Who Is That Little Girl?

{Posted   16 December 2013}

  Wait a moment. That isn't a girl ~ the hair is cut too short to be a girl. But she does have a dress on, doesn't she?

  Actually, the child standing alone in front of a black curtain was my father, Bernard. He was born in the year 1919 in the Nofsker house that stands across the valley from my current home. His maternal grandfather, Aaron Bowser, share-cropped for a living. He and his wife, Linnie, would live in with a family while he did work for them, and then when he found a new family that needed work done, they would move on and take up living quarters with the new family. Aaron was known for repairing fences and might take up residence with a family while he repaired the fences around their farms. At the time that my father was born, his mother, Jennie was staying with Aaron and Linnie while he share-cropped for Lecky Nofsker. And that is why my father was born in the house across the valley.

  The photo that appears at the top of this post would probably have been taken circa 1921, when my father was two years old, maybe three. And that is indeed what he normally wore at that age. All children, whether boy or girl, wore the type of garment in which my father was photographed. He once told me that families dressed their children in this type of garment until they reached the age of five or six. When they started attending school, the boys began wearing pants, in the form of knickers, and a shirt.

  The garment my father was wearing at the time he was photographed was actually a type of shirt or blouse. The length of the shirt, and the fact that no pants are evident, is what makes the garment appear to be a dress. Little girls wore the same type of shirt as a dress, but of course in the early 1920s, the little girls did not start to wear pants when they began to attend school.

  The photograph above shows my father at about the age of four. Notice the way the collar hangs down over the back. It's almost identical to the collar on the garment in the earlier picture. The fact of the matter is that my father might have been wearing the same type of shirt in both pictures. After he started wearing pants, the long tail of the shirt would simply have been tucked inside the pants.

  The two additional photos below display one of my father's shirts, with a detail of the collar, which was made by a sort of tatting. The material of which this shirt was made appears to be a cotton muslin. The photos are very close to the actual color of the item.