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History Corner By Pat Ross & Fran Snead


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August 01, 2008
Evidently people are reading this blog, as I’ve been asked to continue with old sayings and their origins. The origins of the sayings are sometimes hard to find but so many of these sayings are used in day-to-day conversations.

Remember the old laced- up corsets that our grandmothers wore? Well, the corsets would lace up in the front of course. A very proper and dignified woman or a “straight laced” woman wore a very tightly tied corset!

In days past, personal hygiene left much room to be desired and an improvement was certainly needed. As a result, both men and women had problems with acne and many times they had scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee’s wax over their face to smooth out their complexions and to help the acne. When they were talking with each other, or if a woman began to stare at another woman, she would be told to “mind your own bee’s wax.” If the woman smiled, the wax naturally would crack, and the term “crack a smile” was included in the English language. Also, if the woman sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt. Thus, the expression “losing face” came about! As has been said, personal hygiene left much room to be desired and this applied to the cleanliness of both sexes. Most men and women took baths only twice a year usually in May and in October. Women kept their hair covered, while men usually shaved their heads because of lice and bugs…and then wore wigs.

Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell of the bread and bake it in the oven for probably 30 minutes. The heat from the oven would make the wig big and fluffy. When the man would put the wig on, he was a “big wig.” Many times we use the term “here comes the Big Wig” because someone appears to be wealthy or powerful.

If you know of a saying that we use today and the origin, please let us know. They are certainly interesting! The Bassett Historical Center is planning another History Symposium for Saturday, October 4th, beginning at 9:30am. Four speakers will share their knowledge and time with us when again the proceeds from the symposium will go toward our expansion project. Speakers are Darryl Holland who will speak on the 24th Virginia Cavalry; James W. Morrison who will speak on “World War II and the Experience of Bedford, Virginia” and Julie Dixon who will present “Melungeon Voices” and will show her documentary that will later be shown on PBS. Emcee and speaker Tom Perry will present “William J. Palmer: the Man who Did Not Burn Martinsville.”

More information will be available next month on this blog; however, if you have any questions, please feel free to call the Historical Center at 629-9191.










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