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My Mother's Apron

Poynor was a scary place for a brand-new 7th grader in September 1955. Changing classes! I've had several recurring dreams in my life and getting lost at Poynor trying to find math class was one of them. I'd go down the long, long hall, craning my neck to read the room numbers through the mass of students. The hallway never ended and I never reached the right room. I awoke with achy muscles from pushing through the crowd, certain I was going to flunk math because I couldn't find the classroom.

I did get lost in Poynor searching for the cafeteria my first day. You can't get there from here, an older student told me. Here was the north end of the second floor hall. It seemed I had to reverse direction, go to the south end, downstairs and then head north. I don't know if that was the only way to get there or not but I was afraid I'd miss lunch if I didn't follow those directions. Down at ground level a polite boy walked me to the door of the noisy lunchroom. I soon memorized a map of the building, learned my way around and got used to changing classes and teachers.

Home Ec was one highlight of my junior high career. Mrs. Baxley taught us how to read a menu and bake a cake, follow a pattern and sew an apron. I recall baking and eating chocolate-frosted cupcakes, but most of all I remember sewing my first apron, a lovely brown and white creation complete with bound-in hand towel and roomy pocket. A Mother's Day gift for mama, I labored for days to make sure it was perfect. And it was. Mama made good use of it for years and when she wasn't wearing it, I was. That apron came to symbolize Poynor to me: the practicality of my lessons, whether math, science or English; every-day applications of my schooling.

Mrs. Mary Josey Whitehurst recently sent me a newspaper article titled My Mother's Apron. In her note Mrs. Whitehurst said "I remember these things so well, for my mother had an apron just like this." Thank you so much, Mrs. Whitehurst, for sending me this.

My Mother's Apron was written by Mabel Wilkinson and published in the Glennville (Georgia) Sentinel in 1992. It is a chapter in her book "My Link To the Past," a glimpse of life the way it was in the 1930's. I had a wonderful talk with her by phone on July 3rd (2006) and she graciously gave me permission to share her stories with you. Here's an excerpt:

"Many memories of my mother linger with me, but one thing that stands out is one small item of clothing that was very essential, but today has become almost obsolete: that is, the apron that she wore each day. These aprons were washed, starched and ironed each washday, and I can almost see them now as they hung on the clothesline side by side. Even a visit to a neighbor in the evening demanded a clean fresh apron, as surely as company was coming to visit.

"The aprons were always made with two pockets; one for a cotton handerchief used to clean noses, and the other for some items as rewards for obedient children a half stick of gum or a small piece of candy, perhaps. Pockets were used for many things; for an egg or two, a baby chick lifted from a warm nest, a few pecans, a handful of berries that could be black, blue or straw, any kind of flower or vegetable seed, or a handful of corn to be fed to the mother hen as mother counted the baby chicks.

"The apron had many uses to wrap around a child on a chilly day or to fold up the bottom to lift the eye of the old wood stove as she stoked the fire inside. The corners were lifted and held together with one hand and used as a kind of sack to pick and carry peas, corn, okra, or squash.

"The apron was used as a fan when the weather became unbearable, to wipe the sweat from her brow and wipe smudges from the faces of her children or grandchildren. It was used as a fan to scare flies away from the table, run chickens off the porch, and to fan smoldering coals in a fireplace to make it glow.

"The apron was untied and used as a sun bonnet on a hot day or a rain bonnet when caught in a sudden shower. My earliest memories were of the apron being wrapped around me along with my mother's arms, while we sat in the darkness of night on the front porch watching the lightning in the far distance. It was as if the apron would shield me from the elements of nature.

"Perhaps aprons are not needed today for the many things they were used for long ago, and many young mothers do not even own one. But I say Thanks for the memories of the aprons that my dear old mother wore."

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