more BVD's

James C Stalker stalker at MSU.EDU
Fri Dec 3 05:33:21 UTC 2004

Wilson Gray writes:

> On Dec 2, 2004, at 7:44 PM, sagehen wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>
>> Subject:      more BVD's
>> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> --------
>> BVD also produced a lightweight cotton (or linen) union suit  cut in
>> the
>> fashion of a toddler's sunsuit: collarless, sleeveless,
>> button-down-the-front & with loose, short pants. No dropseat, but a
>> vertical, buttonless fly in back as well as front. The material  was a
>> thin, fine sort of dimity with a  grid of heavier warp & weft threads.
>>  My
>> father wore this style of underwear year 'round. He died nearly sixty
>> years
>> ago; I've no idea whether these are still being made.
>> A. Murie
>> ~@:>   ~@:>   ~@:>   ~@:>
> I had to wear that during the summer. Oddly enough, I don't think that
> I ever knew a name or a slang term for that kind of underwear, probably
> because my brother and I were the only kids wearing it and we didn't
> care to advertise that fact. I longed for the day when I would finally
> be allowed to wear boxers and a tank-top undershirt like my father.
> -Wilson Gray

Memories are, of course, notoriously unreliable, but....  When I was in my
preteens (late 1940s, early 50s) living in the boonies outside of
Louisville, KY, my classmates at Penile Elementary, I kid you not, wore long
underwear to school under their overalls (aka overhauls).  Fortunately, my
parents did not require me to do so (longjohns or overhauls).  They were
city folk exiled to the country.  I do remember that these undergarments
were produced by the Union Company and that they were called longjohns.  I
remember the Union label because my older brother and I wore pajamas made in
the same style, with rear flap and front slit.  Perhaps my parents simply
used the underwear as pajamas.  What does a kid know?  As I recall, the
garments, both underwear and pajamas came in white and and an orangish red.
We used both terms, union suit and longjohns, for these garments, and I
still do today.  Except now, they come from Pantagonia and are some
incredibly expensive polyester fabric, usually two piece, and always on my
sons' wish list.  Now, for me, the bottoms only are long johns and they,
alas, have no rear flap.  How times change.  I didn't (and don't) want to
wear them, but my children do.

Jim Stalker

James C. Stalker
Department of English
Michigan State University

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