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Clyde, Time Was: Business bloomed where it was needed

Time was, we had backyard florists. We always sent flowers, especially in times of grief. It felt better to give than to receive, they told us.

Now we like to get things.

Seems like every little ol’ lady grew African violets in her kitchen windowsill and hybrid tea roses in her back yard for Sunday dinner centerpieces when the preacher came over.

Some built little “hot houses” onto their cellar door and that grew “like topsy” into a full fledged florist business.

Among them were Clancy Miller Florist in the rear at 300 Maupin Ave.; Plyer Florist, 923 Richard St.; Mrs. Luther Weant at 938 Second St. in Spencer; Mrs. Cleve M. Foltz, 418 S. Rowan.

Others were Harrison’s in the rear at 1012 Holmes Ave.; Marsh Greenhouse, 1707 N. Main; Howard C. Thompson, 600 Mocksville by the hospital, and the most famous, J. Van Hanford & Sons 120-130 Elm — Liddy’s Dole’s daddy.

Mrs. W.O. Trexler had a cut flower shop at 125 W. 14th.

They also took care, as Mike says at Wyatt’s Grove Church, of the “fliers” for Sunday services. Cut and sacrificed for the altar, never artificial.

Decorating the family plot at Chestnut Hill is a tradition still done to this day by the Hanfords.

Brides’ bouquets, from the word for thicket or forest “boucage,” of long sprays of mock orange, spiraea and deutzia with grossgrain or satin ribbon tied in love knots and tons of lillies-of-the-valley. Where did it come from, since you should never plant your own? Another old wives tale.

Corsages for every occasion, carnations with gathered net to match your prom dress. Huge orchids for Easter. Before oasis, we used chicken wire or flower ffogs to arrange glads — gladiola, named for Latin “gladius” for swords. Get the point?

Lewis Carroll predicted in “Through the Looking Glass” how home businesses bloomed. When asked “What is it you do?” the aged man’s prophetic answer : “‘I look for butterflies that sleep among the wheat, and make them into mutton pies and sell them in the street. I sell them unto men’, he said, ‘who sail on stormy seas. And that’s the way I get my bread, a trifle if you please.’”

We step over or throw away our every day common resources, and run to Wally World to buy another plastic tool that breaks again and again.

When you needed one, there was a beautician on the closed-in side porch, a barber in a basement, plumbers in the garages, electricians who could fix a lamp, furniture refinishers who could bottom chairs, clock tinkerers, radio and TV servicemen, yardmen with clippers and at long last a funeral “home” with a big sink.

All of these started out back in a little shed. Maybe there was a reason to get out of the house.

Housewife was listed as an occupation in the phone book. Jobs were born out of necessity; that’s why we don’t have meter readers anymore. Ands we didn’t have, or need, a zoning administrator, an in-home business license or code enforcement boys to work in your own comfort zone, paid for with good ol’ American cold, hard cash.

Entrepreneurship was born in America. Indians sold or traded to us what we needed. Whatever happened to supply and demand? Ask the drug dealers.

What job title would Mr. Fix-It have in today’s Mr. Rogers, humanistic, feel-good, wimpy, cyberspace world?

Next time you ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” think. Beauty contestants want to be Peace Corps volunteers in a Third World country. Sweet but not realistic.

There are plain old jobs out there, peons. “Work for the night is coming,” as the hymn says. Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

So maybe you can just be a helpful, hardworking, thankless and tired flower picker, or be like Peter Pan and never grow up. “No, not I.”

Order flowers now. For somebody, it’s a gift, for another, a chore. Stop and smell the roses and pick Queen Anne’s lace along the roads and sell it on the way home.

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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