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Vermilion Historical Society
Up 1. Gypsies & Turtles 2. Houseflies & Mosquitoes 3. The Economy 4. Elementary School 5. Sleepovers 6. Sackcloth, No Ashes 7. Teachers 8. Mardi Gras & Horses 9. Bootleggers & Moonshine 10. Band of Families 11. Swimming 12. The Boxing Experience 13. Friends I 14. Friends II 15. Friends III 16. Friends IV 17. Depression Softeners  
A Cajun Boyhood

By C. Paul Bergeron

Part 6: Sackcloth, No Ashes


Almost every household had a sewing machine. Ready-made store-bought clothes were available but were usually more expensive than making them at home, especially when the material to make the garments at home was free.

Early on in the Great Depression, someone in the textile industry (or in the feed and flour industry) had an inspiration—to use dress material for feed and flour sacks instead of the customary jute or plain white, logo printed bags. The colorful cotton sacks with beautiful designs were an immediate hit with the population. There were several designs involved, so the purchase of flour and feed was left to the housewife, who selected the products according to the designs on the bags. Soon the material was being used for dresses and underwear for women and school girls and shirts and underwear for men and school boys.

One day after school, the school buses were blowing their horns to hurry the students to embark. One girl started to run and the elastic that was holding up her sack cloth bloomers snapped and the bloomers fell down around her ankles. She calmly stepped out of them, picked them up and quickly hid them among her books, but not before everyone there saw the design. And guess what. The design matched the design of my shirt exactly. And a big kid noticed that and called everybody's attention to the fact. I took it like a man. What the big kid and the others did not know was that my sister also had bloomers with that design. My shirt had been made with some left over material.

Another merchandising gimmick was to put prizes in the form of glassware or china hidden in the packages of some of the products we bought. So we might have accumulated five or six glasses of a certain design, and lo and behold, when we visited someone a few miles away, they served us vinegar lemonade in the very same type of glasses. Store bought jelly and preserves always came in containers that were later used as water glasses.

The Frank Theater had a dish give-away that would pack the theater once a week. I don't recall just how it was run, but I remember there were sets of beautiful dishes on display.

Next: Part 7:  Teachers


A Cajun Boyhood, by
C. Paul Bergeron
© 2007 by C. Paul Bergeron