Saturday, March 15, 2014

The old cedar chest

As I wiped the dust off this old cedar chest this morning, I thought about my Mother. When mama got her first job in Asheboro, NC and moved away from home, this cedar chest was her first major purchase. I believe she told me once that she made monthly payments of $4.00 until it was hers.


Mama was born in 1917, so it was probably 1935 or so when she left home??  She was telling me once about the hard times back then and how lucky she was to get that first job in a hosiery mill.  Mama said she waited in a long line of hopeful people who were turned down for jobs. Then for some unknown reason the man doing the interviewing took a liking to her. He was very pleasant, smiled, asked her a few questions, and offered her a job.

This was a very young mama standing beside one of daddy's brother... 



And this is a very young daddy, looking proud of his boat. I wonder if daddy build this boat. It looks homemade...



So, going back to mama, her first job, and the cedar chest.  Mama said she found a room in a boarding house. Funny how it was so important back then to own a cedar chest. Young, single women spent their spare time sewing, embroidering, and quilting, making things for their hope chest. This tradition of filling a hope chest ended around the 1950's.

It was while living in the boarding house that my Mother met my Daddy. He worked in the same town, in a mill too. Mama said she and a friend used to sit on the grassy lawn of the boarding house. They would have iced tea and ginger snaps. This tall, most handsome young man (who would be my daddy) walked past the boarding house on his way home. That's how it all began.   

Even today, I cannot resist buying old embroidered dresser scarfs and pillow cases. These are a few of the pieces stored in mama's old chest...




The lace was actually crocheted onto these dresser scarfs, not sewn on. I remember that my Aunt Vastie, when I was just a girl, kept an embroidered dresser scarf on a table in the sitting room and all the important mail was stuck under the scarf. It used to bother me...I didn't like the way it looked. 



Mama always enjoyed embroidering.  I remember back when she was still living alone, I had gone down for the weekend. She said. let's ride to Vass, (a little town near by), I've found a dime store where they sell the prettiest pieces to embroider....dresser scarfs, aprons, bibs, and pillow cases.  We both bought some things. Mama finished her pillow cases in no time and look how beautifully her's turned out...



I started working on the pillow cases I bought, with little birds, but never finished. That's when mama took over for me...





I now cherish these pillowcases. The years go by so fast! For me, I would go back to the early 1950's in a heartbeat!! :)

Another little funny...At my Aunt Berlie's there was a stand of pine trees. The story goes, one day Aunt Berlie's daughter asked how many of those pine trees would it take to make her a cedar chest. Aunt Berlie said, well you could cut them all down but you still couldn't make a "cedar" chest! :)

Thank you if you have managed to stay this long.  I can tell you the house work is not getting done with me sitting here enjoying myself. 

Love,
Henny Penny

18 comments:

  1. What pretty handmade treasures you have kept in the old cedar chest! I remember in eighth grade we were given small replicas of Lane cedar chests as graduation presents. Perhaps from the local furniture or department store in Phoenix. The things that were stored in the real chests always had a significant fragrance. I liked the cedar smell, but lots of the time, my Aunt Hazelle's linens also smelled of moth balls. Not so nice. I have a few of the tea towels and hand towels my grandmother embroidered. I never met her but the delicate stitches sort of speak to me. I did a crewel flower that we framed years ago, and it is on a wall in my hallway. Once in a while I will see it and wonder how I ever did it!

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    1. I love the way things smell that have been stored in the cedar chest too. Oh and I know what you mean about looking at the crewel work. Back in the 80's I got in to cross stitch. I did 3 or 4 pieces. Now I have totally forgotten how to cross stitch! I wish I could remember. I could never do crewel work!

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  2. Such beautiful embroidery. My mom has a cedar chest, too. I think it was a gift when she graduated from high school but now I'll have to ask her again. She still has it in her bedroom. I love the smell of the things store in there. To me it is the smell of old treasures!

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    1. Thank you. It does have that smell of old treasures.

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  3. Oh I love your cedar chest. I have always wanted a cedar chest. I love the embroidery. Most of all I love the story about grandma. I never knew that she meet paw paw in Asheboro. Love your blog and learning so much about my daddy's family.

    Love you Vicki

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    1. Hey Vicki! Mama really could embroider pretty. She had so much patience with everything! I feel lucky to have gotten the cedar chest. Love you too!

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  4. What lovely pieces of embroidery! I also collect old linens, and the dressers scarfs were a pain to starch..we used to change ours about every two or three months. I always wanted to learn how to crochet those lacy edges that is a real art! Thanks for a peek into the beautiful chest! I have not had a cedar chest..until this year, a friend from Oklahoma built me one, I have quilts stored in it!:)

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    1. I'm glad you got the cedar chest. That's a perfect place for quilts, it makes them smell so good. I have a few old quilts in the bottom of my cedar chest.

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  5. I was born in the mid 50's, and as a teenager I used to put some things away in an old trunk, for when I had my own place. I did go through an embroidery and crocheted doily phase:)
    Now I always check out the old linens when I'm in a thrift store, and purchase the odd one or three:)

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    1. I remember making dresser scarfs and pillow cases and putting them away. My husband and I stopped at a yard sale once and the man having the sale sold me a box of old linens for $2.00. These had gotten rained on. It was fun going through the box.

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  6. Cedar chests were just going out as I was coming of age. But I do have my mother-in-law's old cedar chest, full of treasures from several generations.

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    1. Oh it would be fun to see all those things in that chest!

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  7. Dear Henny, I love your Mom's chest and now its yours filled with beautiful things! I love that you cherish it so much. You may not know this, but I never met my father until I had to go live with him when I was 14. The April following that I turned 15 and believe it or not, my father purchased with his much hard earned money a bedroom suite and a cedar chest! Yes! I still have it and it has a broken inside shelf from a hard move, but it means so much that Dad got that for me. That was 1972, so I think that they were rapidly disappearing then. Thanks for this sweet story! Terry

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    1. What a sweet story. That must have been hard for you at 14 years old. Sounds like he was good father to you. I'm glad you have that chest he bought you. You have mentioned your dad. Does he live near you now? Oh, I listened to that song "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night (hope I spelled all that right). Poppy liked that song in his younger days!

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  8. A beautiful cedar chest. I have one that a belonged to my grandmother. I love the pay as you go part of your mom"s story. I have a sort of pay as you go story of my own.

    In addition to the cedar chest I also have a bedroom set that belonged to my grandmother. She bought it during the depression. At that time she and my grandfather ran a small cafe in the little town where they lived. She, of course, didn't have the money to buy the bedroom set outright and I guess didn't want to buy it on credit so she had to think up some way to save the money. She decided that every night when they counted up the money they had taken in that day at the cafe she would take out the silver dollars that had come in and those would go into the piggy bank for the bedroom set. It's a nice set---mahogany bed, chest of drawers and bureau. I do wish I knew how much it cost and also how long it took her to accumulate her stash. Those details are lost in the mist of time.

    Victoria in Indiana

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    1. Oh, I love that story! It probably didn't cost that much back then and was Mahogany! Probably much better and more beautiful that what we pay a fortune for today. Imagine paying for it in silver dollars!

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  9. Dear Henny,

    Lynn looks sooo much like her grandmother. I remember seeing these very embrodery pictures on linens in my grandmother's home. Your linens are just gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing them with us. Gammy Tammy

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  10. I think everyone had some form of hope chest.

    This is beautiful chest with great memories attached.

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