Pencil and paper: a lifetime habit

H. Anne Thurston-Brandly
H. Anne Thurston-Brandly, Beautiful Boyne
Anne Thurston's latest edition of "Beautiful Boyne."

By: H. Anne Thurston-Brandley
“Beautiful Boyne”

I have never been a shopper.  I know this is a strange thing for a woman to say as many I know think it a treat to climb in their car, especially with one or more others and set out to shop.  Down through the years I have been invited to join such fun groups but always found an acceptable way to avoid doing so.  I blame some of this on my shyness which stayed with me for most of my life, I was certain if I went along I would do something wrong or embarrassing.
But underneath it all, now I have such an abundance of years through which to peer I have come to believe it wasn’t so much my shyness as it was my early childhood which embraced the Great Depression.  For so many years then our family simply had no spare money.  My father did wonders by managing to accept the job of painting the interiors of repossessed homes by the very bank which in earlier times had lent him the money needed to be a very successful builder.  I remember so well his appearance as he left our home early each morning wearing his white overall outfit and carrying his lunchbox.  Such a contrast to the suit, tie and hat he had worn earlier.
Because Mother was an ‘after-thought’ baby her brothers and sisters were all near twenty years her senior.  The brothers were all wealthy as they had earned their money before the income tax was conceived.  As a result Mother received boxes of used clothing from her sisters. Some of these she used to ‘remodel’ into dresses etc for me. And my brother’s were those outgrown by the small son of the J.C. Penny family, close friends of her sister’s in Columbus, Ohio.
I learned to sew at my mother’s side very early.  The machine was one with a foot treadle and fascinated me.  Of course I had to learn to do quite a bit of hand sewing also in order to trim my dresses with lace, ribbon etc. as was that day’s style.  As there were no zippers my skills came to include making button holes and sewing the buttons in place — or hooks and eyes or snaps.
My Scottish Uncle Lowry was one of my mother’s brother-in-laws who was much older than she and wealthy – a lawyer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I remember his telling my parents about a funny thing he had happen to him.  Seems a friend came by his office in the post WW1 days to see if he’d consider loaning him some money to help him patent and produce a gadget.  He needed $500 and my uncle would receive a 50% interest in the product in return for the loan.  Well, Uncle Lowry excused himself from the opportunity saying he had just made a similar loan to another for some kind of watch and couldn’t manage yet another at the moment.  The laughter as he told my dad was because the invention he turned down was the Talon Zipper.
To this day I blame those early years of the Depression for my inability to go on a shopping spree.  I learned then if I wanted and needed something there probably was a way I could make it, borrow it or do without.  My first store bought dress was the one Mother purchased with me to take off to college for special times.  It was red velvet with a white lace collar.  That winter as the Senior Prom approached on campus I desperately wanted a full length formal to wear on my date with Ed.
Knowing my parents couldn’t help me out I took the street car down to Columbus’s largest department store.  There I found curtain material was the cheapest.  With no sewing machine I hand sewed a beautiful sheer white gown with bright red cherries embroidered along its lower edge, after all, I had been making clothes for myself for quite a few years.
The depression years taught me a very restrictive attitude about spending money which simply isn’t about to leave me.  Despite this I have no remembrance of ever thinking anything was missing from my life.  In many ways I am aware I have been privileged to do far more than most. I think this is true because along the way I didn’t go off on wild shopping sprees just to have a great time, but kept my money for the things which really mattered.  I’m a list maker – even for grocery shopping.
Now that holiday shopping time has fallen out of the skies with Black Friday, and this year, Grey Thursday and Saturday’s wonderful Small Shops I suddenly realize it is time to get my pencil and paper out to start my holiday shopping list. My pencil is always very sharp and as always some of the things will be handmade.
H. Anne Thurston-Brandley is a Boyne City resident, and the author of “E-Males” & “The Book of Anne.” Her column, Beautiful Boyne, appears in The Boyne City Gazette each week.

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