October 03, 2007 Sitting on top of my chest of drawers is a pretty wooden box 5-1/2'' high x 6-1/2'' wide. It has a spray of willowy, gold leaves and tiny flowers stretching lazily across the top and across the front. Time has erased color from the flowers, but the leaves are still quite shiny. It is my Grandfather Miller's collar box.
In the long-ago days when Grandfather Miller's white shirt was washed by hand on a washboard, rinsed a couple of times and hung on the clothesline to dry, then sprinkled and ironed, he didn't toss it in the dirty clothes basket after one wearing. His shirt was collarless, thus enabling him to wear it more than once, no "ring around the collar.''
Grandpa's shirt had a detachable collar. The shirt itself had a narrow collar band with buttonholes worked into it. The separate collar was attached to this band by small collar buttons. The detachable collar was often made of celluloid,a forerunner of plastic. It was smooth, non-absorbent and could be washed with a soapy washcloth. Later, white linen or other heavy fabric was used. Of course, this collar had to be washed often.
The detachable collar made of material had to be starched stiff as a board and ironed until it was shining and rigid. Even in my lifetime, I have made a paste of starch and cold water, rubbing it into the collars, cuffs and down the buttonhole fronts. Do they still sell starch in boxes? I loved the smell of it. Now you buy it in a spray can...but it isn't the same.
The box on my chest of drawers? It is still quite beautiful with its sky blue satin lining. In the middle is a satin covered disc around which the collars were placed. I keep little trinkets in it. A precious keepsake to be passed on.
— Country Cousin
Gertie is an Almont native and historian. She has been writing a local column for us for over 30 years. You'll enjoy her friendly and colorful style of writing.