08/20-2016 Newspaper Musings
One of the interesting parts of my job is researching either a historical period or a person and every once in a while I am asked to speak about an item and research its history. This week I am researching the apron in advance of a presentation. Yes, the same household apron that has been around for generations. My reading led me to beginning with an early mention in the Bible, Genesis 3:7- “And the eyes of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”. My research then took me to an example of an early apron called the Tabard with family crests worn by knights which then turned into the original cobbler’s apron. Others who have used an apron are ancient priests, butchers, chefs, wait staff, beauticians, blacksmiths, shoe shine boys, tanners and the BBQ aprons designed for men when they began to grill outdoors.
However while there were many professions that utilized the apron it has been mainly associated with the lives of women and their role as homemaker. The apron was traditionally homemade and worn in everyday life as well as their more elegant versions worn when entertaining. Normally women wore one apron while preparing the meals and then changed into another crisp and clean version when actually serving dinner. Disney’s Cinderella had a version so popular that J.C Penny’s had at one time published the pattern for women to create their own. Aprons were not just fashionable they were functional as the apron protected a woman’s clothes and it was also simpler to wash an apron than a dress. The apron was a multipurpose tool; it was a potholder, it wiped dirty noses and gently brushed away tears from the faces of little ones. The apron helped grandmothers gather eggs from the chicken coops or vegetables from gardens and later wipe the sweat off her face while cooking over a hot stove. A great many things were transported in Grandma’s apron: firewood, fallen apples as well as providing a quick dust to furniture when unexpected company arrived.
The apron even inspired poetry. Here is a line from “Grandma’s Apron” and while there are many versions the author is unknown for this one, “When I used to visit Granma. I was very much impressed, by her all-purpose apron, and the power it possessed”. An apron reflected the woman herself and sometimes her status in life. Was it made of cotton, Gingham, organdy or a feed stack? Did she keep it starched or was it soft and well-worn from constant use and washing? There are many books dedicated to the making of an apron. There are patterns instructing one on how to turn a dishtowel into a colonial era apron, mother-daughter projects for creating one of a kind vintage aprons and even instructions for how a homemaker can create a practical but decorative apron in advance of Thanksgiving.
Think back to your family gatherings. Did your mother, grandmother, or the women of the family have one item such as an apron that evokes a memory? It does not even have to be the apron; it could be a certain type of pot or pan, a specific meal or dish, or even a scent that carries you back to another time, another place. This week’s musing is about how one item with a very long history can teach many about a variety of periods in history while also being very personal and significant to an individual. The Geary County Historical Society and Museums have many such items within their collections. The Main Street Gallery reflects the businesses that were at the heart of Junction City at its inception however it has evoked memories of visits to the dressmaker for some and trips to the barber shop in others. Grandmother’s Kitchen and the Tack Room exhibits are both indicative of Geary Counties past while telling the story of the many individuals who make up that past. So please come and visit us Tuesday through Sunday from 1-4 PM to not only reexamine the history of Geary County but to be taken back to your own pleasant memory.
In advance of the Year of the Soldier in which, “The Geary County Historical Society is celebrating YOU – the soldier, Veteran, grand-daughter, son, mother of a soldier”. We are asking you to share your stories, artifacts, or contribute in any way for The Year of the Soldier call 238-1666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.