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Look at all of the gloves and fancy hats! Many River City ladies wouldn't think of going downtown without them. This photo dates from 1949 and shows the marble-clad, Forsyth Street entrance to Furchgott's Department Store. A showplace during the Forties, the old store building sits mostly empty today. Some of the first floor occupants include Pizza Italiano, the Zodiac Grill, De Real Ting Caribbean Restaurant, and Akel's Delicatessen.
Mother's Day probably meant a lot to these ladies. During the 1950s, these women gathered for a Mother's Day tea at a Jacksonville home. Note the gloves that the lady on the right is taking off.
At least one of these cute young women made sure to don white gloves out in public. Maybe dating from about 1950, this photo was snapped at a train in Jacksonville Terminal (today's Prime Osborn Convention Center).
Here's Purcell's, the place for women's fashions during the 1940s, according to Barbara Puckett, an official with the San Marco Preservation Society. Purcell's offered fine clothing, from gloves & lingerie to shoes & hats. It stood next to Hemming Plaza at the northeast corner of Laura and Monroe streets. In later years, the spot was occupied by The Luggage Shop, a long-time Jax business. Tthe new Main Library now occupies most of this block. The photo dates from 1939. The top of the old Rhodes Furniture building can be seen toward the upper right-hand corner. The structure was imploded in 2002 to make way for the library. Located next to Purcell's was Haydon Burns's electrical appliances store, which was forced to close during World War II due to a shortage of consumer goods. In 1949, Haydon Burns won office as mayor of Jacksonville. Reelected four more times, he became the longest-sitting chief executive in the city's history. In 1964 Burns ran for governor and attained that position too. In 1939, the time of the above photo, the future governor operated a local flying school, in addition to his appliances store.

White Gloves

AN OLD-FASHIONED FASHION — In 1955, Emily Post prescribed these rules of etiquette for women: Always wear gloves and a hat in church, as well as on a city street. Also don gloves when you go to lunch, to a formal dinner, to a restaurant, to the theater, or to a dance. But always take them off when you eat.

Many women used to dress up when going downtown. In hot or cold weather, they also didn’t consider an outfit complete without short gloves. During the early to mid-1900s, numerous ladies owned at least a half-dozen pairs, usually made of cotton or nylon. Some gloves were plain white with a simple finish, while others boasted buttons, ribbons, embroidery, or appliquéd designs. During the early 1960s, the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, served as an ideal, with her pillbox hat and short white gloves.

If a lady favored a color other than white, moreover, she could choose from a variety of hues. White gloves tended to be used during the summer, according to Barbara Puckett, a former official with the San Marco Preservation Society. The winter months saw more use of such colors as brown, black, and navy blue.

HAND IN GLOVE — Mrs. Puckett remembers the problems that could ensue from a single missing glove. Once, during the Forties, she had to change her clothing when she lost a brown cotton glove with a velvet cuff. Otherwise, Mrs. Puckett just didn’t feel quite right, fashion-wise. The missing piece ruined the ensemble look of her brown purse, brown hat with pin, and brown shoes made of alligator or lizard skin. She quickly switched to a black dress with matching accessories. And, according to Mrs. Puckett, the dress had to conform to the fashion of that day. It hung at just the right length, six to eight inches, from the floor.

Oh, but the ups & downs of fashion! During the later Sixties, such clothing as pantsuits and miniskirts caught on, while the ensemble outfit went out. Except on very formal occasions, gloves are mostly worn nowadays to keep warm.

When white gloves did reign supreme, though, even little kids might wear them in public. According to one long-time Jacksonville resident, she donned white gloves and a straw hat as a five-year-old shopping downtown. During the early 1900s, her parents would place her on a streetcar that stopped at Cohen’s Department Store, located in the St. James Building (today’s City Hall). People felt much safer from crime, so her parents allowed the tot to travel alone, going to pick up a spool of thread or some other notion.

GLOVELESS AND DRESSLESS — Regardless of whether they donned gloves or not, most ladies wouldn’t get caught dead downtown improperly dressed. And much unlike today, shorts were considered inadequate attire for Jacksonville’s streets. Mrs. Puckett recalls the first time that she saw women who dared to be different in this regard. As a little girl during the 1940s, she sat one day with her family in their car, parked in front of the old First Baptist sanctuary, which is located behind the St. James Building. A couple of young women sauntered by in shorts, while Mrs. Puckett and her family stared in amazement. The “scantily clad” women didn’t seem like tourists or ladies of the evening. This made their lack of cover seem even more brazen!

~written by Glenn Emery

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