BEUSCHEL: Days gone by

Feb 16, 2012


Doilies! My goodness, if that isn’t a blast from the past. 

There they were — red, white and pink heart-shaped paper doilies. These were the things of homemade valentines, along with sticky white Elmer’s glue and construction paper. 

I started to wonder if kids today still make valentines out of doilies? I guess that was why they were out there, right?

Well, the word doilies stuck in my brain and got me started thinking about how they had been a part of my life beyond those used for homemade valentines. My mom always had cellophane packages of them in various-sized circles tucked away in the buffet with all her “good” china and serving dishes. Whenever we had company, a doily always went under the desserts that were placed on clear-glass serving plates. 

When a dessert would call for being sprinkled with powder sugar, the plate would have that beautiful design on it in powdered sugar when the doily was lifted to start the clean-up process. There was a type of one-layer cake that Mom made in which we would put the doily on the top of the cake and, with a sifter, sprinkle on powdered sugar to make a design on the top of the cake.

Now that the word “sifter” comes up, I’m thinking that a sifter is right up there with doilies in terms of “days gone by” items.

The word “doily” also reminds me of the crocheted ecru-colored discs my grandmother used to have on her upholstered furniture. They were on the arm rests and tops of the chair backs. My understanding was that the doilies were to protect the upholstery from wear and tear. Given that my brother and I rode our bikes around in her unfinished basement and we played in a washtub outside for a swimming pool, there wasn’t a lot of wear and tear happening in her living room. 

We visited there with our parents weekly and, needless to say, we were of the “children are to be seen and not heard” generation. That little goodie from “days gone by” would not be a bad item to bring into the present; but, as they say, that is a whole other article.

Doilies on furniture reminded me about dresser scarves. When my mom got her new bedroom furniture, she was quick to dig out a dresser scarf that she had used on her old set of furniture. She placed it across the top of her dresser and set her dresser tray on it.

I remember my grandma having dresser scarves also. Seems like there would be seasonal changes of dresser scarves, and after being laundered they would be starched and ironed. Some were crocheted, some were embroidered and some were edged with lace. I got the feeling that they were not just decorative, but protective like doilies. 

Furniture and household goods were to be well taken care of; dusted, polished and passed on to the next generation. Doilies and dresser scarves were essential protective measures to make sure that could happen.

As I was contemplating writing this article, I happened to watch “CBS Sunday Morning,” another one of my favorite things. They did a segment on antique typewriters and their rise in popularity. I couldn’t believe all the old typewriters they were showing at Bill Wahl’s Mesa Typewriter Exchange in Mesa, Ariz. Not only are they popular as collectible items, but they are being used again as writing tools. A whole new generation of typists is seeking old manual typewriters to do their typing on. It seems that the “zing” of the carriage and the “click clack click” of the keys is music to their ears.

There are groups of typists bringing their typewriters and getting together to write/type.

Also mentioned was the fact that there are English teachers who encourage their students to use typewriters because they are finding that the students’ spelling and writing improves because there are no “spellcheck” or “delete” choices.

Luckily, one of the treasures from “days gone by” that passed down to me lay forgotten and forlorn in my garage until my granddaughter watched an American Girl movie, “Kit Kittredge,” and saw Kit typing away on a portable typewriter. “Grandma,” she said, “isn’t that just like the one you have out in the garage?”

Sure enough, there it was! It’s a bit dusty, but still in really good shape.

This typewriter was my mom’s when she was in high school taking secretarial classes. Then, years later, it went with me to college my freshman year, along with erasable parchment paper. Then it withstood years of my daughter typing away on it playing “office.”

Now the old black and red ribbon is completely worn out — but wait; there’s still hope for this vestige of the past. There are actually typewriter repair stores also gaining in business due to this new trend.

So now it’s time for me to look for a local typewriter repair store so I, too, can type my next article to the “zing” and “click clack click” of my antique typewriter. But first, maybe I better get a doily to put underneath it.

— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist. She can be contacted at


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