Friday, October 12, 2012

Hankie or no hankie

While in my closet the other day, I came upon a small box that made me smile.  I knew exactly what was in the box though I had not opened it in several years.  The memories go back to the 1950's.

When I was growing up, it was traditional to be recognized on your birthday not only by family members, but friends of my parents.  Pretty typical was a card with an enclosed handkerchief.  Sometimes just a handkerchief without a card.  I do not know when or why this started, but I do remember elderly ladies (about my age now) would always carry a handkerchief when in public.  Perhaps to stifle a sniffle, catch an unexpected tear, or just to be holding onto something.

I remember my mother-in-law would always have a handkerchief in her hand when she was expecting visitors.  My grandmother would spend a lot of time crocheting edging onto a linen handkerchief for gifts.  I feel fortunate I still have several of those.

So it was no surprise when I opened this box and found 35 memories from my childhood.  In "those" days, Kleenex had not been invented yet.  If they had, they certainly didn't make it to small town Iowa.  I honestly do not know where I would even go today to find a store that carried ladies handkerchiefs.  Of course, it is very easy to find men's handkerchiefs.  It also is pretty typical for a man to carry a cloth handkerchief in his back pocket.  So what happened to the ladies?

I remember being in Brussels, Belgium, many years ago, on a search for Belgium lace on beautiful handkerchiefs.  I bought three at the time.  One for me and one for each of my daughters.  I remember the first daughter that got married carried this handkerchief on her wedding day.  It was so hot for this outside wedding, she handed it to the minister to wipe his brow and it was gone forever.  I do not know if my other daughter still has hers, but I do know that mine also disappeared somewhere.  sigh....

The females I know stuff their pockets with those disgusting tissues that always seem to be forgotten in pockets and go through the laundry and end up making a mess in the dryer.  I think I would actually enjoy getting out my iron and giving these beautiful little memories a quick press after going through the washing machine.  Now the decision.  Should I start carrying these little treasures or just stay with the Kleenex?  What would you do or what do you use for those unexpected tears?

And yes, I honestly do believe that all 35 of these handkerchiefs have never been washed or used.  They have permanent creases which  60 years can do to anyone.


  1. that is a nice memory to come across. I have several, too, that belonged to my mom and my grandmother. My niece is going to use one in her upcoming wedding. My grandmother tatted edgings to go around her hankie.

  2. Lovely memories, Susan - I also have some prettily embroidered and laced handkerchiefs from quite some years ago.

  3. As a little girl growing up in the south, we always had a real handkerchief tucked in our sweater sleeve or, on Sundays, in our Bible. We did have Kleenex but my sisters and I thought they were for making "carnations" for a long time. And, they did come in yellow, pink and blue as well as white in the mid-60s. I have a stash of hankies and white gloves!!


  4. Anonymous3:01 PM

    Susan, what a lovely memory. In July when I was visiting my cousins in Iowa, a female cousin who was left with a lot of my grandmother's tatted and crotched creations, asked us to select whatever we wanted. I selected only one thing--a tatted handkerchief that my grandmother created, probably long before I was born. I chose that to be a book mark to be placed in her family Bible.

    One of my special memories was seeing her sitting in the 'second' living room of our huge farm house when I was a child--creating lots of wonderful hand-made items. She and my grandfather lived with us for a few years during my childhood. It is sad that we, as children, had no idea how precious those creations were.

    Thanks for bringing back some special memories.


  5. This reminds me, a few years ago, my elderly aunt gave me fancy hankies that belonged to my grandmother. I'm trying to think about some way to use them...part of a blanket maybe...will see.

  6. I had the twin to the white one with the valentines. How fun to find these. Even to this day I remember how soft there were from so many washings.

  7. Such a sweet post Susan, especially for us oldy-moldies who can remember those days. My grandmother would keep a hankie in "her bosom". I didn't think it wasn't really fair - I had to keep mine in my sleeve because I didn't have "a bosom". Still don't have too much of one so I'd probably still have to use my sleeve....... but it would be fun to carry one, just for old times sake! :)

  8. thickethouse5:44 PM

    I have lots of hankies -my own, my mother's, my grandmothers. One daughter, Alice who is named after my grandmother also has lots of her initial A handkerchiefs.

    And we gave them to our teachers as gifts. They must have had thousands!

  9. Oh, what treasures!! Definitely use them...they are beautiful!

  10. I have just such a collection but never seem to take one out for use, except when I am carrying a special evening bag or purse. Then it just seems right to tuck a pretty hankie inside.

  11. Susan,

    What a lovely post. I have no idea what happened to mine but I clearly remember a fresh one tucked in a purse for church. Maybe I shall have find a handkerchief box and start collecting a few!

    Be back in two weeks and cannot wait.


  12. Oh my goodness what a wonderful reminder. I came across a drawer full of hankies when we were moving. Some of them were mine and some were my mother's. My plan is to make a hanky quilt. I've seen them done up and they're beautiful and what a wonderful way to display your memories. Check out this web site - I have this book and it's full of great ideas.
    Some day soon, I hope, I'll get to this project.

  13. I also have a small collection of hankies from my nana, mom, mom-in-law, aunt-in-law! I just love them! I'm also going to ck out that site that Lena recommended!

    Have a great day & stop by for some apple cake when you have a moment!

  14. What a fun box of memories!!! My mom always has a handkerchief with her, but never really uses it. She has asked for more, and like you I have had difficulty finding any, but every once in a while when I'm not looking I will find something for her.