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1/30/07   Apron Strings Tie Generations Together

Written by Carol Anderson

As far back as August 2005, The Wall Street Journal, ran an article that declared that aprons had become a "retro chic fashion accessory". Aprons today have become lost in a swirl of quick-cook recipes and microwave dinners. If worn at all, they truly have become a fashion accessory and not a necessity. There was a time in history when women considered the kitchen their space in the house and created wonderful, made-from-scratch recipes for their growing families. Aprons were worn consistently and it was considered odd if a woman did not wear one as she worked her way through her day. Aprons provided protection for clothing during food preparation but they had so many more uses that have only become faraway memories. Aprons from yesteryear seemed to always have big pockets, and many times women used their apron pockets as baskets to transport fresh eggs from the backyard hen house. Aprons were a place to wipe flour from hands that suddenly needed to be clean. Old-time aprons from the 1920's right up through the l970's have become a highly collectible item due to their charm and because of the special memories that they evoke among many of us. For just a few dollars, one can buy an antique apron and bring home some of the nostalgia from the past. Through style, color and fabric, collectors can tell the time period of an apron. Some of the most endearing aprons come from the era of The Great Depression when women continued to wear aprons yet still, in the midst of a depression, had to become very creative as to how they obtained fabric. Aprons from this time period were not the most fashionable, but they were most certainly a testament to human ingenuity. One only has to mention aprons to anyone who lived in a time when wearing an apron was acceptable and many, many wonderful memories are recalled. So many of us remember our grandmothers or mothers wearing an apron, but that image represents something beyond an article of clothing; it represents family bonds, tasty cooking, and hearty meals with wonderful memories. T-AHS Director, Ginny Clifford, ran the Belknap County 4-H program for many, many years. For those who were in the 4-H program, an apron became a beginning sewing project. Ginny stated, "Yes, an apron was one of the very first sewing projects in 4-H. There were several styles, each a little more complex than the next." Now retired from 4-H, Ginny sews and sells aprons as part of what she offers at local farmers' markets. Gilford resident, Carol Dale, chuckled when asked if she had any memories of aprons in her family. "Oh, I can always remember my grandmother wearing aprons, but my favorite apron memory is of my grandfather wearing an apron! He had a wonderful singing voice and belonged to a barbershop quartet in Portsmouth. I just remember him standing at the sink, wearing my grandmother's apron and singing at the top of his voice while he did the dishes." Perhaps one of the most touching apron memories came from T-AHS' President, Carmel Lancia. After her mother died, one of the things that Carmel kept was her mother's last apron. When asked why she decided to keep the apron, Carmel replied, "It was just one memory of my mother that I never wanted to lose." Aprons continue to be most important to Carmel, who owns many, many aprons and wears them all the time. A wonderful chef, she is always in the kitchen and dons an apron while cooking. When she visits with her children and grandchildren, she always brings along her apron since she's bound to end up in the kitchen at some point. Her children even have an apron for her always hanging at their homes. Just as Carmel's mother gave her wonderful memories of her cooking in the kitchen and wearing an apron, Carmel is making memories that tie her family together. If you would like to share your family's stories and memories, please feel free to contact Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical Society at: thomames@worldpath.net. The Society is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the cultural heritage of historic Gilford, NH.