92-year-old Odessa woman keeps busy with sewing

Published: February 8, 2007 | 5489th good news item since 2003

When Glenda Scruggs, 64, bought some aprons recently to fulfill a family tradition, she stumbled upon the longtime tradition of another Odessa woman.

The aprons, made from a festive fabric design and fine seam work, were purchased from Piffles & Stuff as Christmas gifts for Scruggs’ daughters.

“It’s always a tradition for us to wear Christmas aprons when we’re working in the kitchen,” she said.

What Scruggs didn’t expect was the soft feel of facial tissue when she reached into the pockets of the aprons. “I thought it was trash at first,” she said.

The neatly pressed facial tissue was wrapped around something worth keeping and a little surprising to Scruggs – a dime.

Although it was only 10 cents, the coin prompted the curious customer to investigate the apron’s origin – a story that only increased her appreciation of the protective kitchen wear.

“They are special – not many 92-year-old women can sew like that,” she said.

Scruggs discovered the maker of her newest aprons had been sewing long before she was even born.

Catherine Parkes, a 92-year-old resident of Keywest Senior Village in Odessa, said she started sewing in 1925 when she was only 10 years old and able to reach the pedals on her mother’s Singer machine.

“It just came natural with me, and I like turning out something pretty,” said Parkes, a Sears retiree. “It’s just been my life.”

With an elaborately designed quilt on her bed, Parkes explained her long history of making things at home for her family or for competition.

“We entered stuff in the fair every year,” she said.

Parkes said the new-looking quilt on her bed won a blue ribbon prize and actually contains fabric pieces she collected in the 1920s and ’30s.

A more recent endeavor for the Odessa woman is sewing different styles of aprons – the bib apron, cobbler’s apron, half apron and the smock apron – or making delicate bonnets of a bygone era.

Working nearly every day on her Singer sewing machine, Parkes said she is determined to stay busy despite her age.

“My daddy always said, ‘Idle hands mean danger,’ so we all had to have something to do,” she said. “If I don’t feel like sewing one day, I crochet. I have to pass the time.”

From weaving baskets to sewing clothes, Parkes said she used to spend time designing dresses for her three girls when they were younger.

“They didn’t want store-bought things, cause I could just make it the way they wanted,” she said.

The personal touch of a homemade dress also adapted to the changing fashions of the day, said Linda Parkes, 63, one of Catherine Parkes’ daughters.

“We were some of the first to wear the sack dress in Midland,” she said. “We were laughed at when we wore them at first, but pretty soon they were wearing them, too.”

Linda Parkes now sells her mother’s aprons and bonnets and other American crafts in her Odessa gift shop, Piffles & Stuff.

“We sold eight out of the 10 aprons she made for Christmas,” Linda Parkes said.

As for the tissue-wrapped dime in the apron pockets, Linda Parkes said, “It’s just something that mother does.

“It’s an old Irish custom to leave a coin in your pocket, and she’s very proud of her Irish heritage,” she said.

For Catherine Parkes, the apron maker and dime giver, the coin tradition carries personal memories of bringing a dime to Sunday school as a kid and making clothes for her own children. “If there was a pocket, it had a dime in it,” she said.

Her children are grown, but Catherine Parkes said she continues to pass the tradition along to customers.

“It’s kind of a charm for me, and it’s really exciting for some people,” she said.

Published in Life
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