Charlie let the silk float over his fingertips, trying not to imagine the contours of Rose’s leg as the stocking slid past calf and thigh. Damn! He was supposed to be helping Harold find a Christmas gift for Rose, not coveting the man’s wife.
Hanlon’s was a smallish store, but they offered a good variety of merchandise. Surely there was something less… personal…
“Did you find something, Charlie? What’s that?”
Charlie dropped the hosiery as if on fire. “Ahhh…” he stammered. “Just the perfect gift for a man to give his wife.” He pointed to the display, not daring to touch the elegant gossamer again lest Harold notice the wanton lust on his face.
Harold’s eyes, however, were riveted to the display ad. “‘Holeproof silk hose with Paris clox.’ A dollar ninety-five? Geez, Charlie, I can’t afford that.”
That didn’t stop him from exploring the silken heaven for himself, though, and Charlie watched as the look on Harold’s face changed from sensible farmer to starry-eyed husband.
If the man didn’t already have Rose, Charlie’d feel sorry for him.
A dollar ninety-five seems like nothing to us. But the price of those silk stockings today, in 2016 dollars, would be $26.99. To put it in perspective, that $1.95 represents one-fourth of what Harold would earn by selling a hog.
Truth is, few people, especially poor farmers like Harold, bought Christmas gifts. Most were made by hand: knitted mittens or scarves, handmade wooden toys. Usually, one gift was it, not including their stocking.
And speaking of stockings, those were not like today either. They were… well, real stockings… that one wore. Not the decorated versions we hang today. In fact, they weren’t hung at all, but draped over a chair or tied to a door knob. And children today would be disappointed at what Santa left: an apple or orange, some nuts—walnuts or pecans, and maybe a candy cane or some chocolate.
Still, just like today, budgets often went by the wayside. And ridiculously expensive gifts found their way under the tree.
Like Rose’s silk stockings.