Mudcat Café message #3683416 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #138137   Message #3683416
Posted By: GUEST,Andy T
07-Dec-14 - 07:43 PM
Thread Name: Casey's last ride - meaning?
Subject: RE: Casey's last ride - meaning?
Intrigued by Bill's suggestion that the woman in the chorus is Casey's mother in a nursing home, but troubled by the use of the word "stockings," I did some research to try to figure out what that word might have meant to a woman who was living in a nursing home in England in 1960. It's a shame there aren't any elderly English people on Mudcat. They would be able to answer this question quite easily.

My research revealed that women didn't have legs until the 1920's. Before that, stockings were more of a men's garment, as many references attest, going back at least to Shakespeare -- Hamlet had his stockings fouled, and Malvolio wore cross-garter'd yellow stockings.

In the 19th century, kids of both genders wore stockings, and about the middle of the century they started hanging them by the chimney on Christmas eve. As late as 1944, a young Swedish girl named Pippi could wear long stockings without anyone assuming they were made of sheer nylon.

Stockings were commonly worn by soldiers and athletes, along with their knickerbockers, kilts, and lederhosen. Long stockings are useful in rural settings as protection from biting insects such as chiggers, especially if you put powdered sulfur in them. And in winter the combination of long stockings and short trousers provides warmth without hampering maneuverability.

American baseball teams stopped being called the Red or White or Brown Stockings around the turn of the century, opting instead for Sox (using a spelling system touted by Teddy Roosevelt); but baseball players continued to wear stockings. So when American women sprouted legs it would have been natural to put stockings on them, though of course, being women, they would have wanted the skin exposed, which was accomplished by making them of diaphanous silk and, from 1940 on, nylon.

Once stockings became a feminine sex symbol, American men switched to wearing only socks, no matter how far up the calf they went and whether they were exposed or covered by other clothes. But several references suggest that English men continued to wear stockings after the 1920's; so the things that women wore on their seemingly naked exposed legs may have been called something else in England. And in fact I have a vague memory from when I was there in 1972 that what we called stockings they called tights at that time, though I could be mistaken about that.

An article in History and Anthropology magazine, volume 22, issue 1, says that British anthropologist Beatrice Blackwood (1889-1975) wrote this about her mentor Bronislaw Malinowski in a 1930 field journal:
I wonder how much time Malinowski used up on household and domestic jobsóDid he ever darn his stockings? He seems to have lived in a tent.

English writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) published a story in Sunny Stories for Little Folks magazine, No.175, Oct 1933, called "Holes in His Stockings."

Both of those women were contemporaries of Casey's mother, and they and she might have continued to say stockings when they meant socks on into their dotage even if the world around them had begun to give it a different meaning. But here's one from 1954:

Lord of the Flies, by English writer William Golding (1911-1993), published in 1954, chapter 1, 4th paragraph:
The fair boy stopped and jerked his stockings with an automatic gesture that made the jungle seem for a moment like the Home Counties.