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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Oh, the Smell!

By Marcy Belson

Do you remember Mum deodorant? It came in a small white jar and it was white and creamy. You stuck your index finger into it and applied it under each arm. With a little luck, it would dissolve before you dressed in a dark color with white "stuff" on more of your blouse than your underarm.

Within a few hours, the deodorant no longer worked, especially if you lived in a warm climate such as the desert. Now you had a stain of deodorant and perspiration. After washing and ironing, sometimes the stain was still there.

Later, I discovered a small pad to purchase and if you were wearing a top with sleeves, you could insert the pad and hopefully, the stain would be on the pad and not your good clothing.

Later, when the new fabrics were introduced such as nylon and Dacron, polyester and others, the problem intensified. The fabrics didn't "breathe" and the smell of perspiration was impossible to remove.

I remember ironing shirts for myself and my husband, in the early 1960s, when I would hold my breath as I ironed that part of the item. Bad smell no matter what kind of deodorant you had used.

I was a happy woman when anti-perspiration was put on the market.

Ah, those polyester outfits! I had my share - most of them could stand alone, they were so stiff. They were also not fire retardant.

I had a purple pants and tunic with a white under blouse that I wore to work. Those were also the days of smoking women and we were allowed to smoke at our desks if the client was also smoking.

Marcy Belson

So, there I sat with my purple polyester outfit, suede boots and bouffant hairdo, cigarette in hand, deep in discussion with another woman. Suddenly the curl of smoke reached my nose and it was the smell of burning polyester!

It was me. I had lost the tip of my cigarette, between the tunic and blouse and a small hole in the tunic was quickly becoming a plate-sized hole.

I ran to the water fountain at the rear of our office to put out the fire, someone else took care of the client and I drove home to trash my outfit and change into another polyester outfit. It didn't stop me from smoking, unfortunately. Not at that time.

I guess the good news was that polyester clothes could travel and be worn better than cotton. It usually didn't need much ironing, no starching and life was easier for most of us.

My children wore little polyester uniforms. They each had two identical outfits for school and I washed the dirty ones every night, put them on hangers and it was a done deal. Not like the cotton gingham dresses with a bow tie that had to be ironed every night.

Truth told, the cotton dresses were much cuter but cute didn't cut it when you had worked all day, fixed dinner and had to wash and starch uniforms at night.

This was also the era of that infamous blue leisure suit of Gordon's that he took to Mexico City and wore to dinner at St. Angelo Inn. The night he ate his dinner wearing the waiter's tie and coat.

My friend, Carole, had a full-length, polyester skirt and blouse, her "good" outfit. Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, came to our city for a fund raiser event. Carole had horses and she had helped deliver a colt prior to the event.

She came into the room and quickly showed me that she was still wearing her cowboy boots under the long skirt. It was a very warm evening and as she approached the governor to shake hands and greet him, it all came together and she fainted and slid to the floor.

Poor Carole, I think the polyester outfit did her in. It probably didn't help. Those were also the days that we wore a girdle, hosiery and a full slip. What were we thinking?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Funny, funny. Nicely told. People today don't think about how fabrics have changed and made our lives more convenient.


Dropping hot ashes from a cigarette while driving didn't break my smoking habit.

I agree--what WERE we thinking?!

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