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Mail-order school clothes

Much like the thrill us kids got from drinking an ice-cold Coca Cola, Pepsi or Nehi Orange at the general merchandise store was the thrill that accompanied the arrival of the big mailorder package we received from Sears & Roebuck around mid-August each year. 

The package filled a good-size portion of the back seat of our rural mail carrier’s car and required two of us boys to lug it inside the house. 

It contained the clothing I and three of my four younger brothers would need to get through the forthcoming school year: two shirts, two pairs of blue jeans, two pairs of socks and a pair of shoes and a jacket each.  

My older sister and a younger one each had a pair of shoes, socks and sewing accessories needed to make their dresses and undergarments from mostly chicken feed and flour sacks.  

My brothers and I didn’t require much covering during the summer months. We went barebacked and shoeless working in the fields. Our only activity requiring shirts and shoes was blackberry picking.  

We preferred going to school barefooted until cold weather; therefore, we had leftovers and hand-me-downs to supplement new school year apparel. 

A detailed fitting exercise preceded the mail order to Sears & Roebuck.  

Our mother measured each of us for correct shirt and jean sizes. Shoe sizing was more demanding since our feet had a tendency to grow wider because of going bare-footed since the previous spring. Each foot size was plotted by pencil marking on a sheet of paper provided by Sears. The method proved to be accurate, since we rarely had to send back and swap a pair of shoes for a different size.  

The common shoe style for males in that era was leather hightops with thick rubber soles. They worked well in a rural environment where the shoe was exposed to extreme working conditions.  

Athletic shoes were rarely seen away from basketball or tennis courts.   

Boys’ shoes were hightop in brown or black. Girls wore hightop whites, covered with white shoe polish after each wearing.