It’s inexplainable what causes the memory of a happening from the past that has no association with the present moment to pop into our mind.
The other day I remembered a sister-in-law’s coming by our house in the early 1950s and reporting on the Simpson County Fair that she had attended. Among the things she had seen and told us about was an ironing competition. Her exact words were, “Mrs. Owen did some beautiful ironing.”
Each contestant had to iron a man’s white dress shirt that she herself had laundered, starched and sprinkled just right. A number of factors determined the quality of the finished product that the judges examined.
As a young bride learning the basics of many homemaking duties, I was impressed that a person had risen to the height of mastering ironing to the point that it was an art.
In 2012, ironing is not one of my top concerns.
Once triggered, my memory moved on a few years to the Logan County Fair and its exhibits. When homemakers of that era did their canning and preserving, they looked forward to the fair and packed jars perfectly with selected fruits and vegetables to be entries in the exhibit hall. Bright jellies and jams, perfectly placed peach halves in a quart Mason jar, cucumber pickles that maintained their fresh green color—on and on, the preserved homegrown food was a thing of beauty.
If we collected a sample from all of the canning that takes place today, it would not make much of a showing compared to the Floral Hall displays of 50 years ago.
Another memory from those fairs was the clothing division and the numerous entry categories. I received a few ribbons on my dresses, my husband’s sport shirts and clothing of various kinds for the daughters. I once won a blue ribbon for the best handmade buttonholes! Today, who would care? Velcro might work better anyway.
I also received a blue ribbon on a 3”x3” black and white photograph made with my Brownie camera and entered in the photography division. How far are we from that medium today?
Those fairs were a true reflection of the times. We were boosted by the pride we felt in growing our own food, preserving it to carry us through the winter, making clothes for our family at a real saving and providing for ourselves through innovation and working hard. How we managed to have the time to do all that we did is somewhat of a mystery as we rush around in our fast-paced world today.
None of us is eager to return to the days of the past that lacked our modern conveniences of living. Yet, I submit that something good was lost when we “progressed” from doing more things for ourselves to the easier alternative of buying and taking it home.