The New Textiles Part Five, or, Another Way to Define Antiques in 1958

Speaking of antiques – and you know I was – I have another woman working for me who presents quite a contrast to Evie. It’s not her age that puts her in the antique category, though she has some of that, and she is not an antique in Evie’s sense of the word for she has not outlived her usefulness. It’s that she comes from another era and is still a part of it. Miss Ida Frisbie is eighty and a real, dyed -in-the-wool, 100% genuine old fashioned Yankee.

The Miss Frisbie House in 1959, in "Homes of Old Woodbury"

The Miss Frisbie House in 1959, in “Homes of Old Woodbury”

She lives with her twin sister, Ada, in a kind of sputtery and defiant isolation. Her father didn’t approve of side walks being put in so she never walks on the sidewalk. And she walks a good deal. She is a familiar sight on Woodbury’s streets. She has a quick stiff jerky kind of walk that carries her quite incredible distances in a short time though it makes me wince for her spine. She walks as though intent to reach someone with whom she can share the latest evidence of 20th century man’s abandonment of self-reliance, abstinence, and “thrift”.

Miss Frisbie – I wouldn’t think of calling her by her first name – irons for me every week about eight hours but is quite able to continue longer if necessary. Besides a superb job of ironing I get all the latest news about nearly everybody whether I know them or not, timely and critical comments on the weather, all kinds of folklore and very well jelled opinions, usually uncomfortable but sound, contributions of jam, jelly and rhubarb. If I need a patch or a button for anything she is sure to have the perfect match and knows where to find it too.

She is paid on a strictly portal to portal basis. She looks at the clock as she comes in and as she goes out and with time deducted for lunch which she brings herself, she charges me to the penny for the time spent. Her very well supplied change purse is always ready with exact change. Never have I been able to get her to “keep the change.”

Recently the town had a reassessment of its property – always a trying experience for property owners. they really slapped it on the Miss Frisbies. She came to work seething with righteous indignation and apprehension. They had more than doubled the assessment on the house these two nice old ladies were struggling to keep. I agreed to go to Town Hall with her when she went to contest the rise. It was well worth it. I wish I’d had a tape recorder. The assessor was in a jovial mood. In talking about her heating problems – she had bought a furnace when her stove gave out because it was impossible to get another stove – though she couldn’t afford a furnace – this gentleman, perhaps hoping to keep it all on a friendly informal basis, said that he didn’t understand women and their air conditioning systems. His wife sleeps with every blanket in the house piled on her and then will get up in the morning and run all over the house in a sheer nightgown. Miss Frisbie’s rigid little 90 pounds became more rigid than ever and in her most withering manner said “I never wear one of those”. There were three men there and they tried not to explode. Something was said about the cost of her morning coffee and again she drew herself up proudly and announced she had never tasted tea or coffee in her life. Water was good enough for anybody. She got satisfaction from those men and she could have gotten along fine without me.

One of the worst problems with the Frisbie sisters is their complete inability to accept help of any kind. They are very generous in a thrifty way but when it works the other way it smacks of charity. The other sister is now confined to the house with a bad foot – has been and will continue to be. On their 80th birthday it was felt by some of the people for whom they have workd, and their friends in church, that a wheel chair would be a good idea for a suitable birthday present. After much telephoning the money was oversubscribed but the doctor who had been consulted told the secret and the wrath of the sisters was horrible to behold. If they needed a wheelchair they would get one, thank you very much and they did not want it, thank you.

Written In 1994 by Dot (herself now 87) is this conclusion:
The last page is missing but it included my favorite story about Miss Frisbie. One day with great enthusiasm I told Miss Frisbie that my neighbors up the street were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and wasn’t that just too marvelous. She drew herself up to show her scorn of all the sins of the world and pronounced “They had to get married.”

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About skgriswold

My love of history and art was nurtured by living in a wonderful significant historical house for much of my life.
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