‘Aprons Tell Tales’ exhibit highlights mid-20th-century home life

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Wed., Sep. 21, 2011
(L-r) Doreen Lyon, Marilyn Schreiber and Ellen Peloquin greet visitors at the Daniel Glazier Tavern. Photo by Annie Gentile.
(L-r) Doreen Lyon, Marilyn Schreiber and Ellen Peloquin greet visitors at the Daniel Glazier Tavern. Photo by Annie Gentile.

Much can be learned about the history of American society from the garments people wore during different eras, and on Saturday, Sept. 10, the Willington Historical Society provided a peek at the lives of early 20th-century homemakers.

On the same day the Willington Flea Market was held on the Town Green, the WHS presented its “Aprons Tell Tales” exhibit at the adjacent Daniel Glazier Tavern.

Strung throughout the lower level of the home was a wide assortment of aprons, from functional to fancy, most of which belong to Historical Society member Betty Robinson.

“We have a fully-intact 1940s to 1950s kitchen in the home, and the apron exhibit was something different that we thought would draw people in,” said Historical Society member Marilyn Schreiber.

As the display literature explained, there was a time when the apron was an integral part of American women’s clothing. With few changes of clothes, usually only one “best outfit,” and clothes washing not an everyday event, the sturdy, no-nonsense apron was a practical, functional garment that enabled homemakers to protect their clothing while completing chores.

After WWII, when modern conveniences and growing affluence took root in American family life, the apron shifted from the strictly functional garment it once was to more of a fashion statement. Fancier aprons, as seen in the exhibit, were made from delicate fabrics such as voile, dotted Swiss, organza, velvet and satin.

The exhibit is part of a larger goal to use the Tavern as an interactive place for classes and school visits, said Willington Historical Society President Bob Shabot.

Built around 1815 and gifted with an additional 3 acres to the WHS about three years ago by its former owner, Edward Williams, the Daniel Glazier Tavern served as a food and lodging rest stop along at the crossroads of two major travel routes - today’s Route 74, which was a Post Road, and Route 320, which was the Norwich to Stafford Turnpike. The Tavern would later serve as a general store, a blacksmith, a wagon shop, and finally as a private residence.

Shabot said the beauty of the Tavern is that it is not only a fine example of the Federalist period, but it also has a two-car garage that was added on in the 1960s, with a never-completed bomb shelter built below it. As a member of the National Guard, Williams dealt with radiation protection and took to heart President Kennedy’s encouragement to build bomb shelters for protection.

“The bomb shelter gives us a chance to talk with students about another completely different period in American history,” Shabot said.

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