My brother and I were happy kids, born before there were toy stores or special stores for clothes for kids. But in summer - June I think - rural churches staged a special event called Children’s Day.
It was a Sunday for parents to show off their children and for the children to perform on the pulpit "stage" for family, friends and strangers by speaking a piece, singing, playing a musical instrument or whatever. It was the children’s day to dress up, shape up and be their very best!
Mothers made girls’ clothing, often buying yard goods at a crossroads store that also sold groceries, coal oil and chicken feed; the grocery man also bought or traded for farmers’ eggs, cream and butter.
Patterns could be ordered for 10 or 15 cents each from Sears and Roebuck’s big free catalog. Many women passed patterns around for their girls and for themselves. Snaps, hooks and eyes and buttons were cut off and saved, passed from garment to garment and from generation to generation!
Small boys wore "blouses" with a band of button holes at the waist to attach their short pants to those blouses. A bigger boy might have his first real suit - a large size to "grow into" - and his first white shirt with a necktie like his dad’s - or a bow tie.
We kids liked dressing in our very best for Children’s Day. It was show off time, a chance to stand up front, fully scrubbed, curled, combed and polished, to perform before an audience of friends and neighbors, a part of the regular church service. Practicing at home was followed by one practice at the church, the day before we would actually perform.
My mother was the pianist at Olivet Church, so I was involved in many a Children’s Day program, performing in the 1920s, helping manage the little children in the ’30s, in the audience in the ’40s and training my own Nancy and Walt in the ’50s and ’60s.
I recall girls being taught to curtsy, and the boys learned to bow with one arm across the front and the other across the back.
Practice day was always great fun. Kids liked running in the church aisles, jumping off the platform, pretending to preach and just acting silly. Parents always put a quick stop to that!
The actual performances on Children’s Day were a different story: Walking up steps alone to the platform and suddenly facing a church full of people brought such terror to some children that they forgot the words they had learned so well. A few little ones forgot to curtsy or bow and ran into their waiting mothers’ arms.
The churchgoers relaxed as older children sailed through their parts without mishap. Most of the youngsters got through the event as smoothly as it went on practice day.
I don’t recall a single thing I spoke or sang on Children’s Day, but I’ll never forget the first time our own Nancy and Walt performed.
Nancy was a natural on stage. She often wrapped a lace curtain around her play clothes and danced in the picture window’s mirror effect at night.
Walt was no ham, but he was eager to speak his piece in his new navy blue suit with white shirt and red bow tie. Having memorized his piece he walked up with confidence, spoke clearly and never missed a word - but I was horrified.
His white shirt showed plainly that he’d forgotten to zip the zipper on his new suit pants!
Dear Readers: Thanks for your concern. The broken hip is replaced, and I’m now walking painlessly and with greater caution!