An Ode to Pop and his Preppiness

It seems odd to me that both my paternal grandmother and maternal (step) grandfather are both still alive yet we have divvied up all of their worldly possessions. I guess it shows the era we are living in, where people just live, live, live and their existence gets smaller and smaller. Or maybe I am just overanalyzing.

Charlotte and Charles on their wedding day
June 29, 1957
Regardless, I wish my YaiYai (Greek for 'grandmother') could see her gorgeous old lace table cloths gracing my dining room table for dinner parties and just for every day enjoyment. We use her turquoise Japanese china for desserts and look at her old pictures with fond memories while she rests in a recliner in hospice in a sad, deteriorating daze.

Aunt Cator, Pop, Biba and Mom

While my grandfather is fading fast, he is hardly sedate. He is 92 and living at my cousin Katie’s farm. He gets up, dresses, calls the bank, calls his family (often dialing 911 instead of the North Carolina area code of 919!) and still shouts at the television. His classic clothes have always inspired me and now I posses many of them. He is part of the reason why I am in fashion, although if he knew that he would give a hearty chuckle. His style is ageless and timeless and I wonder how much he has ever really thought about it.

Growing up, I spent almost every weekend at my mother’s childhood home. My grandmother bought the house in 1940 with her first husband, my grandfather Bill, but when that relationship sadly went south she kept the old house (built in the 20s as a summer home in the now bustling Buckhead) and when she met Charles Crawley he was given no option but to move in. Biba (as we called her) lived on Wieuca Road until the day she was wheeled out of there in 1993 suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.

4378 Wieuca Road

 The big old house was magical. It wasn’t fancy, just old with high ceilings and big rooms. What I wouldn’t do to still have that house around. Pop’s closet always piqued my interest. It was organized like only a military man with OCD can. There were sweaters in every color of the rainbow and they were all neatly stacked and folded. His shoes were brilliantly polished and always had cedar shoetrees inserted. 
Biba and Pop's bedroom with the magic closet in view

Biba's desk in her bedroom where all the world's problems were solved.

Pop was a true Mad Man, an ad exec who lived in New York in the 40s and always had one watch, one tie clip and one pair of cuff links. His pants were always cuffed and while he had them tailored he was constantly yanking them up. It became a running joke in our family. When he got riled up about something his eyes would bulge, his lip would quiver and his hands would reach for his belt and yank and swivel his pants up with brute force as he would shout, “That SOB doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”

Of course his closet was sacred and I would never snoop so I never fully explored, but his outfits were always throwing me for a loop. Not so much his office wear but his weekend and beach looks. Madras for days in the most energetic colors! There were also seersuckers, pastels and they were worn with scrunched down white socks and penny loafers. And if it was a day on the beach or the golf course he pulled out what my grandmother referred to as his ‘Asshole Hat’, a white bucket hat with a blue band. She thought every man who wore one of those looked like a complete A-hole. She was never short of words.

Pop grew up in High Point, North Carolina. His family was middle class and he was a paperboy at a young age. Pop went to Mitchell Academy in Statesville for high school. He took his last two years of high school there because ‘I got in a fight with the principal of the other school. He called me something and I called him an SOB back!”

He went to college at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

His time in New York seems to be the real highlight of his life, besides of course my grandmother. It was his first success and he always regaled me with stories of living on Central Park South for $50 a month and driving out to the Hamptons and locking a band in a barn for the night so they wouldn’t stop playing for some big party he was attending. I am sure that band was tipped graciously.

I found an envelope full of letters wishing him well on his retirement

While I lived in New York we had two booze riddled nights together. One at La Caravelle getting hammered and another at The Carlyle rolling into Bobby Short's show. Mr. Short met us after the show and I have never seen Pop so pie eyed. He introduced me to Bobby and Bobby looked at me and sang, "Well, hey, hey, aren't you a lucky gent to have this man around!" 

It’s so sad to see him fading. Why can’t we all go with one great heart attack and never suffer? Although if he did go that quickly, we wouldn't have the time with him now, at Katie’s, when we bring him old pictures and he rattles off amusing stories. But it is heart breaking to see him so frail and I know Katie has her wings waiting in heaven for all of the nursing she has had to do for him 24-hours a day.

In early December when Paul and I drove to Lake Lanier for the engagement party mama and her friends threw for us we arrived in my room to storage boxes stacked five high, all of Pop’s clothes he no longer needs. I wasted no time tearing through them. The first box was sweaters, all those colors and textiles from wool to cotton to cashmere. While they aren’t exactly the slim fit I am a fan of, they fit well enough. One beige cashmere sweater from is already my go to for everyday dawdling about.

The second box was shoes. For some reason he has both 8.5 and 9.5. Paul now has several pairs of his 8.5 loafers while I fit into his old Church's brogues. And there are those gorgeous shoetrees; some seemingly carved from virgin forests many moons ago.

The third box was filled with those magical madras shorts. While I am not pleased with my growing waistline, I am thrilled that I can comfortably fit into his size 38s. And they are all high waisted! I can’t wait for my 30s summer seaside outfits, possibly for the honeymoon?! Sadly his pants are just too damn short for me. I don’t do the Thom Browne ‘Pee-Wee Herman’ look so I will have to let those go. All though there is one pair of red and green tartan madras (what? Yes!) that are cuffed and I am praying my tailor can unroll them to my length.

The final box was tennis shoes (pass!), his Master’s visor and the infamous Asshole Hat. I took that one for good measure.

Another task for my tailor is the closet full of suits mother hauled home for me. While the sleeves are too short and I have fortunately not gained a pot-belly, there is a lot of work to do. But I can’t pass up the exciting collection of English tweeds from J. Press. Let us pray Madame Marie can make these my size.

One of the most magical items I pulled out of a box was his red corduroy smoking jacket (from Sears!). That will be getting lots of use around the house (and possibly to a party or three?).

Now you would think I would be calling him up and thanking him for all of these decadent duds? How I wish I could but I am in a bit of a pickle. You see, he promised all of his clothes to a nephew and to his caddie. The nephew doesn't want them and he doesn’t know his caddies name and he hasn’t played golf in years. Alas!

Biba and Pop in Ponte Vedra, Florida

I am proud to have them and am sure I will cherish these garments more than most men would. Please don’t think I have stripped him of his entire wardrobe! He still has closets full at Katie’s and we bought him new argyle socks and a new smaller sweater for him at Brooks Brothers this fall. He’s a thin little rail these days and he has retired the brogues for New Balance. But even today his pink striped shirt with mint green trousers balance off the new kicks to emanate purely preppy Pop.