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Grandma’s Apron Was an All-Purpose Tool During the Depression Era

Author Photo
By Capper's Staff | Feb 29, 2012

Courtesy Library of Congress
If only this grandmother's apron could talk!

Grandma’s aprons were not dainty things of beauty. They were truly “all purpose,” and during the depression era, they were made of dark colored calicos – mostly of dark blues, browns and dark grays (so the dirt wouldn’t show!). Since her dresses were ankle length – so were the aprons. They were made of a straight piece of cloth gathered full onto a band that either buttoned or tied around the waist. Sometimes a square piece was stretched above the waist band to protect Grandma’s dress up to the bust. The piece was usually pinned to the dress with safety pins.

There was always a pocket or two to hold her handkerchief, a bit of pencil, hairpins – anything small that couldn’t be carried in the voluminous apron itself.

When Grandma went to the orchard she could pick up and carry – in her apron, of course – nearly a bushel of apples, peaches or pears. With a quick flip of that apron she could “shoo” the old hens out of the flower bed or the vegetable garden.

Should a rainstorm come up quickly, Grandma could dash out and gather up a whole nest of baby chickens in that apron and get them to safety without any getting wet.

She carried lots of wood chips, corn cobs and kindling in that apron – to start fires in the old iron cookstove. Vegetables (peas, green beans, carrots, even potatoes) all found their way into Grandma’s kitchen – via her apron.

While these foods were cooking, that apron could become her “pot lifter” for removing hot kettles and pans from the stove, and as she toiled over the hot stove she mopped the sweat from her face with the tail of her apron.

When meal time came Grandma expertly waved aloft that apron to signal the men working in the field to come for dinner.

As she hovered about the dinner table, passing dishes, she flapped that big apron at the “pesky” flies!

When we grandchildren came to visit, that apron stood ready to dry our childish tears, wipe our noses and to shyly hide behind if we were timid when strangers appeared unexpectedly.

In chilly weather I can see Grandma wrapping that friendly apron around her bare arms, or even throwing it up over her head as she hurried outside on an errand or stood at the open door as guests departed.

Occasionally, when she saw unexpected company coming she hurriedly dusted the chair rings with that ever-ready apron.

Evenings she fed the old hens, throwing out handfuls of shelled corn – from her apron, then she gathered the eggs – also in her apron!

When the day’s work was finally done, off came Grandma’s “garment of many uses” and she carefully draped it over the canary’s cage!

Muriel Razor
Washington County, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.

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