Recollections of a Small Town
OSH KOSH B’GOSH
That was the catchy top line of a mural which
took up an entire brick wall on the corner of South Congress and East Liberty
streets in York, South Carolina. The site was ideal for McConnell’s Department
Store doing business on that select corner, the main crossing in the business
district. Pedestrians and motorist and folks traveling by buggy could see
little else in approaching banks and hardware stores, farm supply enterprises,
furniture and coffin makers.
The advertising message went on: THE WORLD’S MOST
FAMOUS OVERALLS. The claim might have been debatable but that was before
consumers challenged truth in advertising. And Madison Avenue was but a
street named for the fourth president of the United States, short of stature
and shy of publicity.
At any rate the wall was there every day for all
school kids to savor on the way home right through the business block.
We all ogled wonderful toys in the shop windows, shiny wonders we could
not ever dream of actually owning. I do have a pair of overalls but not
from Oshkosh, WI, as far as I know. And I came by them late in life, the
second pair I ever owned.
Late is what I do best, I think. Born and half-reared
on a farm, I never wore overalls. My father managed the farm and wore chambray
shirts--buttoned to the collar--and pants of some fabric called moleskin.
A Stetson was his ever present hat, never one of straw. I envied the farm
hands in their ragged overalls and frayed straw hats. Their overalls looked
so comfortable, worn soft as satin by the many boilings in outdoor wash
My very first overalls came as an unexpected gift
from a friend. They were washed out by much wear, so comfortable and roomy.
I lost them in a fit of generosity as a prop in a high school play. I do
hope the fellow who purloined them ripped them on a huge nail and in a
The current overalls I enjoy came as another gift years
later. A young friend heard me speak fondly of my loss and inveigled his
parents to present me with a Christmas present to heal my hurt. What a
wonderful lad, a true minister.
I wear the overalls as I write. They have not
benefited from one thousand washings, but are all things which made them
the perfect dress for working folk over many decades. Here there is a place
for every tool, a pouch to carry a liver mush sandwich or a half pint of
liquid corn. The one improvement over the original ingenious design is
a front fly and a zipper. Previous models required the wearer to drop the
entire garment just to take a leak, not a pleasant event during cold spells
in an outdoor privy.
On second thought, that zipper could be a scheme by
management types to limit rest room breaks.
22 January 2006
Back to Art's Art
Return to Home Page