My brother and I were born before stores sold clothing just for children. Large families shared garments by cutting the long legs off of a sibling’s overalls or by sliding metal fittings up or down on the galluses.
However, this special Sunday was Children’s Day, a time to display a child in his or her best clothing on his or her best behavior. Churches staged special events to demonstrate children’s talents.
It was a Sunday for parents to show their children and for the children to perform, standing on the pulpit "stage," before family, friends and strangers.
The program included children speaking a piece, singing, playing a musical instrument or whatever. It was the children’s day to dress up, shape up and be shown off to friends and neighbors.
Some mothers bought their girls’ clothing by trading eggs, cream and butter for yard goods. Dress patterns, 10 to 15 cents each, were passed around for their girls and for themselves. Snaps, hooks, eyes and buttons were cut off and saved, passed from garment to garment and generation to generation!
Tiny boys wore "blouses" with a band of buttonholes around the waist to attach their short pants to those blouses. An older boy might have his first real suit - a large size to grow into - and his first white shirt with a bow tie or a tie like his dad’s.
Mothers liked dressing their children in their best for Children’s Day. It was a treat to face an audience fully scrubbed, curled, combed and polished, to perform before friends and neighbors.
Practicing at home was followed by a practice at the church, usually the day before the performance.
Mom was Olivet’s pianist, so Jim and I were involved in many a Children’s Day program. He and I performed in the 1920s, helped manage the smaller children in the ’30s and were in the audience in the ’40s. I was training my own Nancy and Walt in the late ’50s and ’60s. I taught girls to curtsy and boys to bow with one arm across the front and the other across the back.
Practice day was fun for the children. Just being together before the last ones arrived - some were running in the aisles, hiding under the benches, pretending to preach and acting silly, but we parents put a quick stop to that!
The actual performances for Children’s Day were a different story: walking up the steps alone, across the platform and suddenly facing a church full of attentive people brought terror to some children, and they ran into the arms of their waiting mothers. Older children sailed through their parts without mishap. Most of the children got through the event as smoothly as it went on practice day.
Our Nancy was a natural on stage. She often wrapped a lace curtain around her play clothes and danced. 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 had forgotten to pull up the zipper on his new suit pants!