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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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Easter Sunday means more than just nice clothing

The three little dresses hung from a rod in the make-do closet in the corner of the bedroom I shared with my sister Betty.

Her dresses hung a little further behind mine and against the wall, partially covered by the heavy curtain that served as a dust cover.

My dresses were to the fore because I had an important decision to make. I had to pick the dress I wanted to wear to church because it was going to be Easter Sunday.

A lodge lady friend of my mother’s had come to our house one day with the dresses over her arm. Rather apologetically she told my mother that if they fit me and we didn’t mind, I could have the dresses. Her daughter, she said, had outgrown them before they had had much wear.

Two of the dresses were organdy, made alike with puffed sleeves and a full skirt with a ruffle around the bottom. One was pink and one was green. The third dress was a nice little Shirley Temple dress with straight lines and embroidered flowers on one side just below the collar. It was made of tan pongee.

I had studied long and hard over which dress to choose and had finally made up my mind. I would wear the pink dress, the culmination of a week of decision making and getting ready to go to church on Easter Sunday.

Dressing up for Easter Sunday used to have more emphasis placed on it than it appears to have now.

The churches were filled with people who came regularly on Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. The adults who went on Sundays all the year through were very happy to have them, so they prepared more bulletins to pass out at the door so that they could follow along with the service. All the ladies wore beautiful dresses, hats, and gloves. The men and boys wore suits.

The hymn numbers for the songs to be sung were listed on a plaque hanging on the wall. It also told how many persons had attended the last week’s service.

The minister stood at the door and shook hands with each one as they left and said how glad he was that they had come, then invited them back again.

I was only 7 years old and loved seeing the ladies and girls dressed up in their new finery with the men and boys in suits. It seemed so very wonderful to see the crowd and the Easter lilies and potted palms everywhere.

Getting ready for Easter Sunday was not a small thing. It took preparation. We got to go to town for a new pair of shoes and this year my sister and I wanted Mary Jane shoes in shiny black patent leather with rounded toe and a strap to buckle across the instep.

It was during the depression when money was tight and the shoes might be considered too frivolous on which to spend the money. Besides, we would need new sturdy oxfords at school time in September. We overheard our parents discussing the situation and feared we would need to just polish our regular shoes and make them do.

Somehow our parents knew how to make the budget fit. My mother, sister

Betty and I went to town to shop at Montgomery Wards or J. C. Penney’s, so we figured that they wouldn’t have the latest style or, if they did, not at a price we could afford.

My sister and I proudly came home with our new Mary Jane shoes in shoe boxes to keep them new until Easter’s special day arrived.

My brother Raymond was only 4 years old and he didn’t care about shoes one way or another, so his shoes, along with our parents’ shoes were shined to a high gloss with polish and a rag brushed over them to make them shine even more.

Saturday night the galvanized wash tub was placed on the kitchen floor and water heated on the stove gave us bath water. We had to be clean from the inside out.

On Easter Sunday we hunted and found our Easter basket with hardboiled egg and chocolate bunny rabbit, and then dressed and rode to church in our Ford car rather than walking in order to keep our finery unsoiled. I wore my pink dress with the puffed sleeves, ruffled skirt and the waist sash to bow in the back, feeling very elegant.

On my feet I proudly wore my Mary Jane shiny patent leather shoes over white anklets and carried a little white purse with my three pennies offering.

We were off to a special place on a special day.

I don’t suppose I got to wear my special clothes and shoes very often before I outgrew them, but I know now that Easter Sunday means more to me than nice clothing, for I have also learned that we really were going to a special place on a very special day on Easter Sunday.


Veteran newspaperwoman Dorothy Swart Fleshman is a La Grande native. Reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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