The worst punishment I ever received

Growing up in the 1950’s was a different experience than growing up now or when I was raising my girls. We had more freedom to roam our town on foot or on bicycles. My mom did not work, my father was the sole bread winner. On my block most of the families were similar. Our dads had fought in the war, our mothers were stay at home moms and corporal punishment was doled out on a regular basis.


This is a picture of our family when we were applying to house an exchange student. We were pretty dressed up and formal. Film and developing were expensive, we did not have frivolous pictures until I got my own camera.

My father had been raised in a chaotic house and he tried to improve. He loved  us but he also had a temper. I remember one time when I was warned not to give my 4 or 5 year old little sister a piggy back ride.

I promised not to with the sincerity of a 10 year old.  She begged me for one so I complied and galloped around the rec room. Naturally, she fell off and cracked her head on the corner of the piano.

Blood, screaming and crying ensued and my dad ran down. He picked up my bleeding sister, yelled at me and gave me a swift, explosive kick on my butt. I flew across the room. Good times. culottes

But this was not such a bad or unusual punishment. I was used to my dad yelling and hitting. The worst punishment I ever received was when my Mom made me leave a fabric store with her because of back talk.

culottes twoMy Mom and I had a deal, I would sew for her and she would buy fabric for me for my clothes. We did not get allowance and babysitting only paid 50 cents an hour.

My Mom had worn dresses and skirts all during my childhood. In the late 1960’s, culottes became popular. My Mom adored them and as soon as I could sew, I would make them for her.

Each pair of culottes I made for her equaled two complete sets of fabric, pattern, thread etc. for outfits for me. I had to finish hers first, which I did. culottes plus socks I also sewed outfits for my little sister and again, negotiations took place.

My mom would wear home made culottes with kneesocks and orthopedic shoes every day. No photographic proof exists of her so dressed. Darn it!

culottes knee socks

I did a google search on culottes with knee socks and orthopedic shoes, 1970 and the results were not exactly my Mom. Her culottes were below her knee, she was a modest woman.

We used to walk everywhere in those days. My sister claims everyone from our home town remembers us, the family that walked to the mall with the woman wearing culottes, orthopedic shoes and knee socks.orthopedic shoes

Her shoes were distinctive but comfortable. She had bad feet and there were no Alegria funky comfort shoes in those days.


Her knee socks were utilitarian and all in dark colors. Now that I think of it, her culottes were also dark. I wish she were still alive so we could laugh about them.

I loved her outfits as I got my clothes this way. One particular day in the summer, I asked my Mom if we could go to Fabric World and she complied. She even drove there!

On the way over, I realized I was out of bargaining chips. My sister and mom didn’t seem to need anything sewn. I started to panic as I only had about 5.00 in babysitting money.

I realized I hadn’t specified to my mom that I wanted to go there for HER to buy me fabric. I was distraught and annoyed in that very special way that teen age girls can be.

We pulled in the lot and my mom said something about looking at fabric as we entered the store. I retorted snottily, “What’s the point? It’s not like you’re going to buy me anything, you’re too cheap.”

My Mom turned around and walked out of the store. I had to follow her. When we got in the car she told me in a very quiet voice that I had embarrassed her in public. She asserted that she was indeed going to buy me fabric for back to school clothes but not now.mary quant

This was the worst punishment I ever received because I had caused it myself. No one yelled, hit me or over reacted. I learned that running your mouth off was not a good way to get favors.

home madeI was very distraught and cried. I begged for another chance but my Mother just drove us home. I vowed never again to bite the hand that was feeding me and hoped for a break.

Luckily, a pair of my mom’s culottes ripped and she needed new ones. Phew, back to school clothes fabric was restored. Plus Mary Quant patterns, swoon!

And this time, I didn’t say anything but please and thank you.

And the outfits I made were fabulous.

Sew happy!

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I think you might also enjoy a post from 2013.  I wrote about how sewing saved my life. Check it out. 

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