Unforgettable lessonsMay 30, 2023 12:13PM ● By Elizabeth Youngman
Back when I was a freshman in high school, we only had a few electives. All of the girls I knew registered for Home Economics. Reflecting over the years, I am astonished to realize it was that two-semester class that prepared me for the rest of my life.
In Home Economics, under Miss Olson’s keen eye, I learned to follow directions by reading the instructions for recipes. I learned when paying close attention to exact measurements, mixing instructions, temperature and time requirements, I could expect a successful outcome.
In the second semester, I discovered how to make a plan. The class was assigned to buy a blouse pattern along with enough fabric, thread, buttons and straight pins to assemble the project. Next, we were shown how to lay the pattern out, economizing fabric, thus ensuring there would be enough material to complete the assignment.
Sewing the sleeves on that blouse was the hardest part until we got to button holes. Apparently, button holes need to be in exact alignment up the front placket. As if it wasn’t tricky enough, the button holes needed to be big enough for the buttons to slip through. And those pesky buttons needed to be sewn on in such a way so they wouldn’t fall off after multiple washings. There is only one right way to sew on a button. And we learned how to do it correctly.
Under Miss Olson’s guidance, we even learned to make a gathered skirt without a pattern or a zipper. She made certain that we could stitch by hand as well as sew on an electric sewing machine. The entire class learned to complete each task, even the hard ones.
Fifty years later at our high school reunion, it was unanimously agreed that we all probably made the ugliest blouses and skirts we’d ever owned in order to pass that course.
As part of the curriculum, we also learned the art of gift wrapping. Miss Olson taught us the importance of presentation by demonstrating how to beautifully wrap a gift topped by a perfect bow.
Miss Olson also instructed us on the importance of writing thank-you notes. Of the many notes of appreciation I have written through the years, one such note stands out above all others.
My most famous thank you note went to a 6-foot-8 power forward with the Sacramento Kings. It was the Kings’ inaugural season and #53 had just been traded from the San Antonio Spurs.
Through friends of a friend, one Tuesday night I got a last-minute call from someone saying two tickets would be waiting for me at the Kings box office, if I could make it. Like I’d miss the biggest happening in town!
The tickets turned out to be Mark Olberding’s. We had not been introduced so in my thank you note, written the next morning, I let him know how my girlfriend and I came to be sitting in his players seats the night before.
Later in the week, I was stunned when Mark Olberding called my office. This friendly gent admitted that in all of his playing years in college and professional basketball, giving away thousands of dollars in free tickets, I was the first guest to send him a thank you note. Ever.
Long story short, for the next two years of his contract, I had first access to his players seats for home games. You bet that after each game I sent another note of thanks.
As it stands, Miss Olson wasn’t my first sewing instructor. Actually, my grandmother sat me down at an early age with colored thread, needle and an embroidery hoop. I must have made the mistake of saying “I was bored.”
Thanks to these two ladies, I can blind stitch a seam by hand, design and stitch pillow shams, mend seams and I have even sewn multiple sets of lined draperies for two homes. Not to crow, but I’ve also made place mats to match tablecloths with coordinating table skirts. And crazy me, a few years ago, I made personal Christmas stockings for the entire family.
I am not a seamstress. My limited skills extend to replacing elastic in a pajama pant, shortening hems or taking in a seam.
My concern is for the generations destined to raise families without the benefits of a Home Economics class. Why again did it get cut from the high school curriculum? After all, this one course teaches necessary life skills like money management, cooking, sewing, planning and how to clean up after yourself.
These important skills are necessary to live on this planet. When teachers like Miss Olson are no longer a part of the educational system, society suffers. Unlike so many young people today, I learned these valuable life skills at 14.
And for those of you who didn’t have a Miss Olson in your lives and can’t read a recipe, therefore you cannot cook, write a thank you note or don’t know the art of sewing on a button, no worries—you can always go to Google. They have pictures.