The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The John Hayes Hollow - Hand-Me-Down Clothes and Half-Soled Shoes

By Hazel P. Hedrick © 1986

Issue: April, 1986

I can recall but one brand new dress when I was a little girl. Most of our clothes were made over from those given to us by Aunt Mollie, Mom's sister, who lived in the city. She had one girl and three boys, all older than us. Seems like most every year before the "big meeting," Aunt Mollie would send a box of old clothes her children had outgrown, and sometimes our "big shot" neighbors from on top the mountain would bring us a box of old clothes, scraps and magazines

These boxes were almost as exciting as Christmas. We all would start grabbing and snatching for the brightest colors, begging Mama, "this for me please." Mama would allow us to look if we didn't start a fight or start throwing the clothing on the floor.

The magazines were a real treat. We never saw a catalog, newspaper or magazine except in Grandma Moore's outhouse and we were not allowed to take it out of there, not even to look at, and we really enjoyed looking at the pretty pictures in those nice magazines. We had to take care not to tear the magazines because Mama saved them until she had enough to cover the kitchen walls We used them for wall paper to keep out some of the cold wind in winter and to brighten up the room a little.

On a bright sunny day when the ground was too wet to work in the fields, Mama would roll her old Singer sewing machine out on the front porch, along with a box of those old clothes. She would sew and sew all day while we children played in the yard and did the chores. I dearly loved to stand in back of that sewing machine and watch, but I didn't get the chance often. It was my job to "mind the baby" and there was always a baby to mind. I used to get so tired of hearing my mom yell, "Hazel, come mind this youn'un." I said over and over to myself, "When I get big, I ain't having no youn'uns to mind." But I did, and loved every minute of it.

Uncle Quince, Daddy's older brother lived in the city too. He would come to visit once or twice a year. He would always write a letter and tell us when he was coming. We had to go all out making ready for company - scrubbing the doorknobs, the chairs, the floors and shining the lamp globes. I secretly resented having to do all this work but I really enjoyed company. I wanted to do nothing but sit and listen to the grownups talk, but Mama would not allow that. She'd keep finding things for me to do in the kitchen.

Once Uncle Quince brought me a present. I opened up the bag and inside was a small piece of cloth that was almost white and soft and silky. Uncle said, "To make a pretty little girl a pretty little dress." I don't know why Mama didn't make the little dress, but my Aunt Rosa Lee made it and she embroidered a pretty little flower on the front. I thought that to be the prettiest dress anybody ever had. I still have that little dress and from the size of it, I must have been around three years old.

Shoes seemed to be the big problem at our house. But mind you, we all went barefoot from May first until school started in the late fall. It was then Daddy dragged out his shoe mending tools and all our old shoes. He would have us all sit and try on old worn out and outgrown shoes until we found a pair that didn't hurt. Then, Daddy would start mending and half soling. If he had the money or an old fat hen to spare, he would go to the store for some new leather and tacks. If not, he would cut up another old pair to patch with. He always managed to have some shoes for us to wear when we started to school. Maybe they weren't pretty and maybe they didn't feel very good, but they kept our feet off the cold ground.

What mother today would even consider sending a child out to catch the bus dressed like we were - no boots, no gloves, not even a warm coat. And we had to walk four miles one way. I wonder why we didn't get frostbite? Not only did we never get frostbite, but we seldom ever even had a cold.