Here is a wonderful story by Kathy Gamble as told by her mother Olive Huggins. Thank you, Kathy!
Time: Early to mid 1940s
Unlike so many women of the era who took on an active role in World War II and had jobs that previously were held by men, my mother, Olive Huggins, avoided the “Rosie the Riveter” phenomenon and remained in the traditional woman’s employment role in retail.
The primarily middle class blue collar town of Mount Vernon Ohio was much different in those days. The retail trade represented a varied component of the town’s economy. Small business dominated the scene. Along Main Street there were department stores, clothing stores, drug store, grocers, restaurants, bars, hotels, gas stations and a bank. One of the town’s department stores, Rudin’s, influenced my life throughout my childhood.
One of the many stories I remember mother telling takes place during the summer in the early1940s. The story was repeated annually, always during the hottest part of our hot, humid Ohio summers. Even with the high ceilings and fans, after a few days of such weather, the store became uncomfortable. The sales clerks all tried to look professional, which included a variety of undergarments and stockings. The store owner, John W. Rudin, appreciated this, but during the hot summers he addressed the issue of their dress. As they were leaving the store each day during the exceptionally hot weather he would stand by the door, remind them of the continuing heat wave, and say to them, “Remember, girls, dress for the weather.”
This story made me feel like the old gentleman who, to me, seemed unfriendly, was a kind, caring employer who valued the health and comfort of his sales clerks, over appearance. It was standard during the hot weather to wear sleeveless dresses and omit the long hot stockings. Although mother never said so, I suspect open toe shoes were also acceptable.