Friday, August 12, 2011

Mamma's Big Surprise by Grace Newton

by Grace Cornell Newton, Aug. 23, 1978

For one Easter, I can't recall which year, mamma made a big white outing flannel rabbit for Daddy's Easter window at the store. Since it was meant to surprise him, she had to work on it when he wasn't at home. And he was certainly surprised; from start to finish he never suspected what she was doing.

Besides selling the fine grade of men's wear that Roos Brothers featured, Daddy had to "dress the windows," which was largely the mode of advertising then. He had a small workshop upstairs on the alley side where he made his cards, doing all his own printing and decorating. His talent for this art work was genuine and natural without benefit of formal training. His designs were mostly his own, his lettering was free-hand. Often he painted lilies or poinsettias or rabbits, in keeping with the season. He also had a unique method of stippling, using a cutout which, after being lifted off, left the design in white outlined by gold, or whatever color paint he might be using.

In great demand as a salesman, he often had to come downstairs to serve a customer who would not buy from anyone else. He worked hard at his job, the store hours were long; for selling and doing his windows he received the grand sum of forty dollars a week, there was no paid vacation, and of course no group employee health insurance. But in those days he was still young enough to be enthusiastic about his work, and Mamma was enthusiastic with him.

So while he ran up and down the stairs and in and out his windows at the store, Mamma was busy on her project at home. She was as talented with her needle as he was with his brushes. Finally the rabbit was finished, from pink nose and white embroidery thread whiskers to pink embroidered eyes and pink satin-lined ears. Having tied a pink satin bow about his neck, Mamma set him in the middle of the kitchen table, then went to bed. It was a late night and the apartment was dark when Daddy came home. Not to awaken Mamma, who was awake and snickering to herself, he tiptoed into the kitchen to undress.

When he turned on the light and saw that big rabbit, he let out such a war-whoop that if Mamma had really been asleep, she wouldn't have been for long.

Next day the rabbit was carried to the store and installed in a window where it attracted much deserved attention.


  1. I love this story. Not having known our grandparents, it's a nice little glimpse into their lives.

  2. When did you collect this Greg? In 1978 Grace was living in South Park I think. I remember meeting her at the grocery on Highland, she drove there in her blue Ford, and when she got out, I stood on the sidewalk and she walked by me, staring forward. I said "Aunt Grace, it's David" and she tried to focus on me, but looked confused. She couldn't see, and I wonder how she could drive, but she did. She moved very close and recognized me.

    I had forgotten that Daddy's father was a salesman at the clothing store, I only remember Daddy telling that he did some painting, and of course the telegraphy, but I don't know when that job ran out. Daddy told of coming home on leave from the Air Corps, and he and his dad walking to the telegraph office at the rail depot, and him visiting with some friends he knew there. Dad remembered that the men let him send and receive a few messages, and his skill was still remaining. But by that time he was ill, to die not long after.