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Family Talk: Give the gift of stockings

During World War II, silk and nylon hosiery had become more difficult to buy. On Oct. 28, 1945, John A. Brown advertised that the store soon would be receiving some shipments of stockings.

During World War II, silk and nylon hosiery had become more difficult to buy. On Oct. 28, 1945, John A. Brown advertised that the store soon would be receiving some shipments of stockings.

My mom and dad had a funny tradition each Christmas. After all the gifts had been distributed and opened, my dad would reach for a small, special package he had set aside for last. He would hand it to Mom with a smile, and she would receive it with a smile. She knew what it was, and Dad knew that she knew. A pair of stockings. Every year. Weird, right?

Mom and Dad were married in 1946, shortly after Dad returned from World War II. Their first Christmas together was, shall we say, frugal. They lived in a one-room apartment where the living room doubled as the bedroom at night with the sofa turned into a foldout bed. They couldn't spend much money at Christmas, but they did their best. Dad thought he had done well and chosen wisely, but when my mom opened up the gift Dad had purchased, it wasn't what she was hoping for. She began to cry. Dad was puzzled and asked why she was crying. All she could manage to babble out was, ā€œI was hoping for a pair of stockings because I don't have any left, and I got a run in my last pair.ā€

I did a little research on this odd Christmas item and found out during the war, American women were impacted by a shortage of stockings. Before the war, well-dressed women always wore hose, and they were essential for a lady's wardrobe. But Japan was the sole supplier of silk, and, obviously, during the war it stopped supplying the United States. Fortunately, there was an alternative product: nylon. Here's what I learned from Sarah Sundin's blog on the subject, "Make It Do ā€” Stocking Shortages in World War II:"

Nylon was invented by DuPont in 1938. When they came on the market on May 15, 1940, over 750,000 pairs were sold on the first day. They sold for $1.25 a pair, the same price as silk. Silk was used for parachutes and was the best material for powder bags for naval guns. To protect this precious resource, the Office of Production Management (OPM) seized the nation's supply of raw silk on August 2, 1941. Nylon was also needed for parachutes. As a result, the War Production Board commandeered DuPont's stock of nylon on February 11, 1942. From then on, DuPont's production of nylon went to war materials. This set off such a shopping frenzy for stockings that most retailers set a purchase limit of two or three pairs. The price of nylon stockings subsequently rose to $10 a pair or more.

No wonder Mom cried.

So Dad decided, then and there, Mom would never be without stockings on Christmas morning. Ever. Even years later, when Mom had a drawer full of them and could well afford replacements. Dad decided he was going to love Mom at Christmas the way she wanted to be loved with the gift she wanted most. And isn't that the way we should love others? Not the way we want to love them, giving the gift we want to give them, but loving them in the way that speaks their love language. Speak love this way at Christmas, and all year 'round.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›