Up on the farm in those long-ago days of the Great Depression and World War II, we kids up on Tucker Ridge seldom had store-bought clothes. But it was the same for everyone, so we never thought of ourselves as “poor.” And indeed, in the things that are really important, we weren’t.

We lived on self-sufficient, generational farms. The cook-room (kitchen) table was set three times a day with full, nutritious, homecooked, homegrown “organic” foods. There was always a year’s supply of foods on hand in the gardens, in the cellar, in the barn, the hen house, the orchards, the forest and lakes. We were never hungry.

The farmhouse, built in 1846 by my great-grandfather Samuel, was kept warm in winter by “free” wood from our own forest. We were never cold.

Our clothes were simple and mostly hand-sewn or knit.

My “flowered flour sack” clothes. Photo courtesy of Marion Tucker-Honeycutt

Long about now, Grammie Mable would be pulling out my winter stockings and union suits that kept us warm come winter. The long brown stockings were put on over the union suit legs. Union Suits, also called “long johns” were the one-piece cotton “suit” that went from head to toe with long arms and legs and a “trap door.” It wasn’t easy pulling those long brown stockings up over the long john legs without bunching.

Then we had our hand-knit wool socks to pull up about mid-calf over the long john and stocking legs. (We girls, back then, did not wear pants — and “jeans” were unheard of — to school. I did have a heavy wool snowsuit for the coldest weather. You don’t see those for kids anymore. Mine was dark maroon and it consisted of a jacket with a trim of embroidered flowers on the collar, a pair of pants roomy enough to go over all those other leg coverings and a matching hat. It was one of the few store-bought pieces of clothing I had when living on the farm.

“Housewives” and girls’ dresses were mostly made from flowered flour sacks. And they had matching “over aprons” to wear over their “housedresses.” I can remember Grammie, if company came, whipping off her apron, which usually showed evidence of a coming meal, to greet her visitors in a clean dress.

Back then, flour and sugar came in finely woven, top-quality white cotton, in 10- to 20- pound (or more) bags. Most everyone back then, certainly on the farms, baked their own breads, cookies, cakes, pies, and such. Grammie’s buttermilk biscuits were legend. And Saturday mornings were donuts, her pies and hot gingerbread with whipped cream still dance in my head.

The flour factory folks learned that housewives, in the Depression years, were using the flour sacks to make clothing and other household things, like curtains, dish clothes and pillowcases. The company names, etc., were printed in blue ink that washed out. So they started printing their cottons with attractive patterns of flowers.

Grammie would make my dresses, blouses and skirts with these and trim them in matching baby rick-rack. I still have one of the whole sacks printed with my favorite wildflower when on the farm: yellow-eyed blue grass.

All of us girls in the township dressed the same so it was just normal for us. I did, one time, have a real princess-type dress. It was lovely sky blue and looked like it was made out of clouds, a real Cinderella dress. My stepmother had come to the farm to visit and took me off to Lincoln for a “dress-dress.”

While there, without a by-your-leave to Grammie, took me to a beauty salon and had my long hair cut very short — about 2 inches all around and then, adding insult to injury, had it permed in tight ringlets.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt’s haircut. Photo courtesy of Marion Tucker-Honeycutt

I cried all the way home with her telling me to stop being such an ungrateful little sissy. (She was the quintessential “wicked stepmother.”) I was crying for two reasons. I hated it and I knew Grammie was going to explode. And boy, did she. That woman got the dressing down of her life. That made me feel a bit better, in part due to the relief that Grammie wasn’t upset with me. And I did have that lovely fluff of a dress.

That Sunday was our turn to go to Aunt Ethel and Uncle Ernest’s farm out in Lee for Sunday dinner. So I wanted to wear my new dress. Grammie said that might not be a good idea, that I should maybe save it for a fancier occasion.

I got my way and wore the blue dress, and Grammie let me wear my one pair of dress shoes, black patent leather, to the family dinner. After dinner, which we called the noon meal then, we kids would be off outside to play. My favorite cousin was Wayne and I would mostly tag along after him in our play.

I found running through the fields to get to the brook was hampered by trying to keep my pretty dress from getting snagged or dirty. Then later, when we went back to play in the barn, climbing the ladder to the loft wasn’t near as easy in the dress as in my regular play clothes. And as for jumping off the loft into a pile of hay, one of our favorites, jumping, for me, was out of the question. And I had already scuffed my patent leather shoes.

Thereafter, my pretty fairy dress hung in the closet. Lesson learned.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now living in Morrill. Her column appears in this paper every other week.