheted doily that covered the top of the table. Dressers had crocheted doilies on them too. I still have the doilies on my dressers today.

Also, I have a drum top table in my guest bedroom (we call it Suzanne’s room) and on it is a 30 inch fluted crocheted doily that was made for me by the late Bessie Lee Lazarus. I treasure it, as I treasure the memory of our friendship.

I also treasure a crocheted runner that I have on my cedar chest in Suzanne’s room. It was given to me by Jennifer Campbell whose grandmother crocheted it. It is so pretty.

My mother-in-law gave me a crocheted bedspread she had made in the early thirties. I treasured it, since it was an intricate pattern, with raised petals on the flowers.

I put it way in my cedar chest. Until – we visited “Shadows’ on the Teche” near Lafayette, La. in about 1976. On the tour we were shown a bedroom with a crocheted spread just like the one I had been given.

The guide pointed out it was a pre-civil War pattern called the “Lily Pad” and was valued at about $6,000. That spread came out of the cedar chest, when I got back home and was on the guest bedroom bed that day. My daughter now has it along with the bedroom suite inherited from my husband’s family.

Both are now old enough to be called genuine antiques.

Back then each homemaker had some embroidery on dresser scarves, on pillowcases and on many things used around the home.
I remember my mother telling of her mother making “counterpanes” which she called her bedspreads. She bought sheeting, and made tiny little tucks the width of the mattress. She tied off the threads at the side of the mattress and that allowed fullness to hang down, sort of like gathering.
The pillows were placed in a bolster. That was a long tube like thing that would hold the two pillows and hang down as long as the bedspread. It, too, was tucked and heavily embroidered. These could be washed but again, they had to be ironed, not just a casual pressing.

My grandmother delegated the work and most of it was delegated to the oldest daughter, my mother. All the cooking for the family of 11 became my mother’s responsibility when she was 10, also the care of the four youngest children. So much work!

The washing was so different back then, too. That, too, was my mother’s job. Clothes were boiled in a wash pot over a fire in the yard to get white things really white. There were no washboards or rub boards, but they used what they called “a battling block” and beat the dirt out of clothes.
With so many white shirts to wash and iron washday was a dreaded day.

The ironing was equally hard. Flat irons were heated in the fireplace and rubbed over beeswax to keep them from sticking to the starched clothes. If a speck of smut got anywhere on any of the pieces my grandmother grabbed them up, wadded them up and made my mother wash them all over again.

There was no doubt that my grandmother was talented, but no doubt she made a slave out of my mother. My grandmother could take a picture out of a magazine such as “Godey’s Lady Book” and copy it, with only a sleeve and a neckline measure.  

Perhaps the hard work gave my mother the constitution to live to be 89 and my grandmother died at 64.

Of course this was all in addition to canning everything they grew so that the family would eat well during the winter.

During the depression my mother could run a boarding house well because she had always had to cook in great quantities to feed that many men in her family.

In the thirties when I visited relatives in the country, electricity had not reached these rural areas and they relied on lamps, kerosene lamps, for illumination.

If they had a fancy parlor, the lamp would be what some called “Aladdin Lamps” and they would have painted globes and often have crystal prisms hanging µround the lamp.

All this was a job to clean because the smoke from the kerosene was hard to get off. Today I have a copy of one of the old lamps that the late Mary Neal Shackleford painted for me.

The late Leroy Bishop made the lamp and installed the globes that Mary Neal painted. So not only am I old, but I am old fashioned, too. The lamp Leroy made is about thirty years old.

Still another thing that was different in those long ago days was the way bottles were closed. Medicine bottles had stoppers in them – cork stoppers. Often a hand-held can opener had a spiral metal piece that you could screw into a cork stopper and remove the stopper.

Milk bottles had cardboard stoppers in them. This was before the day of plastic lids and plastic jugs as milk is sold today. So many things have changed.

Call me, an old “fuddy-duddy” if you will, but I like the old fashioned things better than the things of today. I love pastels in my living room not the dirt brown that is so popular today in couches.

I don’t like red living rooms in old traditional homes (my oldest grandson does) and I still like a little wallpaper in a few rooms, and certainly like the wide wallpaper borders on sheet rocked rooms.

“Change a fool against his will, he keeps the same opinion still” was a saying my mother had and it applies to me today. I just go along with change but my mind and my opinions have not changed. Sorry about that! Who knows?

Perhaps next year the colors will change again in popularity and so wallpaper may come back in style again, too.

However I don’t like the old timey stoppers made from cork, just skip that, please, and go on to the plastic lids.

Well, so much for nostalgia. You just went back 111 years with me to 1895 when my mother took over the cooking for the family at the birth of her baby sister on April 19, 1895. Some days I feel like I am 111, so maybe I live in the past more than the present. Memories, memories.

Juanita Agan passed away in October, 2008 at the age of 85. She had been a Minden resident since 1935 and a columnist for the Press-Herald since 1995. A constant writer, Mrs. Agan had many stories written but unpublished. The Press-Herald will continue to publish these articles as long as they are submitted.






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