It’s a huge transition from wife to widow, with many small steps along the way and some interesting discoveries. For example, Bruce’s closet. I was looking through his things for warm shirts to donate to the local homeless shelter when I happened upon a relic from decades past. The subject is Ban-Lon.
If you’re under fifty years of age, you may not know about Ban-Lon. According to Wikipedia, Ban-Lon is:
“. . . a trademarked, multistrand, continuous-filament synthetic yarn used in the retail clothing industry. It is artificially crimped in order to achieve greater bulk than ordinary yarns. It is frequently associated with 1950s and 1960s American clothing and culture, and at the time was most commonly used to make sweaters.”
You can read more about Ban-Lon, including its use as a punch line, here:
But what, pray tell, is Ban-Lon doing in Bruce’s closet? It’s a black mock turtleneck from Puritan, a men’s clothing brand that I remember from daytime television commercials when I was a kid. This relic is not fit for donation. It’s badly pilled and has a patch sewn under a hole in the left breast (a near-miss in fencing class?). In nineteen years, I never saw him wear the darn thing. Why, oh why did he hang on to this weird, worn out garment?
All I can figure is, it must have sentimental value. This made me think of an old passport photo of Bruce taken in his early 20s. After examining the black turtleneck he’s wearing in the photo through a magnifying glass, I’m pretty sure it’s the same shirt I put through the wash a couple of weeks ago, hoping that this would improve its appearance.
Nope. It’s still a grotty mess. But it’s also history. Perhaps it was something he bought to work on a stage crew. Maybe wearing it made him feel like a folk singer or a beatnik or a man of the world. Young minds are a treasure trove of “what ifs” and bright but angst-tinted presents and futures. Maybe at the time he also toyed with smoking a pipe?
Whatever the reason for the purchase and preservation of this shirt, it’s mine now. Am I going to pitch it? No. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to wear it, probably just at home the next time I want to play folk singer or beatnik. Though it would be visually interesting, I’ll pass on the affectation of a pipe.
The Puritain Ban-Lon black mock turtleneck. One more way to remember Bruce.
Subscribe To Susan's Newsletter
Join the official mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Susan D. Matley. It's free and you can opt out anytime!
I am a sentimental fool when it comes to memories of the past like Bruce’s sweater. I believe these objects from the past are good things. I look at them and my memory goes reeling back in time. I may never have thought of such times again without them. There is a warmth I get looking at or wearing such memories like Bruce’s sweater for instance. A time machine, a way back and good reflections. May Bruce’s sweater bring peace and love to you Susan.
Hi Rusty, I love your image of objects from the past as a time machine! Thanks so much for your beautiful thoughts and kind wishes. Maybe I’ll wear the Ban-Lon today, pick up a guitar and sing a few folk songs. . .Susan
Definitely a brand name blast from the past. I had a white Banlon cardigan with a big collar. It passed out of my wardrobe after high school.
Hi Linnea, Bruce graduated from high school in 1966 so he was not far behind you. Isn’t it amazing how many things have passed out of our culture since we were kids? Although, in the case of Ban-Lon, this might be a good thing. . .Best to you, Susan
Susan, I was child friends of Bruce and family. I graduated 1965. His mother taught me to wring out a dish rag. Something we all need to be taught. They adopted a little girl, Tamara Amanda Matley and called her Tam. I always wanted my child to have that type name, but as my last name is Zastrow. Not so much. Bless you relation with Bruce and my love and thoughts are with you. Linda Huff Zastrow
Thank you, Linda, for sharing your history with Bruce and his family. I don’t know if you knew that Tammie, too, died in 2018? A hard year for Ken and Randy, I’m sure. Douglas died in 2016. I don’t know if you saw the December 28, 2018 blog post “About Bruce”; that one has the most detail about his life and final days. Happy Holidays to you, and thank you so much for reading and commenting.