Hampton Reminiscences -- Part IX

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By Enoch P. Young

The Exeter News-Letter

c. 1899

The Tailor of 65 Years Ago -- Part IX

Editor EXETER NEWS-LETTER -- The man tailors of 65 years ago were to be found in almost every school district. They went from house to house plying their trade, which as practised then was largely of the itinerant cast, and making clothing for he men and boys at their homes. The women folks of the family assisted in the sewing; sewing machines were not known then.

I well remember one of the old-time tailors, who perhaps was fully up to the average of his craft, always good natured and full of his funny stories for the boys. While sewing his garments, his peculiar motion, sort of several jerks in one, gained my attention. Whether it was a nervous habit peculiar to himself I did not know then, or if it wa something taught in the trade. Since then I have seen other tailors using the same highty, tighty wriggle he did. So I concluded it was some secret point, known only to the trade and belonging to the man part only. Another point in the trade belonging to the men, for I never knew the women tailors to adopt the course, was when sewing to sit with their legs crossed under them, Chinese fashion. Of course, there was advantage gained in that position. That, too, was a supposed secret of the craft.

How odd it seemed to me when first I saw a man, using the needle and making garments. I almost believe I should have been no more surprised, had I seen him nursing a baby, he seemed so out of place doing a woman's work.

A few years later and the invention of the sewing machine had completely revolutionized the clothing business, bringing clothing ready made into the mart of trade, till it seemed that almost every fourth trader was dealing in ready made clothing. Then this old tailor friend, having his occupation gone, with fast advancing age was forced into retirement. He enjoyed hunting with his gun, and delighted to tell us boys of his exploits. A little later, when old age had fully retired him from the active duties of his trade, he was often seen passing across the fields (his fondness for his gun had not abated) on his way to Boar's Head and the marshes, with two guns and a basket.

The particular niche which the itinerant tailor had filled in the community soon became of no utility. The ready-made clothing industry had enveloped the tailoring business as with a flood, and soon the goose of our neighborhood tailor had pressed its last seam, and th last busheling job had been folded. Brimful as he was of his stories for the boys, I must tell one of them as I remember it. Knowing his warm and kindly heart, I hardly believe he himself would have vouched for it truthfulness in all its particulars. Its weak points, if any, I am willing to believe, were the fault of the head, and not of the heart. To tell the best story and have it take, much depends and is usually gauged by the gullibility of the audience, and it may be so often repeatedly told by the originator, that after a time he believes and tells it as seriously as if it were true.

Now the story: On one of his gunning expeditions he came in sight of a large flock of wild geese, which had lighted out on the salt marsh, near a stack of hay. How he could get near enough for a good shot and not have them discover him was a puzzle. At last his shrewdness dictated that he could do so and by creeping on his hands and knees he reached the hay stock, having managed to reach it unseen by the geese, which were close on the other side. Another difficulty then appeared, as to how he should get his aim at the geese and they not see him. An idea came with the necessity. Taking his gun across his knee, he bent its barrel to an angle so that he fired around the stack. As the result, Mr. Drew carried home a back-load of wild geese.


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