At the Home for the Friendless, each child was assigned a bench locker and a clothes locker. In the girls’ dorm, our wooden clothes lockers were upstairs along one wall of the dormitory that had three rows of beds. My bed was in the middle and only a few steps from my locker; lucky me. Other girls had to walk clear across the room to put anything away. The bench lockers downstairs in the girls’ playroom were hooked together against the wall where we could sit on them and keep our own special things inside. I stored comic books, my doll, a cigar box sewing kit and anything special that Auntie Marge brought when she visited. She and Uncle Al didn’t have children so they payed a lot of attention my brother, sister, and me because we were their favorite poor kids.
One day Auntie Marge brought me a pair of long white silk stockings for dress-up occasions with brand new garters to hold them up. The garters pinned to the bottom of my underpants that had old, stretched-out elastic in the waist. The new white stockings pulled down my drawers, causing me to hitch my pants up every time I turned around. I really wanted new underpants, but never asked Auntie Marge for something different because it was bad manners. When I wore the white stockings, I knew I looked nice if I could keep my drawers from sliding down.
I kept the silk stocking in my bench locker so I could show them to the other girls now and then. I made room for them on top of my comic books and sewing kit next to my Shirley Temple doll. In my sewing kit I kept scissors, a needle, thread and scraps of fabric. Mama taught me to make stitches when I was seven and by the time I was eight and more grown up, I’d made all kinds of things for my dolly.
A new seven-year old girl came to live with us at The Home and her hair was so blonde I couldn’t stop looking. It was almost white. I could tell she was sad and lonesome for her parents and it made me want to cry. I walked up to her and said, “Do you wanna learn how to sew? She just stood there, so I said, “I can teach you.” She still didn’t say a word, so I got my sewing kit out of my bench locker and started showing her anyway. That’s when she sat down beside me to watch. I said, “This is how you cut fabric to make a dress for a doll.” Other girls stopped to watch for awhile and moved on, but she stayed. I showed her how to lick the eye of the needle so the thread would float through it. Then I tied a knot and showed her how to make stitches. She never talked but she sure knew how to stare and smile. Explaining how to sew made me feel like a big shot because she smiled so much I was sure she thought I was a genius.
A few days later, I opened my bench locker to get my new comic book and was shocked at what I saw. My new white silk stockings were cut to pieces. I couldn’t think of anyone who would be that mean, and it was hard to keep from crying. But I was more mad than sad and determined to find the criminal and make her pay.
I kept my eyes wide open for any clue to the identity of the silk stocking slasher. When the blonde girl started playing with her dolly, I noticed that it wore white silk. It wasn’t even a dress, but a hunk of white stocking wrapped around the doll and sewed in place. And after all I’d done for her. Real fast, I reported her to Mrs. Stone, our monitor, so the girl wouldn’t’ have time to hide the evidence.
The girl was pretty surprised and got such a scolding that it made her cry, but not very hard. I wanted her to cry longer, so I gave her another scolding.
“You’re bad!” I yelled. “Why did you cut up good white stockings that didn’t belong to you?” That did it real good because she cried so hard she got the hiccups.
She tried to talk through them and said, “I thought we could (hick) c-cut up the stuff in your locker and (hick) m-make things with them.”
Oh my goodness. What have I done? The new girl was so hunched over with sadness that I wanted to cry with her. When I taught her how to sew, I took fabric out of my locker and cut it up for her, but I didn’t tell her that the locker was my own private property and not for kids who wanted to cut and sew. After that, I spent an awful lot of time being nicer than I was used to being to make up for getting her in trouble. But it didn’t work because that new girl never trusted me again.
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Illustrated by Betty Auchard