By Chuck Hinman *
These cool mornings we've been having remind me of dreaded winter weather when I was a teen-age boy growing up on a farm in Nebraska. It was dreaded by me for an unusual reason; cold weather was synonymous with "long johns weather."
Long Johns was the name for winter underwear, long with regard to the sleeves and legs. They were a one-piece "suit" of heavy cream-colored cotton knit material that buttoned up the front from the crotch to the neck. In addition, they had a vertical slit (trap door) in the back so you didn't have to totally undress to go to the bathroom. They were intended to keep you warm on cold days.
Boys' fashion and peer pressure!
So what's to be dreaded about being warm on a cold day? Well, I'll tell you. Teen-age boys in those days decided long johns made you look "hokey" what with your underwear creeping out from under your shirt sleeves or around the neck. How "rural"! I learned the power of peer-pressure (vs. parental pressure) before I learned anything academically at remote Liberty High. No teenage boy would be caught wearing long-johns. Isn't it interesting how fast boy's fashion news travels.
I learned what was keen (cool) and what wasn't keen the first time I undressed in the locker room before the other boys to put on my gym clothes. I was laughed at when everyone saw and pointed at my long-johns at a time in my life when I still enjoyed carrying bugs in my overall pockets.
Mom's "no option" changes Chuck's mind!
When I told Mom I wasn't going to wear long johns anymore, she changed my mind and said that it wasn't an option so "get used to it." Case closed!
Oh Lord, I didn't know which was worse, taking the scorn of the other boys in the locker room or facing the X-ray eyes of a Mom who sees and knows every thing! Do you know what I mean?
Solution to home versus school long underwear wearing!
So I decided on a solution and kept it from Mom, my best friend, all those cold, teeth chattering years. Here's how it worked. I rode a bicycle to school every day -- eight miles round trip. I wore the long johns around home, but on my way to school, I dropped by the outdoor toilet at the country-grade school where I went to elementary school the first eight years. I undressed in the outdoor toilet, took off my long johns, placed them in a paper bag and went to school without any underwear on. On the way home from school, I took a detour by way of the outdoor privy at New Hope grade school and put my winter underwear back on and appeared at home as if nothing had happened.
I was so cold from December until April each of those years I don't have much enamel left on my teeth from chattering. But it seemed worth it at the time.
* Chuck was a good friend of mine who wrote for a number of publications in the mid-west. The above story was one of my favorites. Rest in Peace, my friend.