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Big Chuck

June 3, 2013

Getting creative with gifts for grads


So I gotta get Mikey something. He’s an avid outdoorsman with a love for hunting, camping, salmon fishing, four-wheeling, boating and things like that. Probably a “high-fidelity record player with a 45-changer” is just not going to cut it. Clothing? Maybe, since he wore a camo vest for his senior prom. Yet I still want to resist just giving him money. Maybe a few dollars in a camo wallet! I’ll have to think about that one.

For guidance on graduation gift-giving, I visited a priceless treasure of mine. It is my grandmother’s graduation book. Sarah Day D’Imperio graduated from Unadilla High School on June 20, 1911. I have had her keepsake from that day for years, so I went flipping through its old, brown pages to see what she received for her graduation gifts 102 years ago.

The list in the book, in now-faded ink with the perfect penmanship my grandmother was known for, is an eye-opener.

A Mrs. Flaesch gave my grandmother a “pair of kid gloves.” Mrs. Mullane gave her a hat brush. Mrs. Oles gave her a paper cutter. Mrs. Gurlach gave her a cup and saucer. Ethel King graced my grandmother with “a shiny pair of scissors.” Mrs. Clyde’s gift was “beauty pins.” Mrs. Woodruff gave her a “selection of perfumery.” Mr. Joyce gave her a belt pin, and Mrs. Joyce gave my grandmother a bon-bon dish. Kathryn Jones gave “a sugar shell butter knife” and Dr. Butler surprised her with a “shirtwaist ring.” Five different women gave her fans.

It’s quite a list, isn’t it? Practical, fancy, nostalgic and whimsical (two men gave her “books of toasts”). So different from today’s graduation gifts. Different times. Not an electronic item in the bunch. No clothes. Many handmade items. Items my grandmother could use in everyday life in Unadilla in 1911: embroidery scissors, three spoons, an Italian pin, silk stockings, a “gardening hat,” some cuff buttons and a “fancy umbrella.”

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