Appalachia Through My Eyes – Closets

My life in appalachia closets

Back in October I posted a question from a Blind Pig reader: Is it a Closet or a Press? All the comments were fascinating, but the two below got my attention:

“We never had closets when I was growing up, just presses. I remember most of them having a large piece of fabric hanging from nails that covered the entrance. Mom still called them presses when she had a modern house with real closets in almost every room.

I’m listening to Pap and Paul sing Ethan Allen for the second time today. I think I could listen to those two all day!

Posted by: Shirla”

————-

“I am not familiar with it used that way. I have heard of wine press and apple press but not press for a closet. We did have closets when I was growing up but they had no doors. Most people put curtains over them. This was the time too when people used plastic “lace” curtains on their windows. How I hated those but it was considered just fine in our poor community. I knew rich people didn’t use them though.

Posted by: Eve”

————-

As I read those comments, my eyes sheepishly looked at the closet in the photo above. It’s the closet The Deer Hunter and I share in our bedroom. See how the doors are standing open? They’re always like that. I cannot remember the last time they were shut.

I was probably 6 or 7 years old when Pap built the house I grew up in. Granny and Pap were anxious to move into it. They wanted to finally be settled in their own home after renting for so many years.

There were a few things on the house that weren’t completed when we moved in. The back porch was missing-leaving the backdoor to open to a drop of about 4 feet or so. And only 3 of the closets had doors on them. The coat closet in the living room had a door, the linen closet at the end of the hallway had a door, and one of the big bathroom’s closets had a door. Now that I think about it all of those closets are the exact same size…Pap must have gotten a deal on those doors.

Time got away from Pap and he never did add the closet doors. I guess after living there for several years without closet doors, they became a mute point.

When I was a girl I was embarrassed about our doorless closets. Granny added fabric to cover some of them, but the others just stood there with all the contents staring out at you.

I don’t know what that says about me. I was embarrassed as a child because our closets didn’t have doors, but once I had my own house with a door on every closet I choose to leave them standing open.

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

 

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    February 13, 2015 at 3:36 am

    When I lived in Germany, everyone had wardrobes instead of closets. I asked why there were no closets and was told that a closet is considered a room and they would have to pay taxes on a closet. They have some of the most beautiful wardrobes I have ever seen. Some are very huge and elaborate.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 12, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Tipper, My husband and I lived in his grandparents old home when we married. It had originally been a log cabin, but wood planks were nailed over the logs and it looked much like an ordinary old house. But it did not have one closet in it. In each bedroom there was a wardrobe, (large free-standing cabinet with a place for hanging and placing folded clothes). I have heard them called ‘presses’ but we called them wardrobes. I miss those in some ways, they were beautiful but did not hold much.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    We have a cedar wardrobe/armoire/ chiffarobe/whatever. My wife packs quilts and stuff in the bottom and hangs jackets and coats in the upper part. It has two doors but no drawers in the bottom. To get out a quilt you have to move the clothing aside. I don’t know what to call it.
    I think the cabinet with the sifter is called a Hoosier cabinet or possibly a pie safe.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    We call them wardrobes. Older hotels in Europe have wardrobes instead of closets.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Never used the word “press” but grew up with “wardrobes” or “chiffarobes” for the fancier versions.
    Cupboards were the kitchen cabinets before folks started putting doors on them; but after the doors were added they continued to be called “cupboard” although sometimes someone might say “kitchen cabinets”.
    We called the “kitchen closet” the “pantry” – it might hold anything from dishes to pots and pans to dry goods and canned goods.
    Everyone just adapted the words they were familiar with to the storage space they had.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    February 12, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Who needs closets when you have a bedroom floor?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 12, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Tipper,
    and Ethelene….so glad you are home and feeling much better. I am sure the tests were scary also. Don’t forget your daily meds…so important…
    Still sending whispered prayers and thoughts your way…
    Also, I am glad Ken is doing well…Keep eating those carrots, and soon you will be seeing rabbits so clearly you could aim a rock and have rabbit stew!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I have one of those wardrobe/chifforobe things in my bedroom. A small clothes closet on one side with a wooden bar for hanging a minimal amount of clothes. On that door is a mirror the length of the door. Above it a small square door that is supposed to hold hats. On the left going down are drawers, I suppose for undergarments, socks, hose, etc. On the bottom under the drawers and clothes closet is a long drawer. All pretty handy! I love it.
    My grandmother had chifforobes in the bedrooms…large wood cabinets with double doors that could be opened one at a time. One had a mirror mounted on one of the doors..
    There was one large closet with a door upstairs and one large closet downstairs with a door! These were used for storage!

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 12, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Tipper,
    I grew up about the same way and
    felt partly like you did, but our
    closets was just a small pipe
    across the corners of each bedroom.
    But I’m thankful I grew up in a
    more peaceful and relaxed time.
    If I could, I wouldn’t change a
    thing, because now I have walk-in
    closets and they’re mostly empty.
    And I never close those doors
    either…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 12, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I can’t sleep in a room if the closet door is open. As if that flimsy bi-fold door is going to stop the booger is lives in there.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 12, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Tipper,
    When I was a child, our house was issued to us (government) since no homes were built there for sale! The houses were thrown up quickly to accommodate the many people involved in the secret going’s on during the building of the bomb!
    Our house didn’t have but one closet with a door. That was the small pantry off the kitchen! Mother made “closet curtains” for the three bedrooms and put nails in to hold the string, which she threaded the curtain. The only thing handy about this, was the fact that my bedroom windows, didn’t have screens nor did the rest of the house. Why would that make a difference? Because my love of cats and especially one little female that would climb up the tree by the house, jump to the open window and slip into the curtained closet. Mother always put her outside, so this was “little cats” secret hiding place!
    One day I came home and couldn’t find her. I went back to my bedroom put up my books and rested to worry about her. Soon a tiny “mewing” came from the closet. Way in the back that I couldn’t see earlier, was “little cat” with new kittens!
    Soon as they were old enough, Mom put them under the house in a towel lined box. Soon, little cat was climbing the tree with a kitten in her mouth, until all were brought back and placed in the closet…Mother gave up!
    I’m glad we didn’t have closet doors back then! It was a blessing, until I had to start emptying the litter box after school!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    February 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Growing up in Texas, we never had a door on a closet. Walls were 6″ boards, later covered with sheet rock and still later, that was covered with plywood paneling. But those closets never got doors.

  • Reply
    dolores
    February 12, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I grew up with the term closet, not press. I had to giggle a bit, because with an open closet, one had to keep the closet very neat. I’m not sure mine were/are always straightened up and orderly. I remember my aunt who lived on a farm used material to cover the closets in her home.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 12, 2015 at 9:40 am

    It’s funny how those things that used to embarrass us are just a part of our daily living as we get older. My ex-husband built a room on the back of the house for me to use as a clothes closet. I look at it’s crammed condition and wonder how on earth I made do without it.
    I’ve been trying to remember what Mom called the cabinet in the kitchen with doors at the top that held a built in sifter and shelves at the bottom where she stored dishes. She made curtains for that closet too. I remember she called it pie something, maybe pie press. Hope my older cousin can remember.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 12, 2015 at 9:01 am

    my grandparents had a “chiffrobe” — i.e. chifferobe, a wooden cabinet with space on one side for hanging and drawers on the other.

  • Reply
    Jean
    February 12, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Hi Tipper,Big Mom in Ky had what they called a chifforobe.

  • Reply
    Vickie
    February 12, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I have heard of a China press (cabinet). But never heard a closet called a press.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 12, 2015 at 8:05 am

    We finally escaped a Coal Camp called Greenbrier and moved to a little neat four room house in the country. My hero Dad could do anything. After work, he gradually remodeled and added on making the house fairly large. We always had a lot of sawdust in our nostrils. Even today, I can barely tolerate the clutter that goes with remodeling.
    Closets had those doors that slide, and they were forever coming loose from the sliders. We tried to keep them closed as they always seemed jam-packed.
    A bit of history. When a Coal Camp near a mine worked-out, they would then sometimes sell the houses to tear down. Many relatives built nice houses cheaply over time. What a hard life that must have been! To actually have to tear down houses to build a house. Many houses were built from houses from a community named Lamar that no longer exists. I found a picture on the web of Lamar, and I could not help but feel the loss those folks must have felt when they had to pack up and move away. That thriving Coal Camp was in a country setting and appeared very neat and clean.
    Well, Tipper you have done gone and got me ponderin’ again. To quote something I once heard somebody say,”never know what’s gonna crawl out from under my coffee.”

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

    We didn’t, early-on, have built in closets in our old farmhouse in Choestoe. We had a “clothes press,” a homemade large cabinet that sat where a closet might have been built in. We also had a purchased piece of furniture called a “Wardrobe” that had drawers for folded clothes and on one side a door opened to space to hang clothes. In the upstairs bedroom space, we had a “built-in” place for hanging clothes, with the door space (that had no door hung) covered by cloth on a pole. When Daddy built a large new bedroom taking in the L-shaped back porch, we had a place for a closet, but somehow the door didn’t get hung on it. It, too, was covered with a curtain. And our house wasn’t much different from a lot of the others in our community. Maybe some of the “more modern” or brick houses had built-in closets. But not the old farm houses like ours until the new bedroom was added.
    (Good to be back with Blind Pig. I had a five-day hospital stay with a little scare (and many tests) following a TIA on Feb.7. Grateful to be OK!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 12, 2015 at 7:26 am

    My grandmother had a wardrobe. That’s a free standing closet. Also a chest at the foot of the bed for storing clothes and linens. There just were not closets back then.
    Actually there were closets but that was an entirely different thing. It held the water tank for the toilet. At least I think that was it.
    I don’t leave my closet door open all the time, just most of the time. A habit I picked up somewhere along the way. It makes it easier to see everything.
    To your credit, Tipper, I’ve never seen anyone who could put as much in a closet as you can.
    I wonder how they came to be called a press.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 12, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Lol, we had a closet with no door too. We always called them closetd. My grand father however had no closet and had furniture to hold the clothes

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 12, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Lol, we had a closet with no door too. We always called them closetd. My grand father however had no closet and had furniture to hold the clothes

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 12, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Lol, we had a closet with no door too. We always called them closetd. My grand father however had no closet and had furniture to hold the clothes

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 12, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Lol, we had a closet with no door too. We always called them closetd. My grand father however had no closet and had furniture to hold the clothes

  • Reply
    TMc
    February 12, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Our problem is our closets have exploded and looks like everything landed in every room in the house.. I’ve got a bag of clothes sitting in my room waiting to be carried to Goodwill,, it just hasn’t made it yet..

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    February 12, 2015 at 4:47 am

    In Australia they’re called wardrobes if they’re in a bedroom or cupboards if they’re in a laundry or kitchen, like linen cupboard for where sheets and towels etc are kept or kitchen cupboard where the plates and cups and so forth are kept.

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