You Want Character… Live on a Dirt Road

There has been a lot of complaining in the media, diners, coffee shops, etc., about poor road conditions, from pot holes to mud bogs, now flooding. We live on a dirt road, and, in fact, with each new Town Manager, we bring him or her a copy of a piece entitled “Dirt Roads”. A quote from it says, “People who live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride”. Thus dirt roads give one character. We do not want our dirt road paved as we need all the “character” we can get. I guess “character” started when we had to walk to view this house with the realtor as the road was a mud bog – but we still bought it! Just like our vintage cars, the roads we drive them on need maintenance. This is particularly true for dirt roads. Technically, of course, the Town is responsible for road maintenance, but they need a little help from the taxpayers to let them know what is needed and where. There are two approaches to doing this, the positive and the negative. Although some people don’t seem to understand this, the negative approach gets negative results and the positive approach gets positive results. With the negative approach, you make a phone call to the highest possible town managerial level, and speak loudly to be sure you are understood. Be sure to mention your credentials in terms of taxes paid and political clout. Also mention your assessment of their credentials and then explain what you want done. This will definitely get results. For example, during a winter snow storm, your road will be widely plowed, giving the mailman easy access to where your mailbox used to be. The positive approach doesn’t require any phone calls. I’ve found that a periodic stop at the town garage with a tin of sticky buns or whoopee pies gets very positive results. Our road is frequently graveled, graded, raked and chlorided to keep the dust down. That’s how they let me know when some more treats would be in order. Just as a little attention and TLC keep our vintage cars running smoothly, the softer touch keeps the roads smooth. Now don’t let me get started on people who feel a dirt road is a good place for their trash to be tossed. There is not enough room to cover that!

How Far Is Too Far?

You’ve all seen that sign that says, “Unless you are naked, don’t touch this car!” Years ago, when I first saw it (back in a time when I was trying to impress my soon to be husband), I wondered why anyone would take and put such a sign on their beautiful car. Was it a way to trick people into removing their clothes for the treat of touching their car? I never did see anyone fall for that but I can tell you, I keep my eyes open! What I’m really getting to is the cars that owners guard like Fort Knox. You can spot them at most car shows. They are the ones trailered, and covered. Oh, they tease you a bit by dropping the wheel covers to give you a seductive look at those wide white walls. They keep a duster in hand at all times. Ever vigilant to the speck of dust or the errant finger print as they circle the car, caressing the fenders with their duster. Stopping only long enough to survey the crowd for any hint of someone who might step too close! What I imagine Homeland Security to be like when the President is in town. But, unlike the President, he will take questions- in fact welcomes them. “What about the paint job?” In great detail, he will tell you about the 23 coats of hand rubbed acrylic gloss at the cost of 213 hours and $28,000. And then swing into many other details, all the while scanning the crowd for anyone that might breech the perimeter! Come on, lighten up a little. These cars are supposed to be fun. Fun to me is not taking your car out of hiding once or twice a year and spending your time worrying that something or one might touch it! I REALLY do appreciate all the precious time and money spent but there is a limit! (in my opinion). Most of these cars never saw a paved road and if you could ask Dr Horatio Jackson, some never saw a road at all! I TOTALLY agree they need to be respected and “gently” used. Don’t get me wrong- would I give my 3 year old granddaughter, Addison, a candy apple and say “go play in Grandpa’s car?” Or give Cooper, our 6 year old grandson, a couple of die cast cars and tell him that the fenders of the ’37 make a great car track? Probably not, but on the other hand…………………. Just kidding! I get it! But I have to tell you, there isn’t much better than having your grandchildren come to a car show, “drive your car” and at the end of the day, sitting on the running boards- proclaim, “Grandpa, we LOVE car shows.” So for my cars, lift the hood, open the trunk, lean in to get a good look at the dashboard and don’t forget the odometer! But, PLEASE, keep your clothes on! My grandchildren are at an impressionable age and come to think of it, “so am I!” Yes, after 39 years, I’m still trying to impress him!

The Epiphany That Created An Enthusiast

As a one-time “old car widow”, I have experienced an epiphany! When my husband first joined the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, one of my friends suggested with great sympathy, that going to meetings and events would be just old car “stuff” and boring talk about old car “stuff”. I tended to agree with her, so Wendell and I reached an accord in that he wouldn’t require my presence at VAE activities if he didn’t have to go to craft fairs. At some point I decided I should be a little supportive since he was so enthusiastic and worked so hard to fix up our 28 Dodge coupe. I remember a phone call from him during the Shelburne car show asking if I’d be o.k. with him buying another car, a Plymouth roadster ( we really did “need” a car with a rumble seat). I, of course, was at a craft fair. Despite my surprise at the “consult” and having no clue what a “roadster” meant, of course I agreed and he was a happy man, a very good thing. When I started to attend meetings with him, I found myself meeting a lovely group of men and women whom I otherwise wouldn’t have met. They welcomed me and made me feel needed. Since I pretty much live to be useful and to feed people (ask any of our family), the potluck meetings fulfilled that desire. When Wendell became activities chair, requiring us to bring the basics for dinners, the “new fangled” coffee pot was a challenge, but again, there was always help. And, by golly, the meetings and events were fun, informative and interesting – and that Stowe show flea market turned out to be a bonanza of really good “stuff” I could relate to while the guys talked cars. To complete my “epiphany”, when we recently attended the Farm Show in Barre, just like my experience at VAE meetings, I noticed how pleasant and friendly people there were – they would smile back at you, something sadly lacking in most crowds these days. It is very good to be surrounded by “real” people. So, I guess this makes me an “auto enthusiast” for life, as VAE members are, like, totally real. Ladies, give it a try!

New Year’s Ball

The most magical dance of the year was fast approaching and no purchased gown was to be had that satisfied the idea. The annual New Year’s Ball that was held at the town hall every year was a grand event not to be missed and especially so if one was to lead the grand march. What an honor!

After many hours of searching for the perfect ball gown it was decided that Gram would make one based on the specific instructions of my Aunt Gladys. The dress must have a sweetheart bodice with a little one-inch strap that left the arms bare. It must have enough material in the skirt to be showy, as it would flare out when the grand waltz was in progress, but not so much that it would encumber the many swinging turns and dips.

The material that was chosen was a tissue taffeta of a heavenly dark blue. The one surprising aspect of the design was a wide inset of white tissue taffeta on each side of the gathered skirt. Taffeta in itself is an amazing fabric, as it tends to shadow with movement and creates a different hue at each turn. The design was simple but stunning and looked just terrific on my aunt who was quite tall and slender. She wore elbow length white gloves with a wrist corsage of orchids and a strand of white pearls. Her shoes were strappy dark blue suede high heels made for dancing.

My mother’s gown was a beautiful pale pink waterfall satin also with a sweetheart bodice with an attached nylon train of the same shade of pink that trailed down the back to the hem. She also wore long white gloves, pearls and a corsage of white flowers that was pinned to her upsweep hairdo.

The grand march and dance was a complete success, as were the dresses. I can just see the sea of beautiful gowns and hear the terrific waltz band playing now!

Fashion Shows

Can you believe that our two main shows have come and gone? Seems like we were just making plans to get them off and running.

Both fashion shows have been a great success, and I’m sure that Jan Sander will tell you all about the Stowe Fashion Show. I was asked to help with the judging at Stowe, and it was a lot of fun. I was especially pleased with the gentlemen of the military club, who also participated in the fashion show, and hope that they will do so again. It is truly amazing to see the different articles of clothing that were necessary for their particular type of job in the military.

These shows would not happen if it were not for the participants, and I also mean those of you who take the time to come see. A fair amount of work goes into one of these shows, and without some interest in those of you who come to see, it would not be much fun.

Shelburne Auto Festival had the distinct pleasure of having some of the most wonderful vintage fashions being donated by Marg Hobb from NH. These great articles of clothing were actually from her husband’s family and dated back to the late 1800’s. They have kept them in wonderful condition, and should be in a museum. Fortunately for us, my granddaughters and a couple of their friends came to help with the show. The problem with vintage clothing is the size. One has to be about the size of a toothpick in order to get into some of this clothing. Now my granddaughters are not very big, but we did have some concerns about fitting into these great dresses and doing damage.

We also had some wonderful participants, who came with various outfits, according to the years of their vintage vehicle. All of them were stunning, and demonstrated the many changes through the years. Fashion and the automotive industry are a partnering of history. Just look at some of the old advertisements for the new models of cars, and you soon realize that the models standing by the car are displaying the latest fashions of the time.

Many thanks go out to everyone who took the time to either dress, donate and participate in our shows. You make the shows!

30s Fashion

With the Wall Street Crash, the Depression Era began and with it a complete change in how people dressed. No more reckless shopping for clothing; turning instead to the sewing machine to make what clothes were needed. Clothes were mended and patched until they had to be replaced.

The boyish look of the twenties was completely changed to a more feminine look. Hemlines were dropped to the ankle and waistlines were again at the natural waist. Necklines were lowered with wide scalloped edges or ruffled collars. Buttons were so expensive that zippers were now the preferred closure. Silk and rayon stockings replaced the woolen ones.

Paris styles were too expensive for all but the very wealthy and eveningwear was following the movie stars’ lead. Floating evening gowns, with empire-waist and ties at the back and large puffy sleeves. The most popular materials and patterns were cotton, wool, silk, acetate, rayon, velvet, georgett, crepe, organdy, satin, jacquards, tapestries, chamois, chiffon, and flecked tweed.

The most popular colors were powder blue, maize, gray, navy, and rose for teenage and young girls. Black was only used for evening gowns that were accented with white. Fur was much in demand for capes, stoles, wraps and accessories and trimmings for women and girls’ clothing.

The basic sportswear consists of sport suits, leather jackets, and middy slacks. Hats were worn at an angle, with the basic shoe styles,
slip-ons, pumps and flats.

Even a change in jewelry, with broaches becoming bigger, dress clips are fancier, rhinestones and glass stones were being put into many pieces.

Of all the fashion eras, this is my most favorite one. With the styles more genuinely feminine and softer. Thirties fashions are hard to come by, but if your handy with the sewing machine there are many patterns available for you to make a complete outfit.

Edith Head

One of my most favorite designers was Edith Head. Her fashions and clothing styles exudes class and distinction. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05…

1907-81, American costume designer, b. Los Angeles, Calif. She began to design costumes for the motion pictures in the early 1930s, working at Paramount for most of her career and moving to Universal in 1967. She won eight Academy Awards for a variety of films, including “The Heiress (1949), “All about Eve” (1950), “Samson and Delilah” (1951), “A Place in the Sun” (1952), “Roman Holiday” (1954), and “The Sting” (1973). She was responsible for such classic bits of costumery as Mae West’s ostrich feathers, Dorothy Lamour’s sarongs, and Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina necklines.

She also is known for promoting “the little black dress”. Her styling was sleek and seductive in a very conservative ladylike manor. She was an expert in draping fabric to showcase any body shape that was presented. Every woman knows that the one perfect dress to have in her closet is a simple black dress, that can be “dressed up” into many stylish ways with a jacket, scarf, or a nice piece of jewelry. Many fashion trends have come and gone, but this one seems to be lasting forever.

I remember seeing Edith on the Arthur Goddrey television show, where he would bring her on stage to help some poor unsuspecting lady with her fashion goofs. The lady would have all of her fashion mistakes pointed out by Edith, and then sent on her way to do some shopping. Edith’s approach was simple and direct, and the returning lady was always correctly dressed from head to toe after her shopping trip. Of course, Edith herself was correctly dressed in one of her wonderful suits, that even as a kid I fell in love with. I miss those simple graceful lines in today’s clothing, that seems to be too tight, too short and not enough material. What a disservice the young woman today is doing to her over all picture.

Our two fashion shows have come and gone, and it’s time to start thinking once again about next year’s shows. They are lots of fun, and we need you out there giving us a hand and making these shows bigger and better. Won’t you consider participating to help us out? Just think – some of us may only have to look as far as our closets since 1980 is the cut off year.

Feed Sack Fashions

In the 1920’s feed sacks for grain were made from an ecru colored muslin material. The name of the company was either stamped on the material or was attached at the time the sack was sown with a paper banner. Once the bag was emptied they were returned back to the miller for refilling. Some of the sacks didn’t make it back, due to the fact that the farmer’s wife could wash and use the muslin for kitchen towels, pillowcases and quilt backings, etc. The muslin bag made especially nice tea towels, as the material was of good substantial quality and the edges could be embroidered or crossed stitched. Nothing was wasted, and I remember seeing pillows with the imprinted manufactures name on the backs of many beautifully satin and fringed creations.

The 100 pound bags could yield a good size piece of material, that would make many towels, and if bleached would make many under garments. My grandmother once told me that when her church was having a baptism in the local pond, that her cousin was the talk of town after being dunked and her beautiful white dress once wet, showed through to her slip which had the local seed store’s name on it! Her aunt had not wanted to waste any material, and thinking that it wouldn’t show, had put the last piece of material on the back of the slip.

Somewhere along the way a particular miller got the idea that if he started using a printed cloth for his sacks, that just maybe the farmers would use more of his seed or grain. The printed bags were a big hit with the wives who quickly snatched up all that they could. As the prints became more desirable the more grain was being sold. (Who said women didn’t have power back then.) I can imagine the husband that came home with two bags of the same print was the highlight of the day.

The printed material consisted of many brightly colored patterns, stripes, fruit, and animal prints. I was the lucky kid that had many summer outfits and pajamas made from the many prints. Aprons and day dresses and quilt squares were consistently made from the saved pieces of material and are much sought after by collectors.

If you are a vintage apron collector, it’s quite possible that the material actually started its life as a flour, seed or grain bag. The use of the burlap bag brought a stop to the printed cotton bags around the mid 50’s. My husband, who once worked for Wirthmore Feeds in St Albans, states that he only handled printed bags on special orders and they were very limited at the time.

How can clothing tell about history?

Having a strong sense of history, every time I start this column, I try to think of something that will be of interest and informational to all. Yes, including the male gender!

How can clothing tell about history? It simply tells of the everyday lives of those early years and how people dressed to accommodate all of their actions during the day and evening. Those early years, depict to me a time of gentleness, grandness, of softer times with lots of fun thrown in. Maybe it’s just an illusion that presents itself to me from time to time, but it sure is fun playing dress-up.

Because of my age, I find it easier to write about the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It’s not hard to write about the 70’s and 80’s, but in my mind I see those first years as relating to my growing up. Maybe that’s why all of you gentlemen, relate to your cars the way you do. We are trying to find that tangible connection to our past and besides, having the cars is fun and a great hobby.

As far as I am concerned, the two fashion shows that we put on each year, are a little like the frosting on the cake, and rounds out the story of our cars, and having fun being with other folks that like to have fun also. Your really missing the finishing touch to your story if you don’t participate in one of the shows or attend. We are only as good as you, and we need lots of participation, both in playing dress-up and watching the rest of us play dress-up.

The folks with the older cars have to search long and hard to find outfits that go with the era of their vehicles and should be commended for their efforts. When you see someone in an outfit of the Model T and before era, it is hard to imagine how people managed to stay looking clean and elegant by the time they got to their destination. The open cars were a challenge just to get from one place to another in one piece. No wonder they all wore long dusters and netting over their hats, as drivers and passengers were exposed to all kinds of weather. I’ve had the opportunity to ride in Rod Rice’s Model T, and found it to be a hoot, and if Rod is out there with his “ T ”, ask him for a ride. It’s a great experience, and you’ll begin to understand what that fashionable gear is all about!

The ladies that drove must have found it to be more challenging than the men, with those long skirts. It had to be hard to keep skirts up out of the way of the three pedals that control the “T”. Goggles were a must even with the windshield; no paved roads in those days. Just think about the yards of netting to keep that big floppy hat on top of the head, and I bet they didn’t wear white gloves to drive! I somehow think it was easier to sit stiffly in the passenger side all bundled up than to try and drive the big high autos.

A woman driver was a rare sight, and even today there aren’t many women who venture to drive the older cars. It takes lots of “arm-strong steering” and good long legs to reach the brakes that may or may not stop on a dime. Yes, ladies, it’s a lot more fun, to be the passenger, and arrive looking exactly like you just left your home, but only after you remove your duster and veiling.

Shelburne Fashion Show

The fashion show at the Shelburne Car Show was exceptional this year! The weather was beautiful and all of the contestants were beautifully attired. Many thanks go out to all that participated in the show, as it was a success because you took the time to make it special. I am beginning to think that there might be some people out there that don’t really understand what the show is all about.

It is a story… a story of what people were wearing in the times of the early automobiles. By that I mean anything 25 years or older, just like the cars we drive. That means that anything is acceptable up to the year of 1980 this year. Can you imagine that? And, your outfit doesn’t necessarily have to be the year of your car.

Some of us like a particular era and try to find something that fits, which is really hard as people were generally smaller in the early years. Some go for the forty’s, fifty’s and now the sixty’s, as the sizing is a little more easy to find, and the price a little more reasonable. Some of us only have to look in their storage closets or attics, for something to wear. I would like to see more participants, especially the male gender. So, ladies when you’re looking consider an outfit for your husband. Just ordinary daywear is also an option, after all people had to work too.

Second hand stores are popping up all over now, as the demand is getting high. The Internet is another source. Just take time to choose carefully, making sure the fabric is strong and clean, and that the item fits. Half of the fun is in trying to find something and the other half is showing it off, such as a costume party or a fashion show like the one we just had. No need to feel shy as everyone is there to have fun, and fun we do have. There is still time to find an outfit for the Stowe Show, but at Stowe you are required to wear something that is the year of your car.

Won’t you join us next year; we would love to have you participate!