Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feed sack dresses and flour sack shirts were everyday wear at this school in the 1940's, even into the early 1950's. Talented mothers could turn an empty ten, twenty or fifty pound bag of food into shirts for the boys and dresses with matching underpants for the girls. 

Dry goods came in cloth sacks, not the sturdy paper packaging of today. Chicken feed. Flour. Salt, too. When the sack was the smaller size, there wouldn't always be enough material to complete a project. If the housewife waited for the next delivery, the pattern on the cloth was often different, yet she usually didn't have enough money to purchase the larger size. Talented as they were, these seamstress-mothers still needed enough matching material, so they went looking. They bargained with other housewives to swap materials. One grandmother had a little business on the side. She purchased solid materials and kept on hand to add collars and trim for a dress for her neighbor's daughter or a shirt for the son. 

The most popular man in the county was often the mercantile delivery man. He sometimes carried sample swatches of the sack material as he went around the community delivering the orders and taking orders for the next week.
I know that because I talked with his son who tagged along with him making deliveries those seventy years ago.

And I know it because I talked with the now-grown children who watched their mothers bargain with him and then wash out the chicken feed and scrub away the flour labels. After all these years, the memory of these dresses brings a pride to some, a humbleness to others.

The stories I catch often come accompanied with tears, but only once did I see a glistening of a tear over feed sacks. It was from a lady who as a second grader had proudly worn her new dress and matching bloomers to school one day, another school, not Pilot Mountain. On the playground her dress flew above her waist and everyone (including the teacher) saw that her bloomers matched her dress and laughed (including the teacher) at her for wearing feed sacks. Her family later moved into the Pilot Mountain School district and first thing she noticed: that's what everyone else wore. She had found a place in the world where she could be welcome and comfortable in her own skin, even if that skin was covered by feed sacks. Every child needs a Pilot Mountain.

Catch of the day,



  1. Delightful bit of story. Can't wait to read the rest.

  2. I love reading the catch of the day, a little history from us ordinary people. You make it sound so extradrodinary

  3. I love your stories.Sorry I've been terrible busy lately. This one is especially delightful and sad. I can laugh and I can also cry for the little girls who had to wear the feed sack dresses. I know. i was one of them. I hated them, I'd wear a coat in hot weather just to cover the dress. The merchants kids all had pretty store-bought dresses and how can the poor little girls help but be envious. Good writing.

  4. I never owned a feedsack dress, but my brother and I had matching PJs out of them. My grandmother wore them almost every day.