Days Gone By - stories from the past

It is hard to demonstrate jumping rope in a pencil thin skirt and 2 inch heels

Do you remember these days?


WHEN TEACHERS COULDN’T WEAR PANTS

by

Dorothy Graham Gast

Two years after public school teachers in other schools were wearing dressy business pants suits to teach, our very conservative principal insisted that at our school teachers would professionally dressed. Although not in the written guidelines, we knew this meant a suit, blouse and skirt, or a conservative dress. Hints, questions, and requests were to no avail. Although we all respected him we were frustrated at what we felt were unnatural restrictions. It is very hard to demonstrate jumping rope in a pencil thin skirt and 2 inch heels.jumping rope 1950

A precious 30 minutes wasted

One chilly morning after my husband had gone to work and my children were getting ready, I saw a line of hogs going down the driveway. I couldn’t go to school with the potential traffic hazard headed to the end of the drive. I grabbed a bucket, ran to the storage building, filled it half full with the dry feed we called shorts, added water and hurried after the runaways. “Soeeey, here piggies,” caught their attention. They turned and walked, then ran toward me as I continued the call.

The fence was down about 6 feet so I stepped through, poured the mash mixture into the trough, and baked away from the rush and surveyed the damage. A post was dislodged and fallen backward. Not too hard to stretch the fence, reinsert the post and tramp the dirt around. A nearby broken tree limb propped the post and held the fence in place. It will have to do until O. J. gets home. He’ll handle it.

Oh, no, a precious 30 minutes wasted on the hogs. The kids were almost ready for school and Marilyn was herding them toward the car. I pulled on a dress over the pants I wore getting ready on cold mornings and left the youngest ones waiting for the school bus. As my 16 year old drove, I put hand lotion on my freshly scrubbed hands, combed my hair, put on make up, and hoped the swine smell had not followed me.

The dirty look/teacher stare did not embarrass him

We switched drivers at the high school and decided I could slip off the offending slacks before getting out of the car at my school. My parking place was more snug than usual when the car stopped. No standing in the shelter of the open car door to pull off the pants. I slid the seat back and began to tug at the waistband under the dress. Not enough room. I tilted to one side and tried again to pull the pants down. I glanced up into the eyes of a father staring at my movements behind the steering wheel. The dirty look/ teacher stare did not embarrass him. He seemed amused.

I opened the driver’s side door and twisted out through the narrow opening then bent over to gather, books, charts and purse. His face appeared even more interested. I’ll take the darned pants off in the teacher’s lounge as soon as I get in the building. When I was five feet from the door the principal politely opened the door for me.

I could not look anyone in the eye

My face flamed from anger at the peeping father, frustration at the morning’s troubles, and shame that I appeared to have rebelled against the well understood dress code. No time or way to make explanations now. I passed the door to the lounge and stomped down to my classroom in the forbidden garments. Nothing I might say could rescue me from this now.When teachers wore pants

The day went by with no one mentioning my dress. Teachers, student teachers, and staff made a point of coming by to speak to me to check me out. I held my head up and pretended a peace I did not feel. I could not look anyone in the eye.

Hubby thought the whole thing was funny

By the time I returned home the fence had been permanently repaired and my husband had supper under way. Hubby thought the whole thing was funny.

The next morning twelve out of the twenty teachers showed up for work in brand new pant suits. Evidently they felt I was some sort of heroine. I still walked around with the shame. After school I went into the office where the principal and secretary were finishing. Might as well face the music. Instead of indignation he looked at me with sympathy. I started to cry.

I guess it’s time

“I didn’t mean to flaunt the rules. I had on work clothes and didn’t want to be late, and couldn’t take the slacks off in the car, and the man was staring at me. And…’”

“It’s all right. I guess it is time. Ever since the student teachers started wearing skirts eight inches above the knee we needed to find a way to restore decorum. I don’t approve of pants on women, but it beats the alternative.”

“Would you like to know Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for Vinegar of the Four Thieves or how to make Ox Tail Soup? Read Vinegar of the Four Thieves by Donna R. Causey”

VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past


By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Dorothy Graham Gast

Dorothy Gast lives in Romulus, Alabama on the Graham family farm. She taught in Tuscaloosa County Schools for nearly 30 years.
She has a “Mine, yours, and Ours” family. She has volunteered in numerous organizations after her husband’s eight year struggle with Alzheimers’ ended.
She helped organize a volunteer fire department after she was 60 and served as board secretary and nationally certified firefighter after extensive training.
Her attempts to get the community reading failed, but she contributed books to the new Sipsey Valley high school from the library in her home friends helped her establish.

She is known locally by the silhouettes she cuts free hand of children. She began to write nostalgia stories after a grandson asked her to write down the stories often told at family events.

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19 comments

  1. Charles Moore

    It hasn’t been that long. In the seventies, the “pants suit” became an acceptable alternative for women.

  2. JoAnn Kyzer Doty

    Pants are better than a too short dress. Ive seen some looking like they’re going for a night on the town. Theres nothing wrong with jeans and a tshirt.

  3. Mark Lewis

    Nothing looks better than a dress.

  4. Trish Sprague

    I remember when girls couldn’t wear pants.

  5. Claudia Swift

    At Monroeville Elementary (grades 1-6) during the sixties, there was not a single teacher under the age of 40, except for two of the 6th-grade teachers. But they might as well have all been 75 or older: they dressed in sensible shirtwaist dresses that fell well below the knee; they wore sensible shoes; they wore no makeup at all; and they all wore their grey hair either in a knot on top of their head, or a short, sensible bob. We all thought that was the way a teacher was supposed to look.

  6. Betty Morris Wedgeworth

    When I was in college we could only wear pants in the dormitory after it closed at 9 pm. And just forget about wearing shorts anywhere.

  7. Patricia Camp Mullis

    Remember being sent home to Florida for wearing shorts to the skating rink in Alabama. 1947.

  8. Karron Odom Drain

    I remember in school having to wear dresses, no pants or slacks. Once they allowed them, it had to be a pant suit … basically a dress with pants under it!!

  9. Carol Gowan

    Nor could female students

  10. Deborah Suskey

    When I was in high school in Ga. we were not allowed to wear pants, dresses only and no more than an inch above the knees

  11. Meg Jones

    When I was in college, we didn’t wear pants, only skirts and sweaters or dresses. We had pedal pushers and shorts for the summer but didn’t wear them on campus. I’m old!

  12. Charles Moore

    Uh, some teachers were men even back in those days.

  13. Harriet Rickman McCombs

    They look so nice! Away with jeans on teachers!

  14. Carolyn Woodward Jemison

    Only dresses and skirts were allowed throughout my years in school.

  15. John Heyseed

    I see pics like this.. and almost lust it looks so good! Thank God my wife dresses like a lady. I miss the days when a woman aged into a lady, no shame. Men were men when they grew up and not a child. This pic is beautiful to me, woman dressed like a lady… beautiful!

  16. Sherry Hughes Garner

    When I was in college we had to wear a raincoat over our pants or shorts when walking on campus.

    1. Susy Almquist

      That was Auburn!! 100 degrees outside. Walking to all girls dining hall in shorts on Sat. RAINCOAT. Duh

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