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Smells like nostalgia: Scents bring memories

POSTED: August 3, 2014 1:30 a.m.
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HARRIS' RECENT COLUMNS

I can’t see or hear as well as I used to, but my nose seems to work pretty well. The trouble is, things don’t smell like they used to.

A relative of mine used to wear a brand a perfume called “My Sin.” Interestingly, she always wore it to church. She has been gone for a long time.

A while back, I was in someone’s house where they were having an estate sale. Sitting for sale on a dresser was a bottle of “My Sin.” I picked it up and took a whiff. All of a sudden, I could see the old gal of yesteryear trying to give me a little sugar with her overcoated red lipstick.

It’s amazing what your sense of smell can do.

I was thinking about school the other day. I can remember the first day of school always smelled like freshly waxed floors, chalkboards, fresh paper on the bulletin boards and the occasional scent of that purple mimeograph ink that was used for tests papers and handouts. After that, the school smell evolved to include the sweeping compound used by the custodians to keep the floors clean.

There is not a school around that still has a mimeograph machine, but there was something about a fresh test paper that just made you smell it.

Dime stores had a wonderful collaboration of scents. Many of them had roasted peanuts under a heat lamp and a popcorn machine with wonderful smelling coconut oil.

The rest of the store took on its own personality. In one section, you might notice the fragrance of mothballs, while in the toy department, you got a nostril full of newly made plastic toys.

The hardware store was a collaboration of smells including the metallic aroma of things such as nails, screws and metal tools. If they sold them, you might smell the freshly painted deck of a lawn mower.

And the smell of seed and fertilizer took over the place during planting time. There always seem to be a little mix of stuff that would kill everything from weeds to pests.

Church represented a variety of smells.

As a little kid, I remember being bombarded with the vast assortment of perfumes worn by the ladies. Men generally stuck with Old Spice, which only came in one scent in those days.

We had a neighbor who wore something called British Sterling. On TV, they said it was so good they only sold it in jewelry stores.

At homecoming time, the otherwise musty smelling fellowship hall became a paradise scented with wonderful dishes cooked by women and placed in their best Tupperware or Corning ware. Some placed masking tape on the side identifying the dish as their own, so you would know whose green beans you were eating. Other folks who might be embarrassed by what they brought made sure the label was on the bottom.

The homes of our neighbors had unique smells. Some were fresh and invigorating and accented by things such as fresh flowers and potpourri. Others were like their owners and just smelled old.

In the spring, there was nothing like the smell of freshly mowed grass. That one is still around. But the opposite was the woodsy aroma of fall leaves piled up and burning.

Some of these are memories long gone. Just writing about them makes my nose happy.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

 

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