Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week 12 of 2016 - Easter, Sewing and How It All Began...

It is 1962 and my Dad was the manager for a department store in Rochester called Mitzelfeld's.   It was owned by William (Bill) Mitzelfeld.  My Dad was responsible for many things at the store. It was not unusual for him to spend Sunday afternoon at a card table in the family room with a yellow legal pad, planning what needed to be done at the store the next week.  
Stock Photo saved from C&G Newspapers

One of his responsibilities was the store windows and displays.   In the 1960's, most businesses had huge front windows where they proudly displayed all their finest new inventory, creatively arranged in the windows to entice customers into the store to see what else they might have to offer.  A store's front windows might be the only advertising that the business could afford so a business used this space wisely. My Dad loved this part of his job and he was really good at it.  He took a great deal of pride in his work.  The Mitzelfeld's had installed black and white striped awnings over the front windows to protect the merchandise from fading as the sun's rays brightly filtered through the glass on sunny day.  In the winter, it was most often too gray and the sun too low in the sky to effect the displays. As spring approached, the sun rose higher in the sky each day, it would once again become a concern for my Dad. So Dad would take a drive to work to open the awnings to protect the merchandise in the windows.

 Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's 1967 - looking south -  note the lowered awnings.

Sidewalk Sales at Mitzelfeld's in 1967 looking north

In the weeks just before Easter in 1962, one bright sunny Sunday afternoon, Dad bundled up the the three oldest girls and off to Rochester we went to open the awnings.  While we were at the store, Dad instructed us to go look at a specific rack of dresses and pick one dress out for Easter.  He would buy them for us the next day when he came to work.  Mom usually made our dresses for Easter but with the new baby, Mark and now four girls to make dresses for, she just did not have the time this year. This was likely the first time that I got to pick out something for myself...and my last, for that matter, at least for a while.  As Pam and Sue were looking at "the rack" of dresses, I drifted to a different rack. And  as you have probably guess, I found a dress that I absolutely loved. I am excited beyond measure, I have the dress in hand and hurry off to show Dad the most beautiful dress in the world.

"I want this one, Dad! It is so beautiful, it is my favorite!", I proclaim to him as he reenters the store after lowering the awnings

"Did you get it off the rack I told you to get it from?"  he asked with a look of doubt in his eye.

"I think so.." I said

He gave me the look and said,  "Go put it back and find one off the rack that your sisters are looking at"

"BUT DAD!"  I cried "I have to have this dress!"

I carried on for the next ten or fifteen minutes about the dress I wanted and eventually, someone else picked out a dress for me. I cried and pouted the whole trip home. I just could not understand why I could not have that dress.  As we pulled into the driveway and Dad put the car in park, he turned and looked at me sternly as I sat in the back seat.

 " Janet, I just can not afford to buy you a dress that costs that much.  If I buy you one then I have to buy your sister's one so that means four dresses and I just do not have the money for it.  I can afford to buy you dresses from the other rack. I am sorry.", he said.

 ( This is the first and only time in my life that I remember my Dad ever talking about what we could or could not afford.)

"I want you to sit down with your Mother and learn how to sew.  If you do that, you will be able to make a dress that pretty for yourself!"  He told me.

"And I will buy you the fabric." He  added  "... all the fabric, that you want..."  And he did until the day he died...34 years later.

I did sit down with Mom and learn to sew.  So did all of my sisters.  Before he knew it he was scrambling to find sewing machines so we would stop fighting over whose turn it was to sew on Mom's machine...It was a good thing that the boys came along when they did because Mom no longer had much time to sew.  We would not let her anyway.  Mom's machine and Grandma Smith's machine were being used almost constantly by three teenagers. Sharon learned to sew about the time that the second sewing machine showed up so then four of us shared two machines.

I sew every week on something or another...when I do, I fondly think of my Dad for encouraging me to learn to sew and of my Mom for patiently teaching me! 

Love you Dad and Mom. Happy Easter...


1 comment:

  1. I had no idea where the "You learn to sew, and I will buy you the fabric..." plan started! How fun is this?? Yes, we all ran the machines, emptied spools of thread and dropped pins in the carpet at a breakneck speed! But Dad was so proud of us.