Johnny Bullard

Johnny Bullard

When I was younger, and that was some time ago now, there were certain unwritten rules some folks followed. I always had a curiosity about some of these rules, but I dared not question the adults who were espousing them as the “holy gospel” sent down from Sinai. Therefore, I adhered, as most of us did. Most of us about my age and older were brought up with a very simple and effective answer to most of our childish and adolescent questions as to “Why?” and you know what that answer was: “Because I SAID SO.” End of conversation.

Children were not considered adults at all, and your opinion meant very little. In truth, it meant “nothing.” Parents were not interested in being your “buddy.” That’s changed a lot too, and more’s the pity.

If, as a child, you wanted praise, and you didn’t want to “tote” a “tearing up,” you better obey. Fuller Brushes had a lifetime guarantee, but Mama broke three on my behind before I was 10 years of age. I am sure none of the rest of you went through that, and my Aunt was a woman who could make a shoe round a corner. She would throw her shoe at my first cousin if she couldn’t catch her to bring her down, and I witnessed her shoe, more than once, “round a corner.” Don’t think I came from an abusive family. It took a lot to make my mother or my aunt do what they did, but once they got there, it was “on.”

Back to those rules though. Unless you were, well, “a little trashy,” you didn’t wear white shoes, seersucker nor linen after Labor Day. Now I began to wonder why, and just so you know, this was not completely a Southern thing; more really the fault of the Yankees, as so much is, and we owe them a lot, because we all know “wink wink” that they KNOW how to do things “up there.” We know that.

White was worn during the summer to distinguish the social classes who had enough money to care about things like what you “wore.” The upper classes of the industrial north and the upper middle class went to the “Shore,” as they call it, down here we call it the beach. I’ve seen the Jersey shore, and I have been to Destin, Florida. I’ll give you two guesses which one impresses me more, and I‘ll give you a hint, it is not the one “up there.” Also, coal was used in most northern cities to build fires and stoke furnaces and so there was a lot of soot, yet, another reason not to wear white during the coldest months of the year. More rain and wet weather and snow during the winter and white would show dirt more, and so there’s another reason.

I found out these reasons, as I read some this week, not a lot, but some.

My Daddy was a “man’s man,” a farmer, and a good one, a rugged outdoorsman. I dressed up one year for an Easter Sunrise Service, and I didn’t think, I KNEW I was looking good. Came out in my Haspel Seersucker Suit, my light blue oxford long sleeved shirt, my Repp tie, and a pair of white buck shoes. Daddy looked me over and said, “You look nice son, but go take those shoes off and put on your brown wing tips or your black ones.” And I said “Why Daddy?” and the response I thought would be “Because I said so,” but he went a bit further. You don’t wear those white shoes until after Memorial Day and not after Labor Day. I was so surprised by his response. A man who would say “I wear what my wife puts out for me,” and that was mostly true, but he was the one who took me to Rosenblum’s in Jacksonville to buy my first “dress up” suit, and he told me “You are not wearing a leisure suit to Barbara Tannenbaum’s 18th birthday party over in Lake City,” and up we went to Olan H. Luke in Valdosta for dress grey pants, a nice blue blazer, and it took me begging him that day, and he allowed me to buy some tassel loafers, cordovan colored at Country Cobbler, even though he wanted me to wear lace up shoes. Daddy was more than wonderful, and I had to adhere to the “not wearing white” after Labor Day. I miss Daddy. I miss him each day, and I will never stop missing him until we meet again.

Some of the teachings of my childhood stuck. I still won’t wear seersucker after Labor Day nor white buck shoes. I could, but something inside me just won’t let me, and it has nothing to do with me thinking anything is wrong for those who choose to wear what they want, but, gentle readers, the teachings of childhood are hard to lose, and when I think about it, I can still hear my Daddy’s voice saying on that Easter morning of long ago: “Son, you look nice but take off those white shoes and go put on your brown or black wingtips.”

I know I am a dinosaur, and I don’t care. I came from a slower, more leisurely world where people observed more of the “rules” about things, and I miss that world. Traditions are important, but we shouldn’t let them bind us to the point of silliness, nor should we ignore them to the point of “anything goes.” If you think I am wearing hot fabrics or corduroy until the weather is cooler, think again, but I won’t wear my white shoes, and I have some, nice white buck shoes, and a couple of seersucker blazers, but I won’t wear them after Labor Day. The dinosaur in me won’t let me.

I wish all my readers a great week, and sympathy to the family of Michael Harris in White Springs. Mike was a good friend for close to a half century. He was unique, and spoke with that patrician, mellifluous voice, perfect diction, and was always “smooth as cake”, when you asked “How are you Michael?” He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a graduate of Mississippi State University, and worked in the wholesale clothing industry for years for some of the biggest fashion houses in New York City’s garment district. He was a good businessman and a “wheeler dealer.” Mike was like a “Bird of Paradise” among many “wrens,” unique and different, and he was a good friend. I thought the world of him, and I enjoyed our conversations. I shall miss him. To his wife, Mickey, to his beautiful daughters, Xene, Ila, Lily, and to his sisters, Josephine and Eleanor, and all the family. Our sympathy and prayers. This falling of the perches is for the birds, no pun intended, and I have been losing too many good friends lately, too many.

From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.

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