Monday, February 2, 2015

Miss Cole

Some time ago,
I pinned an image to Pinterest of a slip-covered slipper chair with the intention 
of creating something similar.

I actually wrote a post about it a few years ago...yes, years. 

But it has been a project that comes to mind every time I see that chair.
And then,
I saw this image and decided.... girl, it is time to get 'er done! 

The Peak of Chic Blogspot

Sewing for me,triggers a lot of memories.
Some lovely times with my mom
and a few very vivid images of my grade 7 Home Economics teacher...
Miss Cole.

Home Economics with Miss Cole was about sewing, cooking and even learning how to plan a budget.

Miss Cole, at the time, seemed ancient to me.
She was unlike any person that I really knew.
So different.

Well, then again, there were the White twins.
They dressed in identical matching outfits with matching patent leather purses carried on the same arm and matching spray-net hair-dos.

But back to Miss Cole.

She was referred to around town as one of the Cole sisters, a spinster and a very conservative lady.
She had pretty high standards for us girls and was somewhat put off by the fashion style of the time, although not completely fazed by it.

But first let me situate you in the times...

In those days,
the school staff organized contests for best posture,
I can still see Norah McGuire walking around the halls balancing books on her head to help secure her win.

The girls came in one entrance to the school and the boys came in another.
There was a playground for the girls and one for the boys.
The strange thing was that this was middle school, a school for grade 7 and 8 students.
All of us were coming from elementary schools with mixed playgrounds.
But once here at Senior Public, the sexes were delegated to the east and west sides of the school.
The north side was out of bounds and the entrance for staff and parents was located on the south side.
Pretty serious stuff!

Anyway, Miss Cole,
seemed like an oddity to me.
Her clothing was very old-fashioned,
she was often seen wearing an apron around the school
and appeared completely ignorant to all the comments that fed off of her strange attire.

I was not sure how she was going to teach me anything.
I had already developed an interest in cooking.
Although in those days, the foodie revolution was a movement still waiting to be born.
Between the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Childs I was already busy mixing up heavy sauces and experimenting with ingredients in our fridge to see what went with what.

I also came to her Home Economics class with a preconceived idea of who she was.

Miss Cole lived in a really big old house with her sister,
not far from my own home.
I sort of felt sorry for her.
Her house seemed so quiet all the time, not a lot of action really.
They had a big Pontiac in the driveway that seemed to get a lot of use on Sundays.
Miss Cole was the driver...I think.... and her sister would sit in the back seat.
Anyway, there was always one driving and another sitting straight and tall in the back.

So the first day when I walked into class and realized that Miss Cole was my Home Economics teacher....
well, I was a bit stunned.
There were a lot of giggles in the room as the girls settled in to what seemed to them the most ridiculous of courses.

First up was a cooking class on making pudding.
I was paired up with Debbie Smith who I barely knew but certainly had every desire to befriend at the earliest possible moment.

We chatted and moaned over the whole affair
while unintentionally burning our pudding.
Of course that made us instant celebrities around the school
given the objective by most to hijack this class at all cost.

But Miss Cole merely spoke to us about the importance of stirring, regulating temperature and
keeping our noses active.

Secretly I admired her calm.

Over the course of the year, we embroidered our initials on tea towels, learned how to sew in a straight line and were even given the option to embroider flowers on our coveted bell bottom jeans.

And by the end of the year,
I knew how to sew.
And I was pretty good.

I had made a quilted coat that I hung on to for several years after that.
My bell bottom jeans were covered in flowers from waistline to the bottom hem, although I do believe my mother was responsible for that.

I learned how to use our sewing machine
which made the receiving of my own Kenmore model many years later, all that more special.

And I can still hear Miss Cole saying.... "girls, find some old material that has still got some life to it and re-purpose it."

So, Miss Cole,
this project is for you.


  1. This is such a sweet tribute to a teacher... and a good story too, Donna.

  2. I love this post Donna. It brought back a lot of memories of my Home Economics days. I even embroidered flowers at the bottom of my bell bottom jeans! Miss Cole sounds like a wonderful teacher with a lot of patience. I wish you well with your slip cover project. I never did like sewing as I don't have the patience for it. Good luck!

  3. Now this is a sweet post! I bet Miss Cole would be beaming after all these years if she read it!

    I had a 3rd grade teacher, Miss Bahr, who seems an awful lot like your Miss Cole. Such a kind lady...and she, too, lived with her sister.

  4. OMG the galloping gourmet!! I had forgotten all about that show. I loved your story. How wonderful to have such great memories.


  5. What a great story and so well told, but seriously girl aren't we about the same age. I feel like you went to school a few decades before I did with the separate entrances and all. I do remember home ec class (although clearly not as well as you do).

    1. Our school was an old grand red brick structure. It was quite large but then again so were many of those old schools. Either entrance had the word Boys or Girls set into the brick above the entrance. It may have simply been due to the ease of management given the existing dual yards. I am not sure. But we never had gym with the boys either. Geez, sounds like I grew up in a pretty backwards little town. It was much smaller then, and the shipbuilding industry dictated the life of the town with the whistles for lunch and breaks and so forth. The 70's were full of contradictions when I look back. :)

  6. Those were the days! I never did learn to sew very well, but I was cooking at home so did well with that. Our home ec was combined with other skill classes and we were allowed to pick the Industrial Arts we wanted. Woodwork triggered my dust allergy, but I loved pottery and metal arts. Prettty progressive for the early 70's. Typing and shorthand class was all about posture and business edicate, hilarious now when I think about it. Thanks for the great memory jolting post! Patty

  7. What a great story!! Interesting what we remember about people who made an impression on us! and we can't wait to see the finished project of this sewing class!!

  8. A very well-written story, Donna. I enjoyed it immensely. It brought back memories of my own home ec experience in school. It was very unpopular to "like" home ec, and especially the teacher -- whoever she was -- and so being the easily intimidated girl that I was, I played along with the disdain of the other students. But secretly, I loved home ec and the teachers I had. I admired their ability to zip through a complicated sewing project like it was nothing, and to taste a dish and judge in an instant what seasoning was needed, or how what seemed to be a cooking failure could be saved. I wish you the best with your project. Can't wait to see it! xxx ~ Nancy

  9. I think every teacher would love to read that post, I did! I hope Miss Cole will be with you every step of that new project that I'm dying to see!

  10. I loved every word of this post and the memories it brings back to my Home Ec class in grade 9! I was not domestically inclined and this class seemed a mystery to me at first. But, to this day, I think of it when I know how to choose an orange, rate meat grades or sew a seam. I made a jacket and matching 'hot pants' in that class and thought I was a fashion queen.Thanks for the memories!

  11. I keep talking about The Galloping Gourmet at work and they have no idea who I mean !
    I remember we made gingham aprons and embroidered them when I was about 10 years old. The teacher Mrs. Hanham was actually very scary, but luckily I could sew. She asked me to help some of the others who weren't finding it so easy, and I asked her if Sarah Saunders could do the easier running stitch. Whoa, she wasn't having any of it. Sarah was one of her favourites and pretty intelligent so I don't think she liked it when I doubted her ability.
    Isn't it funny how a memory sticks so firmly in one's head. Although that memory wasn't my favourite memory from school (and I won't even start on the cookery teacher), I really enjoyed this post.
    How's the slip cover coming along ?

  12. That is such a nice thing to do, a lovely tribute to a teacher who obviously thought you a lot. Reminds me of my home economics teacher, Sr. Pius. A formidable woman who had much to offer. I too learned to cook and sew among many other life skills. She inspected our nails once a week marking us accordingly between 1 and -1 !!

  13. I loved my Home Ec teacher, Miss Tarasoff. She helped me make my grad dress. I took every class in Home Ec I could and when the government changed the course numbers I took the courses again. I loved sewing. I didn't do as well in cooking but still remember making Swiss Steak and bringing it home for supper (we brought our own ingredients for that lesson). The toughest part was getting it home without spilling and of the wonderful sauce. I am following and adding your blog to my reading list.


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