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My Blog

Handkerchiefs

As I sit here drinking my Dunkin Donuts coffee this morning, I must tell you that I think something goes on with the birds at 5 A.M..  Oh my goodness...they are all so loud and are chattering away.  It sounds like thousands outside.  But how amazing.  It must be their chat time.  I don't think I have ever noticed it before...it might be because the windows are open.  All the different sounds as well.  I wish I could understand what they are saying.   Any bird whisperers out there?  LOL.
Anyway, If you have ever looked at my home page or know me, you know that I do a program on the History of the Handkerchiefs.  Probably, many of you would wonder why and how. 
Well, you see, one day I was thinking about how different it is between a young person today versus years ago.  I questioned whether a 10 year old child years ago was more responsible than a youth that age today, or was it that as we become older, we don't allow the young to have the responsibility? I also questioned whether it is the difference in the parents that are raising them? Or was I that different from the rest...maybe being raised by my Grandma had a lot to do with it?  Maybe it was because I was an only child of a single parent?  I am not sure of the answer to my question.  But I do know that growing up...I was a responsible young lady. 
When I was young I went to a private Catholic school in Chicago called t. Stanislaus B & M.  It was located on Long Ave/Lorel Ave, just south of Fullerton.   I went through school pretty much taught by all Franciscan nuns.  I know that I was one of those children that many may have called a brown nosed kid....but I was always ready to lend a helping hand.  When a nun wanted a volunteer...there was my hand, raised up in the air.  Well, during my years at St. Stan's, I volunteered to help clean at the convent.  I would assist in the laundry, wash floors or dust furniture.  Sometimes the sisters had projects to be done, and since I was the artsy kid...this was always a pleasure time for me. 
So here I was, one evening, some almost 50 years later, thinking about a project that one of the nuns taught me to make.  It was a favor made from a handkerchief.  It was made into an umbrella.  Now the kicker to this story was that I remember that when I helped them to make it, they allowed me to take one home.   Well, everyone was impressed...it was really different, and of course Grandma shared what I made with the neighbors.  Well, lo and behold, our next door neighbor Rita, asked me to make them for a shower she was having for her niece and needed 50 of them.  She would pay me of course, and of course...what child didn't want extra money?
I remember that it seemed like it took forever to finished 50 of them, but I did.  The more I thought about that, the more I tried to remember how I made them.  I remembered rolling paper into a straw like pole...I had to roll it real tight, and I remembered having to use straight pins to put the folds together, this is when I learned how handy a thimble is, and then stuffing the folds with pieces of tissue paper.  But I just couldn't remember the bottom.  I couldn't imagine cutting it...and then strained my brain to try to remember and thought...hey, wait a minute..everything and anything is can be found on the internet...surely there are directions for that umbrella...so off I was on my search.  Well, I couldn't find the directions, but I did find a picture of the umbrella....and that was all I needed to have my questions answered.    When I was reading the article, I started to remember my Grandma.
I remember my Grandma always having a hanky in her pocketbook back then.  She always had some Violet candy wrapped inside of her hankie.  When she would open that purse, the aroma of the candy wafted in the air.  oh, how wonderful was that smell.  Needless to say I was on a search then to find that candy as well.  I finally did find them....shared them with my granddaughters...and now they are hooked.  The scent is so specific that I always ask them now..."when you smell the violet scent, who will you think of?" and of course the answer is  "you Grandma".  How cool is that?  I only pray that the tradition will continue.  Anyway, back to the hankies.  I remembered  how hankies were always something that we would crochet edges on while we sat on the front porch.  Hankies were also the first thing I learned to iron with.  I remembered my mom wearing hankies on her waitress uniforms and especially the holiday ones.  I remembered carrying them to school with me.  I remembered the children's hankies that were nursery rhymes.  The more I thought the more I wanted to learn about them.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to have them again.  So I began a collection.  The history behind it was amazing.  The stories that are connected to hankies were astounding...so I decided it would be a great program to put together for storytelling.  It is  program in which I use a visual as I tell the history.  I use a big reverse umbrella type laundry hanger that opens up and I have a pole that I am able to set it on. The piece turns and has numerous levels.  During a program I fill the laundry lines up with handkerchiefs.   have probably close to 800 of them now.  I only take about 125 with me to a program and choose the ones best suited for the audience.  People are amazed when they see them.  Most would think that handkerchiefs are just for women...but oh, they are so much more...I wish more schools would become interested in the program.  A great piece of History to learn.  Bet most of you in cyberland have no idea WHO put an end to handkerchiefs...?  Little Lulu..remember her?  Her children's book came with a package of portable Kleenex and the book was about magic tricks you could do with them.   They tried to push in advertisements that carrying around hankies in you pocket, purse or sleeve was unsanitary...which I laugh about...because where do we carry our Kleenex today?  . 
And if you think there is no history there for men...oh you are so misinformed.  There is plenty...especially connecting them to the wars.  I had one gentleman come up to me after a program and started telling me about how the program brought back all those memories for him of when he was in the war and would go in search of something to send home to his mom and sister and girlfriend. 
I didn't stop with just hankies...I then started to collect the boxes that they came in, the cards that were sent with them.  The dolls and angels that were made with them  They even came in a six pack can of Miller beer for men. 
I have books on them, the hankies boxes and satin holders.  From pretty ones to the ones from the wartimes.   I have a collection of children hankies as well.  I even have some framed  You can use framed handkerchiefs to decorate an entire wall, aprons made from them, you can  make a quilt or even a purse.  They are truly works of art. 
What a lost art and a lost piece of history.
When my mother passed away, I received a box and on the top were a stack of handkerchiefs in it.  I held them up to my face and could smell her scent and some even still had violet scent on them....they had to have been Grandma's  Oh, how comforting that is to pull out and admire and remember.  It as though they are still with me.  It is difficult today to find a handkerchief to purchase unless it is a vintage piece....but oddly enough, when I go to the Amish area, they are plentiful.  They have them for the children and for adults and  in one particular place I purchase the beautiful lacy ones  to make Christening bonnets that latter, the stitches are snipped and it becomes a wedding hankie for the little girl and if it is a boy, the hankie is given to his bride to be.  It comes with a lovely little poem and is a very touching and tender gift. 
I remember that on my wedding day, my boss gave me her hanky that her aunt gave her on her wedding day....and her aunt used that hanky on her wedding day.  My daughter has used it on her wedding day and I look forward to the day that my granddaughters will use it on theirs.  Today I am performing the program at a church for a ladies tea.  It was nice to pull  out my selection and touch those delicate reminders of yesteryear.   Traditions,
Hankies...something's you just don't throw away!
     

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