Thursday, December 07, 2006

Memories of the Mt. Morris Dress Shop

By Lynne Fleming Wilburn, December 2006

Some things never change. . .teenage girls are still interested in clothes. Mt. Morris in the 1950s was lucky enough to have Fran Mischler and the Mt. Morris Dress Shop, aka The Corner Dress Shop, or just Fran's Dress Shop. Whatever you called it, girls spent a lot of time there, looking through boxes of scarves, stacks of Ship 'n Shore blouses, racks of Bobbie Brooks coordinates, Catalina sweaters and White Stag sportswear, testing frangrances such as Summer Shower and Wind Song. And when the allowance and babysitting money would allow, Pendleton.

Alas, Fran retired in the early 70s and moved back to Columbus, OH, her hometown. Ownership passed to Lenora Walker, mother of classmate Tom Walker. By the late 70s, she went out of business, going the way of most small town retailers. It was a sad day for "the girls."

But in the 50s, Fran's Dress Shop prevailed. At Christmas, she jotted down wish lists, and shoppers could get an idea of what you'd like, plus size and color. She wrapped with enormous bows--you could spot her packages under your tree at a glance. Classmate Sara Yoder Davidson worked there our junior and senior years, and on Saturday I'd finish my chores around the house and dash up to spend an hour or so just looking and gabbing with Sara.
The Women's Club put on wonderful Spring and Fall Style Shows and I modeled in several over my four years in MMHS. A delightful learning experience. Fran gave me lessons on posture; she taught me how to descend a flight of stairs; would remind me to put my shoulders back. (It makes you taller, and at 5' 5 1/2" I wanted to be tall like my friend, Nancy Lamm.)

And she would say, "Smile, you're young."

A note about the photo and clothing brands: The dress in the photo was blue and gray plaid, the shoes were gray suede, and the collar and cuffs were white angora.

Ship 'n Shore blouses are currently available in the Vermont Country Store catalog; Bobbie Brooks and White Stag are at Wal-Mart and far inferior to the 50s quality. I haven't seen Catalina anywhere, but then I don't get out much! I doubt these items are even made in the U.S. anymore. Pendleton, however, endures and is still a quality product. One of my Pendletons is 45 years old and I must remember to find that jacket next fall. Like the 1957 class members, it is still around.

Thanks, Fran, for the memories.


Norma said...

Great story, Lynne. It was a wonderful shop.

I would disagree about the quality of the brands, however. Yesterday I was ironing White Stag slacks I purchased at Wal-Mart maybe 5 years ago--they are beautifully made and holding up well.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with Norma here...I have Wal-Mart wash and tear...and stand by that...I will wear my old stuff first,before I'll buy Wal-Mart There is still good stuff out there,you may have to pay a little more for it,but it will be around awhile.