By Ilien Coffey – Vernon, B.C.
In the early 1930s the Ladies Aid group in our district used many ingenious methods to help raise a few cents to help with the Christmas party held at our one-room school.
One year their secretary wrote to the T. Eaton Company and asked if they had any remnants of material that they would donate to be made into items to sell at their fall bazaar.
The company was most generous, sending a large bundle of cotton, flannelette, rayon as well as thread and a variety of bias tape and ribbon.
The ladies set to work making aprons, blouses, skirts, and children’s dresses. These items would be sold at a nominal fee as money was hard to come by.
Our mother had passed away suddenly when I was nine and my sister was 11. Dad hired a lady named Agnes to take care of the housework and look after us girls for a few weeks.
One day Agnes gave us some chores to do and said she’d be going out for a short while. When she came home she had a parcel under her arm, said nothing, and walked upstairs to her bedroom.
She knew it was against the rules
Later that day, I went upstairs and as I walked past her door I saw a lovely red print dress lying across her bed.
It looked about my size and although I knew it was against the rules, I went into her room, picked up the dress, and put it on. I assumed it must be for me so I walked downstairs to show how perfectly it fit me.
Agnes glared at me and said, “Well, now you’ve spoiled my surprise. It was to be a birthday present for you.”
I burst into tears and went to rush upstairs and take the dress off. Agnes stopped me and said, “Leave the dress on and sit on that chair until your dad comes home and then tell him what you’ve done.”
After what seemed like hours dad arrived and between sobs, I confessed what I had done. He looked at me for a long while and then said, “Well you better go and get the razor strap.”
Corporal punishment was allowed in those days. The strap was hung on a nail under the mirror in the kitchen.
In order to reach the strap I had to get up on a chair, lift the mirror, set it on the floor, get back up on the chair and reach the razor strap.
With trembling knees and tears streaming down my face I took the strap to dad, closed my eyes, held out my hands waiting for the punishment. Nothing happened.
Finally dad said, “I think you’ve learned your lesson. Now you better go and hang up this strap up again.”
Even though Agnes gave me the dress on my birthday, I never did enjoy wearing it.