-Art's Art-
Recollections of a Small Town Boy


    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 kettles. 

    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 sensitive spot.

   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.

Art Darwin
22 January 2006 

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