Mama Remembered: Holes in the toes of my shoes


 An excerpt from Mama’s book I Remember:

Did you ever try to walk without putting your feet out in front of you?  Well I remember one time I did.

When I was 12 years old we were moving from northern Missouri to a farm near Lansing, Kansas and had stopped in Kansas City to visit relatives.  I wanted to go out to our old neighborhood where we lived before we move to northern Missouri, so Dad took me out to 13th and Quindaro to visit.

I was walking down the street with a girl who used to live next door to us.  All at once I became very conscious of her good clothes and the holes in the toes of my shoes.  I was terribly embarrassed and left as soon as I could.

Mama told me that the main reason she quit school after 8th grade (about the time of this story) was that she was embarrassed by her clothes and shoes.  

Because of that story, I am especially touched when I recall the following story about my older sisters which I heard many times, even though it isn’t included in her book.

Sisters doing dishesx  Betty Rose, Martha Lou and Jean Marie

They don’t look like washing dishes is their favorite thing to do, do they?  But, the dresses they are wearing are the real reason I’m showing you this picture.

When my three older sisters were in grade school, at the beginning of each school year Mama would make each of them five dresses, sometimes  out of printed feed sacks! (What a great idea by the feed sack manufacturers to put feed in sacks made of material that could be reused.  Let’s not ever kid ourselves that “recycling” is a recent idea!)  And she said she made a pair of underpants (she called them underpants but I picture them more like bloomers) to match each dress, with a little pocket on the side so that a hanky could be kept in it. 

It was important to Mama for her girls to have new dresses for the start of school, but there was no way she and Daddy could afford all those dresses.  So she lovingly made each of her daughters five dresses, with matching underpants, sometimes out of “recycled” feed sacks.

Mama and Daddy didn’t always have alot of money, especially when my older siblings were little, but they worked very hard to keep their children from feeling poor.  

Their circumstances were much better by the time I came along, so I never wore shoes with holes in the toes.  But, even when the others were little and times were hard, I know Mama would have done everything she could to made sure they didn’t either.

8 Responses to Mama Remembered: Holes in the toes of my shoes

  1. C. Beth says:

    I love how important it was to your mom to give her children dignity. (We can have dignity without a lot of money!)

  2. C says:

    Loved this…bless your mama! I recall my mother talking about how envious she was of her “rich” (not!) cousin whose household could afford cornflakes. C

  3. Sandra says:

    Beth — That’s a good way to put it!

    C — Isn’t it funny what little kids see as signs of “rich”? Mine was the boy on our block who had a bike with the handlebar brakes and “speeds”. The rest of us just had the old fashioned kind of bikes, so I considered Mike “rich”.

  4. Schafner says:

    Hey Sandra 🙂

    I just wrote a random post, and of course I thought about you — the one who started it all.

    Thanks for helping me get the ball rolling in the blogosphere oh-so long ago.

    P.S. Happy Fall!

  5. Sandra says:

    Joshua! It’s so nice to hear from you! I check your site once in a while, but it looks like you’ve been pretty busy and haven’t had time to write. I vaguely remember what that’s like. 🙂 I’ll go over and check out your newest. You have a gift for writing. If you don’t use it on your blog, I know you’ll always find other outlets for it.

  6. Margo says:

    What a great tribute to the sacrifice and unselfish love of your Mother.

  7. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Margo. She really did work very hard to make sure we had a more stable life than hers had been.

  8. carlahoag says:

    This reminds me of several things:

    In a story in one of the Reminisce books about the depression by Reiman Publishing, a woman tells how she sewed shoes for her baby to wear to church from old felt hats. She had to make new ones every few weeks and people were giving her their old hats to use. The same kind of dedication with your mother.

    Another is that my mother-in-law came from a poor sharecropping family in Oklahoma. She missed a whole year of school once because she had no shoes to start with in the fall. She eventually became postmistress in that town and you should’ve seen her collection of shoes! And none of them cheap ones.

    And finally, one of my life long regrets was that after one of our long periods of unemployment, I wasn’t able to get new shoes for our sons to start school with one fall. I tried to glue our older son’s sole on, but it came loose during the day. There are a handful of things I’d go back and change if I could, and this is one. Somehow I would’ve found the money for even a cheap new pair for him. Recently I talked with him about that and he said he’d always understood and didn’t resent it.

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