This dress was made for walkin’

Published 7:40 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

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Before there were high school academies, there was home economics!

Home ec was required of budding teenage girls so they would know how to set dining tables, clean silverware, bake biscuits and sew.

At Pike County High School, Mrs. Melba Sanders imparted that necessary knowledge to us with illustrated charts made by her husband, “Monroe Darling.”

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Home ec was rather fun until Mrs. Sanders started the sewing part.  My fingers didn’t want to participate. But, having mastered sewing buttons and hemming, we were ready to make aprons. Miss Mattie Hughes made my school clothes, so I slipped my apron material into my zipper notebook and took it to her to sew into an apron. Most other girls in the class also outsourced their aprons.

“Oh!” Mrs. Sanders said clapping her hands, we were going to be wonderful homemakers. 

Home ec had us ready to bake and clean wearing handmade aprons. What more did we need to know?

Mrs. Sanders had something else up her hand-sewn sleeve.   

We were ready to make an outfit. A skirt and a blouse. And, when our outfits were finished, we would have a fashion show at a Friday assembly program.

Most of us went to Mable Belcher’s dry goods store to pick out patterns for our skirts and blouses, materials we liked and necessary buttons and elastic. We took our patterns and materials to home ec class for Mrs. Sanders to approve and then slipped it all back out and “Voila!”  Handmade outfits!

The day for the assembly program loomed near so I told Mrs. Sanders that I could not walk across the stage in front of all those people. I would be too scared. I would faint or throw-up.  She said, if I didn’t complete my assignment I would fail home ec and have to take it again.

All I had to do, she said, was walk out in this eight-foot opening between the drawn back curtains, turn around while the announcer described my skirt and blouse and point to the things she was telling about. Peter Pan collar. I’d point to that. Then, the three-quarter length sleeves, the narrow red belt, stuff like that.

Turn. Point. I could do that. I had to do that.

Now, if I been in the front of the line, things might have ended differently. But I wasn’t. I had too much time to think about twisting around in front of all those people.

When I heard my name called, I walked out from behind the curtain into the opening but I couldn’t stop walking — through the opening, off the stage, down the steps, out the back door, out of the school yard. I was walking through our kitchen door about the time the announcer was describing my bodice.

I didn’t fail home ec for I had walked across the stage.