Cloth Calendars

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, December 23, 1914: <<no entry>>

cloth calendar 1963

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Across the past few years I’ve shared many stories about my grandmother as an older woman. I’d like to on of them since it so aptly describe my memories of her. This is what I wrote on January 29, 2011:

Since not much happened a hundred years ago on this date—let’s fast forward to another January day 52 years later–probably a very routine day from Grandma’s perspective, but a day that I still remember.

In January 1963 Grandma would have been 68 years old. I was 7 and often visited her in her cozy bungalow on a neighboring farm. Cloth dish towels with calendars printed on them were the fad at the time, and Grandma always had a cloth calendar hanging decoratively in her kitchen. The calendar towel had a dowel running through the top hem and a string attached to the ends of the dowels, and it hung from a nail that was pounded into the wall.

I noticed that the calendar said 1957. I was old enough to know that the year was 1963. I asked Grandma why she had an old calendar.

She replied, “Calendars repeat themselves every so often.” She walked over to the closet at the far end of the kitchen, opened the door, and showed me a stack of cloth calendars. On top of the folded stack was a sheet of paper with Grandma’s handwriting on it. It indicated which years were the same. For example, one row on the page may have said 1958, 1969 which indicated that the 1958 calendar could be reused in 1969.

She pulled out calendars and explained how some patterns repeated with regularity—whereas due to the vagaries of leap year–other calendar patterns seldom repeated. It was so complicated that I could barely follow her explanation—but trying to understand calendar quirks consumed my mental energy for the next several days. I looked at calendars, drew calendars, asked questions about leap year. . .

Today it’s easy to find out when calendar years repeat with a quick internet search—it was a much harder task back then. But, looking back, Grandma’s explanation that day partially frames how I think about her. She was smart, and obviously enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of calendars and years.

Grandma was also always very frugal and reusing old calendars seemed to fit her. I wonder if the 15-year-old in the diary would have been as frugal—or if the Great Depression and other events in the intervening years made her thriftier.

Four years later I think that I can answer my question at the end of that post. Based on Grandma’s diary, I think that Grandma always was fairly thrifty and didn’t like to deplete her pocketbook unnecessarily.

19 thoughts on “Cloth Calendars

    1. I recently was looking for old posts that were about my memories of my grandmother when she was older and actually my grandmother. I was surprised how several of them (including this one) were about Grandma explaining one thing or another to me. When I was small I think that I liked that Grandma would take the time to explain things to me–and that she thought that I was capable of understanding whatever she was explaining.

  1. Oh, I remember those cloth calendars too! That’s amazing that your Grandmother reused them. My mom was into recycling before it was “cool”, but I don’t recall her ever reusing a calendar.
    Cute that you had a brief fascination with calendars because of that visit with your Grandma. I love this memory!

    1. It’s interesting how the terminology has changed across the years. I remember how my family “saved” many things in case we might need them in the future–but I don’t think that we ever used the term “recycling.”

  2. We had those towels, too, but we used them as tea towels, until they were ready for the rag bag. (Who has a rag bag any longer?) I remember the last one, but I don’t know what year it was. I only remember that it was almost completely faded, with a hole or two, when it finally ended its useful life.

    1. I have a shelf full of rags. When I first got married, I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I didn’t have any rags. She gave me several rags–and said, “When you’ve been married as long as I have you’ll have lots of rags” She was right. 🙂

  3. Sheryl~ I was in McEwensville today! Finally saw my chance, en route from visiting State College. I was driving around trying to get a sense of things (tho the fog and rain made it hard to really explore the roads) and mostly had this sense of everything being quite a long way to walk for Helena. It was a bit eerie, after reading so much of your blog, and the town itself is a shadow of its former self like so many off the interstates, if you look for them. I hope to return sometime in sunny weather!

    1. It’s awesome that took the time to explore the area a little. I get the sense that people regularly walked a mile or two to get to town a hundred years ago.The interstate highways have really affected that area. I’ve been giving a lot of thought about how communities like McEwensville have become shadows of what they once were, and hoping that the future will be kind to them and that they will be sustainable and revitalized.

  4. I remember these calendars being used as tea towels and my mother-in-law used them too. In fact, when my husband moved out, he got the one from his birth year (1962) to use as a tea towel. Talk about frugal – this was in the mid-80’s!

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