There was a bachelor uncle, Uncle Eddie, who was a master bookbinder and once headed the bindery of T.B. Mosher. That's a good address. He didn't bind it, but somewhere he picked up a multi-volume American Cyclopedia which he prized because of its binding. He said the cyclopedia was no good, but the spine of the books had a freedom that made them exciting to binders, and regardless of the reading matter the books had great value. I came to own Uncle Eddie's cyclopedia in time, and some years back I gave it to a library where, I suppose, it is treasured up to a life beyond life. Uncle Eddie's esteem as a bookbinder was never communicated to me, but I liked to read the articles for themselves. They were opinionated, and outdated until they were comical.
I loved the piece about ''cravats.'' It started, ''CRAVAT - This absurd, unhealthy, inhuman, expensive, and useless method of bundling the human neck in discomfort can be traced . . .'' I first read that, and admired the revolutionary who wrote it, back in the days when every little boy who got up in the morning and went to school was considered naked unless he had on a necktie. I detested neckties, and considered them absurd, unhealthy, inhuman, and so on. But swimming upstream and striking back at custom never occurred to me, so I got up every morning and tied on a necktie before going to school.
I don't go to an office every day, and I live in an emancipated community that runs to open collars. When they asked me, just now, to come to the town Christmas party and read something appropriate, I did get into a tweed, and I conformed to the extent of a string tie made with a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. Not exactly a tie, and yet it is. I appeared, and took notice of the dearth of neckties. One of our town clergymen had a necktie - it was a bright thing which he had clearly selected to illustrate the Christmas season, and there was a pseudo-blasphemy to the colors so you could hear him coming afar off. It was, I'm afraid, the kind of necktie Mainers take notice of by asking the wearer if he's on his way to a dogfight. I asked the reverend if he were on his way to a dogfight. But our other clergyman, who was asked to do the invocation (it being his turn) was wearing a turtleneck.
I found this necktie poll at a community Christmas gathering exciting, as it seems to dissociate the necktie from Christmas, and I am glad. In my youth, the Yuletide loot ran largely to ten cent neckties and twenty-five cent books by Zane Grey. I keep two neckties today, not counting Susan B. Anthony, and one suffices - the other is black and was meant for the obsequies of a longtime friend in the cathedral up at Sherbrooke, Quebec. We had packed somber wear for this, but on the drive up my spouse said, ''Oh-oh! I forgot to pack a necktie!'' So I pulled up at Lac Megantic to ask a haberdasher for a ''cravate noire pour des funerailles.'' It was just right for an outlander Protestant in the cathedral. So when we six ''bearers'' assembled for our task, I was the only one with a necktie. Two were wearing pink sportshirts! It was good to realize that in my lifetime an absurd, unhealthy, inhuman custom had so properly disappeared. So I do have a black necktie which was worn once, which is in fine shape, and which is on early retirement.
In manual training, a boy's first project was a tie rack. It fastened inside a closet door, and kept his many Christmas neckties in order and at hand. Every closet door in town had such a rack - a dowel in two brackets. It was considered tidy to rotate, and right after any good Christmas a boy could go two-three weeks without repeating. And that didn't count the knitted ties and the crocheted ties - both made with the same stitches used on washrags. Aunt Poody, who gave me knitted ties for Christmas and birthday so many years, always sheared her own sheep, washed, carded, spun, and knitted, and her neckties were always crooked and hung on the bias. I preferred to skip Aunt Poody's ties in my school routine, but would put one on if she came to visit.
Nobody's given me a Christmas necktie for years and years. So I'm healthy, comfortable, etc., and glad.