Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Soap Bubbles In My Nose!

How funny it is that memories come "floating" to the surface, often inspired by the most unlikely things. Such was the recent article in the newest Family Tree Magazine. The July 2010 issue has an article under History Matters: "Lathering Up" on page twelve that sure did bring up some great old memories for me. The article is on the history of soap, of all things and featured a great old ad with a man standing in a lake, washing up with a bar of floating IVORY soap. I can so clearly envision that man being my Dad, right down to the type of clothes he was wearing and the backdrop behind him.

From the time I was born in 1952, my family has made several trips each year to our favorite lake in the Black Hills of South Dakota to camp. We go to the same place each time but never tire of it's beauty and of the memories that it holds for us. Both of my brother's were several years older than I was but I do have memories of them along on those early camping trips. As time went on, their growing families followed us to the "Hills" and the gatherings became larger and larger. My Mom and Dad had wonderful friends who also often made the jaunt north with us and we all camped, fished, skied and had such wonderful times. Some of the best times of my life were those spent at Sheridan Lake with family and friends. My own two sons grew up around the same camp grounds there as have several of their cousins. We still get together as a family there but not nearly as often as I would like. Both sons try to make at least one annual trip there at least for a few days each year even though they are far away now. My Grandchildren have all been camping in our beloved spot.

Those early recollections of when I was small, all came rushing back when I read the great little article in Family Tree Magazine this month and while scouting for pictures I also came across a great blog: A Full Life with a nice historical take on Ivory Soap. All the years that we camped in the Black Hills also included those wonderful bars of floating Ivory soap. They were a staple that Mom never left home without when we camped. The picnic table always had a bowl of water on the end of the bench that had been drawn by the hand pump from up the hill. Beside it on a washcloth was that bar of ivory soap, often 1/2 of one of those that could be easily broken in two. It sure did take the smell of fish off your hands! Dad had an old enamel wash basin that he carried for years to use for his morning shave. I clearly remember him using another bar of floating soap each morning to shave with. His small mirror hung from a tree branch and he lathered up with his half of the bar of Ivory. I still have that enamel washbasin in my family room, but now it holds magazines as well as those memories- perhaps I need to find an old bar of Ivory and display that washbasin and and old soap bar in my spare bathroom for the Grandchildren to see.

More than any other, was the picture in my mind that came back of Mom and me. Often our camping trips would last up to two weeks and sometimes longer if Dad was working at the same time. He worked for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad out of Alliance, Nebraska and often the crews from here would man the little narrow gauge Railroad that ran as a tourist attraction out of Hill City, S. D. If he was working we would stay out at the lake which was a few miles from town. The evenings would be spent fishing for trout and looking for crawdads along the shore. Night fishing was a big sport there in those days and all the men worked the little train during the day and fished at night if they were on a shift up there. Night time was not just for fishing however, that was when Mom and I would put on our bathing suits, after full dark and head down to the lake to take a bath, our big bar of Ivory in hand. It just floated there on top between us in the moonlight! Looking back on that with what is now known about soap and such things in our native lakes, it was probably not the best thing, but I would not trade those wonderful memories, well over 50 years old now- for anything. I have often told my husband about my soapy recollections but who would have thought they might warrant a blog? I wish I had a photo of me and Mom along the lake shore but I do not, still those precious memories with the old photos that I do have will last a lifetime and that lowly bar of Ivory Soap has it's place in my family's history!

( P.S. All these photos were taken by my Dad and are printed from original slides, except the scrap booking collage which I made from a photo of the old soap bar taken from the internet and old ads scanned from my personal collections of old magazines. )


  1. I love this group of pictures and the Soap collage. What a neat way to share the story and memory too.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loved your post - sounds like wonderful times, and you've got a great way of bringing your readers right into those memories... That little train wouldn't have been the 1880 train, would it? I rode that as a kid, on a trip to the Black Hills, and fell in love with trains right then and there.

  3. Hi there - What a great post, thank you for speaking so highly of South Dakota...made me think of my childhood camping trips in the Hills as well. I wanted to mention to you a vacation promotion that you might be interested in - all you do is tell your story, people vote for their favorite story, and you could win a vacation to the Hills! Here's the link if you're interested: www.blackhills.travel. Thanks again!

    SD Office of Tourism

  4. I love the theme for this post and I think I'm going to "borrow" the idea for some other products that I remember from my childhood!
    (ed.Festival of Postcards)