Column: Nose for news and all other noses once were pressed into these

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Jan. 10, 2004.

WORTHINGTON - No, I did not.

If you read this column last week, if you remember it started with the same words - no, I did not - maybe you guess I am doing the same thing all over again.

Last week we were recalling hair oil. Did I receive hair oil for Christmas? No, I did not.

I thought I might be able to sidestep a second question, but it seems this is not possible. Almost immediately I was asked that inevitable, related query: Did you get a handkerchief for Christmas?


No, I did not. But often and often and often in Christmas seasons gone by I did receive handkerchiefs. Last week, we talked about drawing a boy’s name for a Christmas gift exchange. If you did not buy the boy a dime bottle of hair oil, you bought him a handkerchief. If you drew a girl’s name, there was no question: buy her a handkerchief.

Where would you find handkerchiefs?

Well, at Worthington you would find them at Montgomery Ward or J.C. Penney, or at the department stores, at Wolff ’s or Habicht’s. Harry Sowles stocked them at Silverberg’s. You would find handkerchiefs at the men’s stores, at Leuthold’s or Greene’s or, later, Tom Flynn would have them at the Clothes Horse. Barney Bishop would have them.

Or you would find them at the women’s ready-to-wear stores, at Harper’s or Lander’s or Whipkey’s. Go to Harper’s - say you want to buy a wonderful gift for your mother - Aileen Watson would lay out a special handkerchief on a glass countertop to show you the fancy border, the lovely design, the unusual, soft cloth.

But then, you also could find handkerchiefs at Davidson’s variety store. Roger Rohrer would have them at Ben Franklin’s. Woolworth’s would have them.

There were handkerchiefs everywhere. Everywhere. They came singly, they came in packs, they came in gift boxes. You could get them with monograms. You could get them for a dime, you could get them for a dollar.

Handkerchiefs are still around, of course, but they are not a part of the American scene as they once were. Handkerchiefs were GI - Government Issue. Through all the wars of the first half of the 20th century, every young soldier got handkerchiefs, along with socks and caps and fatigue jackets, as part of the basic uniform. Gen. Pershing had a handkerchief in his pocket all through World War I, and Gen. Eisenhower had a handkerchief all through World War II.

How do I know this? Well, everyone had handkerchiefs. Besides, soldiers were required to carry them. Lieutenants would check on this at inspections: “You got your handkerchief, soldier?”


We were used to that question. In first grade, Miss Gregg, the school nurse, would move down the rows to check each young student. “Take your handkerchief out and show me you have one.”

At one turn - maybe kindergarten - we wore handkerchiefs pinned to our shirts with safety pins. That was not a great place to carry a handkerchief, but that was not as unusual as it might seem. Women commonly went about with fine and fancy handkerchiefs pinned to a blouse or dress with a broach. As an alternative, they sometimes displayed beautiful handkerchiefs on the sides of their purses, held in place by the straps.

Women were at a disadvantage; they often did not have pockets. Women might press handkerchiefs into the cuffs of their sleeves or under their necklines, just to have a place to put them.

Men - well, men were often careless. You commonly saw men’s handkerchiefs hanging from the back pocket of an overall, or from the bib pocket. Boys might have a handkerchief hanging halfway out the pocket of their trousers or their knickers. And, of course, depending on their work or their chore, men might tie a bandana handkerchief around their necks or around their brows.

Handkerchiefs were part of life. They were often presented as gifts.

People commonly tucked gift handkerchiefs inside birthday cards. In the Christmas season, which we were talking about at the outset, all the kids would bring pennies one day, or maybe each would bring a nickel.

The girl appointed would go with her mother to one of the stores - to buy the teacher a beautiful handkerchief.

What To Read Next
Virtual author talks offered every Tuesday in February.
Welcome Corps is geared to fast-track refugees, many of whom have waited years to be resettled. The goal is to welcome 5,000 refugees to the U.S. this year, the first to arrive as early as April.
Professional researcher Debbie Boe will give an introduction to family history research for new genealogists.
Parga and fellow SWIF staff will lead the foundation’s Grow Our Own framework, focused on helping southwest Minnesota kids and families reach their full potential from cradle to career.