Weatherford Democrat

Columns

June 8, 2013

THE IDLE AMERICAN: To Be or Not To Be?

By DON NEWBERRY

When push came to shove during the Great Depression, the masses were unable to shove back. Instead, they relied on creativity to “make do.”   Thanks to patterned sacks containing livestock feed--as well as kitchen flour--many wardrobes depended greatly on foot-powered Singer sewing machines. Mostly, women turned out the “make do” garments willingly worn by adults and children alike.

There were shirts and dresses—and other garments—including underclothing. Yes, for guys the seamstresses turned out what were commonly called “flour sack drawers.”

*****

Please don’t equate such to compromised hygiene—except during cotton-picking season. Then, the practice of Saturday baths—usually in number three washtubs—was suspended, but not without ritual.

On a farm nearby, a dozen children--all farm workers--were parentally advised that sweaty cotton-picking temperatures rendered bathing pointless.

“We’re going to have changes of underwear, though,” the farmer instructed. “John, you change with Robert; Mary, you change with Martha,” and so on. 

*****

I occasionally wished for “store-bought” items. In retrospect, I should have been grateful for a talented and committed mom who never saw a flour sack she didn’t envision on a cutting board. (She also cut my hair--as well as the manes of many other male relatives--with hand clippers. I was in college before experiencing my first “shop-bought” haircut.)

My wife remembers her first purchased dress, worn proudly to her eighth grade honors program.

We were legion, “make do” folks proud to let labels hang out, happy to offer proof that some of our apparel wasn’t homemade.

*****

With this in mind, I find it curious that Hanes, a major company that turns out men’s undergarments, has launched an ad campaign promoting its “tagless underwear.”

The Federal Trade Commission has decreed—with many chapters and verses—that most manufactured garments must be “tagged” or otherwise labeled with detailed information. If tagless shorts don’t get the feds’ attention, Hanes may get rid of imprinting next. What’ll the FTC do? Maybe join the Internal Revenue Service in a duet of teeth-gnashing.

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Columns
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