Ordinary People's History
My Grandma grew up somewhere in rural Kansas, I'm not sure of the details exactly, although I have the impression they moved to the town where my dad was born after she developed complications when pregnant with his older sister, so that she could be closer to a doctor when she had my dad.
Grandma recently moved from one seniors' residence to another, and as they were packing stuff up to move her, my aunt came upon a rare treasure. I don't think it would have ever been intended to be anything special at the time it was made. Living where she did in the 1930s, Grandma and her friends and sisters didn't have a lot of access to shopping, so if they wanted anything nice they had to order it from a catalogue. To make sure they got everything they ordered, and nothing that they didn't, Grandma would cut out the pictures from the catalogue and glue them into a notebook. She kept notes of what they paid and what they bought them for.
My aunt found the notebook, and scanned it and made copies for all the grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters. At first it was mainly a curiosity to me; I liked the styles a lot and the prices just seemed quaint. If I could walk in them, I would need these shoes desperately:
It seems the 1930s were the decade of all things my style, especially the hats. I want hats to come back.
And then I started reading through the album more closely, and there started to be stories:
H.C. would be my Grandma. Would O.C. be one of the great-aunts I never met? Besides her good taste in hats, what was she like?
And then there was a recurring theme of Ora (O.C.?) and Erna, where it looks like every time Ora gets something, Erna gets the same thing.
Were they friends who got everything the same so they could be more like sisters? Or did Erna drive Ora nuts with all her copycatting? Could Erna have been another great-aunt who got married and that's why she had a different last name?
As a co-worker commented when I showed him the notebook, the prices look low to us now, but for the time, these would have been fairly expensive items. Especially for people in rural Kansas. Here these women are, buying shoes and dresses for banquets and parties. Was this defiance of the circumstances? Maybe if you go far back enough I come from money and don't realize it, because the money blew away with the topsoil? And what of the changes sweeping the rest of the planet - is that something they thought about or was the Depression enough to worry about?
One day I'm going to run up my long-distance bill and find this stuff out.