Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Handkerchief

In the olden days most civilized men pulled out a large linen handkerchief for nose blowing, and women a smaller and more elegant hanky, for sniffles. I can't, in this day and age, think of a more unsightly and unsanitary act than expelling a big honk into a handkerchief taken from your trouser pocket and then stuffing it back to use again. On the other hand, when the pianist and I were in Prince George years ago she was intrigued by the consummate skill of a man who displayed finger nose dexterity with a big honk deposited directly on the sidewalk without a trace left on the face. I remember my grandfather and great granddad with monster wrinkled handkerchiefs blowing, wiping and stuffing without a qualm. The linen hanky was a favorite in days of yore as a Christmas present from the thrifty. It may have been embossed, if given to a women, or had a flower stitched on. If it was initialed at least it stayed in the same hands. No one traded their hankies! Thank goodness for Kleenex now. My great grandfather also kept on his person, in readiness, a gold tooth pick that had an ear spoon on the other end. We children waited in breathless anticipation to see the ear spoon used. We used to laugh that the "snot rag was common but the ear spoon was a sight to behold!" No kid used a hanky! He either sniffed all the time, "Go blow your nose!" , or hawked, or had a runny nose or a dangle-booger. The tailor always put a little breast pocket on the suit for the dress up handkerchief, but latterly it became no longer de rigueur so the pocket remained empty. Occasionally, when stepping out, a tiny fabric peak on a chunk of cardboard was inserted in the breast pocket to give the gentleman "style". Even though it was a fake, it was not a sorry, soggy , snot-ridden, specimen!

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