PEDLARS AND HOLY CARDS—A REMINISCENCE. I asked Mary Jane to write up her memories of corsets and holy cards, and here is what she sent me:
“I have a childhood memory of the lady who used to go from client to client, from house to
house, like a peddler, in the Italian neighborhood where my maternal Grandmother lived, to measure these enormous Italian women for their corsets,
that held them together and made them look, when dressed, like upholstered chairs. I can remember my enormous Grandmother,
standing in the middle of her small parlor in just her bloomers and her men’s sleeveless tee shirt, with her enormous breasts handing
loose under it. The corset lady would measure her and have her turn around slowly to make sure that the new corset would be
perfectly tailored to her body from every angle. My grandmother would hold her arms straight out to the side and slowly turn. It was amazing.
Anyway, this corset woman would also dispense, free of charge, holy cards. This is all background to what I’m about to say.
So, I’m reading this book called “Celestine” by Gillian Tindall. It’s a work of historical/sociological reconstruction of the life of the
main character who was a young girl around 1845 in a small town in the deep countryside of France, where everything modern came
rather late and very slowly. Well, a lot of the book is social background. And when she got to the part about the peddlers carrying around and
dispensing holy cards, I gasped. I saw this tradition at work in Syracuse, NY, in the 1950’s!!!”