Drought…anywhere and at any time, is a perilous situation. Crops can’t grow, and food prices go up. But when a drought happens in the middle of an economic depression, it is catastrophic. The Dust Bowl, which was also known as the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms during the 1930s. Mistakes were made during this drought…mistakes like a failure to implement dryland farming methods to prevent wind erosion caused the Dust Bowl. The drought came in three waves…1934, 1936, and 1939–40, but some regions of the high plains experienced drought conditions for as many as eight years. The people had no real understanding of the ecology of the plains. The farmers had plowed deep into the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains during the previous decade. This displacement of the native, deep-rooted grasses that normally trapped soil and moisture even during periods of drought and high winds were gone. During the drought of the 1930s, the unanchored soil turned to dust, which the prevailing winds blew away in huge clouds that sometimes blackened the sky. These choking clouds of dust…named “black blizzards” or “black rollers” traveled cross country. The Dust Bowl forced tens of thousands of families to abandon their farms.
The drought, along with the already depressed economy, caused many people to have very little money. It was during this time that people had to get creative to meet their needs. Enter the flour sack…say what!! Yes, the flour sack. When the people didn’t have money for fabric to make clothing, they began to use the cloth flour sacks as material for clothing. Then, some industrious flour distributor somewhere decided to assist the people. The flour sacks began to have pretty designs on them. Just because the people were going to use the sacks for clothing, didn’t mean that they had to look like they were wearing a flour sack. It didn’t matter that everyone knew it was a flour sack either. It looked pretty, and that really helped with morale. In reality, cloth is cloth, but I suppose the flour sacks were not of the normal dress quality. Still, when that was all you had, you did what you had to do. When you are given lemons, make lemonade, and all…right.
As the flour sacks began to be prettier, the dresses became quite fashionable, and looking back on some of the dresses that were made, I doubt that most people would know the difference between a flour sack dress and any other dress…had they not been told. The people of those times really got quite creative in meeting the needs of the family…clothing, furniture, or even their houses…people persevered. Of course, food was a little bit more difficult in those days, because if the crops wouldn’t grow, you simply had to find something else to eat. I’m sure there were a lot of people who were pretty skinny in those days…as well as pretty hungry. Nevertheless, with the help of creative mothers, and industrious flour distributors, the girls looked very nice, and quite fashionable.
My grand niece, Aurora Hadlock is turning five today. For her, these are exciting days. Aurora, or Rory, as she was nicknamed, is so excited about going to Kindergarten this year. I remember when she started pre-school. If it was possible, I think Rory was the most excited kid ever to start pre-school. That love of learning has never left her either. Rory looks forward to each day, because to her they are brand new…there are new things to learn…new friends to make…and each new day is a new adventure.
Rory, who’s mom, Chelsea Hadlock is very imaginative, has decided to have an Alice in Wonderland birthday this year. Her mom will make it such a fun day. Chelsea is very creative, and has the ability to make her kids’ dreams come true, so their birthdays are always a wonderful event. Rory is growing up so fast. Her mom says she is growing like a wildflower, and I think that is the truth. Rory is very much a girly girl, and she would wear a dress every day if she could. She loves dressing up, and has a lot of fun wearing dresses that are the same as, or very close to her mom’s dresses. Rory wants to look as beautiful as her mommy, and what a wonderful way to show her love for her mom too. Rory is very proud of her mom, and wants to be just like her. Rory has several favorites things, she loves tomatoes…shocking for a little girl, and sweet tea…again rare for a child, and of course, she loves to ride her bike…but then what kid doesn’t.
One thing that I didn’t know about Rory is that she wants to be a doctor. This has been a dream of hers for some time. I find it completely amazing that this little five year old girl wants to be a doctor. Girls her age are thinking about being a princess, a mommy, or a ballerina…but never a doctor. I have to wonder what has made her choose this noble profession…and at this young age. I find that little fact about Rory to be especially awesome, because as a caregiver, I know how important doctors are. And just think, with her love of dresses, Rory can be the Princess Doctor. Today is Rory’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Rory!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The length of women’s skirts have varied over the years, and I happen to know that when the mini-skirt came out while I was in junior high school, my mom hated it. She never wanted her girls to wear them, nor did the other parents…so, many of the girls wore skirts rather than dresses, because skirts could be rolled up to make them shorter. It was a selling point for the skirt. I’m sure that if our mothers had known, we would have been in trouble, but that didn’t seem to matter. Of course, as style trends changed, my mom got used to the trends, and my younger sisters were allowed to wear mini-dresses too. I had a tendency to think that was really unfair, but I suppose I was the trailblazer that won them the right to wear those shorter dresses. I think my little sisters should thank me for that, don’t you?
These trends have run their course over many generations, and the other day I was looking at some old pictures from my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer’s album. There was a picture there that I can’t quite figure out, but one thing that jumps out at me is the older woman wearing a long dress, and the younger woman next to her in a dress that is just above her knees. The older woman in the picture doesn’t seem pleased with the younger woman. Of course, that could just be my perception of the situation, and not the reality of the situation. Still, I think that the women who started wearing those short skirts back then, were probably looked at as being loose…at least until they got used to the new trend.
I think that while my mom didn’t maybe look at me as being loose for wanting to wear short skirts, she probably thought of me as misguided. Nevertheless, when the trend became the normal, my sisters, and yes, me too, were allowed to wear those shorter skirts. I have to say that I still think that the skirt that hits me above the knees is one of the best looks for me, but maybe that’s just my opinion. Women who are vertically challenged, as I am, can look dumpy in the longer skirts, unless the skirt is cut just right. There again, that could just be my own opinion…or maybe I’m still a trendsetter.
As kids growing up, my sisters and I were subjected to many stories, view, songs, and events that centered around the Old West. When I say subjected, I don’t mean that we hated every minute of I, because we didn’t. We lived in Wyoming, and therefore we embraced the Old West. I can’t say that my sisters and I always liked all things western, because that would be false too. We all went through our Rock and Roll era, and during that time, we pretty much hated Country music, although shows like Bonanza, the Rifleman, Wagon Train, and The Virginian…just to name a few, were among our favorites, and we each had our favorite actors, and we were going to “marry” them. I know, silly…right?
Back then, the Old West was still considered something that people were proud to know about, or even to know people who lived those times. It was the times that our grandparents grew up in, and that made it even more cool. I don’t suppose that the kids of today look back on the Old West or even the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, as being cool, because those times were before personal computers and cell phones, so I’m sure it seemed like the dark ages to the kids of today. Those years were probably best known for protests…unless you compare that era to today’s, when everyone is so offended by everything. Even when I look back on my childhood years, I can’t say that I think we as a generation did anything so amazing…at least not until we grew up, because of course, it is our generation that invented the computer and cell phone. Nevertheless, it was a vastly different era that the Old West…or maybe that’s just my opinion.
While we were little, many of the cities and states were celebrating their centennial years, and it was a big deal!! Contests were held to see who could grow the best beard, and I’m sure who had the best Old Western costume. My Dad, Allen Spencer, decided to grow a beard for the competition. I don’t know if he won or not, or even if he entered any contest at all, but he got in on the festivities…as did Dad’s girls. We each had a long dress, much like the women of the Old West wore, and our parents took pictures to document the events. It was a great time, and they made sure that they had plenty of pictures of it.
These days, you seldom hear of such events. I don’t know if states or cities are just not at the right point, or if many people have just lost interest, or what has happened exactly, but you don’t see these things happening. I find that sad, because our family found it to be very fun and interesting. Of course, there are still reinactments of old western robberies, the pony express, and wagons west trips, and I think those would be fun, but for some reason that centennial just seemed different…more interesting somehow…like we were a real pioneer family.
Have you ever noticed that the minute you dress a boy in good clothes for a special occasion, they find a mud hole. They just have an uncanny knack for finding them right about then. It’s never their fault, you know. They always tripped and fell into it, or just didn’t see it. Of course, both excuses are designed to keep the guilty boy from being in trouble. They don’t even have to go outside to find dirt. It is attracted to them like a magnet. I’m not sure who this boy is, but Aunt Laura was quite content to stay clean and pretty.
Now I’m not saying that little girls can’t find a good bit of dirt too, but they tend to be a little better about staying clean when they are dressed up. Maybe it’s because the boys really don’t want to be dressed up, and little girls…in most cases…like to look dressy and pretty. Having had daughters myself, I can tell you that their clothes stayed pretty clean for the most part, so when they did get really dirty, like the time Amy backed into a pan of oil in her grandpa’s garage, because she was trying to see her Uncle Lynn, who is 6’6″…to her approximately 2’4″ stature at the time. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a complete accident. Girls also might get dirty if they are trying to put makeup on…as was the case with Corrie one time at my mother’s house. Even then, she didn’t get it on her clothes. They just weren’t the kind to get so messy on a regular basis. My granddaughter, Shai was the same way. She didn’t like being messy, and when she got messy…in any way…she cried almost hysterically until you changed her. She was always a girly girl, and getting dirty just simply didn’t fit into her plan for the day.
But those boys…all boys…seem to have no issue getting and staying dirty. And it doesn’t matter how old they are. Bob comes in from the garage sometimes just covered with dirt and grease, and it doesn’t bother him a bit. If I go out there to help him, and I get even a speck of grease or dirt, it must be washed of as soon as humanly possible. That is just the way it is. I don’t think of myself as a prissy girl, but I guess I am a girly girl. I can get down and dirty, but when I’m done, it is time to clean up, but for most boys, getting dirty is the best part of life.
Back in the day, girls pretty much wore dresses all the time. In fact, girls wearing pants were considered…risque, loose, or maybe backward. By the mid 1900’s things had changed to a degree, and pants were ok for certain activities. Nevertheless, many girls just didn’t own pants, so they continued to wear dresses for activities we would consider it to be inappropriate to wear dresses for today.
One of those activities was horseback riding. Early on when the women started riding horses, it was considered taboo for them to straddle a horse. People really thought of them as having very low moral standards. That was when the side saddle came about. The big problem with that was that the horse had to be very well trained, because the woman had a lot less control over the horse when it was side saddle. To me, side saddle seems like it would be an extremely awkward way to ride. I think it would feel like you were hanging on a wall…much like a painting.
Then, when people moved out west, they began to leave those civilized ideas of the east behind them. It was a necessity, because many of the horses were wild and then tamed, and people lived on homesteads the were a long way from their homes. And then, of course, was the fact that sometimes you had to outrun the dangers of the region, like Indians, wild animals, and outlaws. Running from danger was no time to be a lady in a side saddle…if you wanted to live, that is. Watching the old westerns, I remember thinking how funny it looked to have those long dresses draped over the back end of a horse.
Now, of course, many women rarely wear a dress at all, much less to ride a horse. Women have found that it is far more comfortable to live most of their lives in jeans, so dresses are reserved for special occasions. Nevertheless, there was a time, a very different time, when women wouldn’t have ever considered things like wearing men’s pants or straddling a horse.
Kids are always curious about the world around them. It is great watching them explore and dream about what things will be like when they get older. My granddaughter, Shai always loved the beautiful, girlie things. She always wanted to wear dresses and have her nails polished. All this was a bit of a surprise to my daughter, who at that time didn’t like dresses so much. She had figured that her daughter would be more of a tomboy. Well, reality couldn’t have been further from her expectations.
We have all done it…thought we knew what our children would be like, and what their preferences would be, and then found out that they are totally different than we ever thought. I think a lot of people think that you can shape your child into the type of person you want them to be, but after many unsuccessful attempts, you give up and realize that they are their own person, even from infancy, and you just have to try to help them to be what they want to be.
In the case of my granddaughter, we have found that she is very much like her grandmother. I am often amazed at our common tastes. We both like dressing up some, and although Shai now wears more jeans than dresses, her tops are quite girlie. We do many other things that are similar too. We think a lot alike, and enjoy many of the same things. We even like the same car. We both drive a red 2002 Pontiac Grand Am. The only difference is that mine is a two door and hers is a four door. How funny is that? She is the perfect granddaughter for me…and since she is the only one I will ever have, that’s a good thing.
Amy has recovered from the shock of having a daughter who is so different than what she expected, and I think she is rather happy that Shai is more of a girlie girl now. And she has learned not to expect a child to be a certain way, which is a good thing, considering that her son, Caalab was not what she expected either…but that is another story.