Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ladies in the WPA


How do I love reading Annual Town Reports?  Let me count the ways.

We may be familiar with heavy construction projects which were the fruit of the WPA during the 1930s.  The 1937 Report for the Town of Greenfield, MA lists 20 projects, including "Sewing for the Needy."

It states that this project furnished employment for up to 64 women over 50,000 hours and $23,000 in wages during the year.  Statistics were tallied and resulted in 17,751 distinct articles being made from 49,000 yards of material. 

They made:
Boys' pajamas           609
Boys' pants                257
Boys shirts             2,333
Boys shorts               254
Children's sleepers   516
Girls' bloomers           72
Girl's dresses            647
Girls' pajamas          535
Girls' slips                 156
Infants' diapers      1,159
Infants' dresses          48
Infants' nightgowns  48
Infants' slips               96
Ladies' bloomers     240
Ladies' dresses         956
Ladies' nightgowns 382
Ladies' pajamas      340
Ladies' slips               39
Men's pajamas        375
Men's shirts         4,960
Men's shorts           528
Towels                   1,774
Pillow Cases           894
Sheets                      515

The Town Accountant's Report lists $216 expended in materials.  All of these items were given to needy families in Franklin County, mainly Greenfield residents.  Quite an achievement!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Midnight Mass


My father wasn't a church-goer.  He would drop us off at St. Mary's church on Sunday mornings, and we would often walk down to Holland Farms for a doughnut afterwards, and meet him there.  I moved on to riding my bike to church, some weeks, and later we enjoyed attending Mass at Hamilton College, where the atmosphere was casual.

When I was in high school, my mother worked two nights a week at the Lutheran Home, a residential care facility.  She didn't drive, and one of us had to drop her off, but that is another story.  She would volunteer to work the 11-7 shift on Christmas Eve to allow the other nurses with younger children to be at home.  Around that time we started to enjoy Midnight Mass at Christmas and Dad participated.  Was it because I didn't have my license yet?   

You might think that with students on the holiday break there would not be a Mass at the college.  For some reason, Christmas remained on the schedule and there always seemed to be a good crowd. There would be candles, and someone played the organ.  I remember one year that we got a significant snowfall during the time we were inside.  It was magical to come out to the sparkling darkness with carols in our ears.

After the first year, I am pretty sure that it was the promise of breakfast with the Burns family in Franklin Springs that kept him coming, but it was a special time of togetherness for me.

(I'd like to credit the photo, but clicking it took me to an unsavory web site, so I'll just leave it at a google image search)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The First Ornament

My Christmas tree is covered with memories.  Some of the ornaments came from my childhood, some from my first Christmas in my own apartment, some gifts, and now some given to my children for their own trees someday. 

There is a singular golden ball that comes with a story of its own. My mother says that someone (who?) came to visit her grandparents' home when her father was young.  It was Christmastime and they had no tree.  The guest insisted on giving them a gift of the ball.  Were there more?  How did their celebrations change after this gift?  When I visited my grandmother in the same house as a child, Christmas happened in the front parlor, with a wall sized mirror, the piano and a well decorated tree.