Woman saves grandmother’s trousseau items
Jackie Kreutzer’s maternal grandmother, Ernestine Clairain Pons, taught the toddler her ABCs while teaching her how to embroider.
“That’s what I embroidered,” Kreutzer said. “My grandmother lived with us until I was 6. She taught me to crochet and to do embroidery.”
Like so many young women of her generation, Kreutzer’s grandmother, who was born in 1870, was taught the art of needlework. Once she mastered the art, she utilized the talents of crochet, embroidery, tatting, lace-making and hand-sewing to begin assembling her trousseau.
A trousseau includes the possessions a bride assembles for her marriage. The traditional trousseau, typically stored in a hope chest, included bridal accessories, jewelry, lingerie, toiletries and makeup, plus bed linens and bath towels for her new home. Since the Victorian era, the trousseau also has consisted of brand-new outfits to see a woman through her wedding, honeymoon and newlywed days.
The young woman’s trousseau included her wedding slips, several bed jackets and camisoles, the invitation to her 1893 marriage to Anthony Oliver Pons and monogrammed beverage napkins. Today these items and others that belonged to her grandparents are the proud possessions of Kreutzer. “I’m the only daughter of an only daughter, so I inherited it all,” she said with a shy smile.
She lovingly points out the delicate camisole that would have been tied at the shoulders with ribbons, the crocheted petticoat bottoms that would have peeked out from under her grandmother’s dresses.
“Women were a lot more modest back then,” said Kreutzer as she held up one of two batiste cotton bed jackets — some with crochet embellishments, some with embroidery. “It was kind of like unwrapping a package (for the groom) on the wedding night.”
And, speaking of wedding nights, Kreutzer has the porcelain bobble-head little boys sitting atop chamber pots that were placed on her grandparents’ nightstand on their wedding night. She also has her grandparents’ marriage and death certificates, her grandparents’ stock certificates in the St. Tammany Parish Fair Association, her mother’s birth certificate and a recipe for cough medicine: “Brown Sugar; Licorich; Slippery Elim; Rock Candy; Mohound; 2 lemons.”
Kreutzer grew up in Abita Springs, the only child of Elmina Pons and Hendry B. Sprole. She has fond memories of doing needle work with her grandmother, who died at the age of 74. Her grandfather, who was a justice of the peace in Abita Springs, died at age 55.
“My mother died at age 88. I have to die when I’m 104 because I’m going to run out of money, according to my financial guy,” Kreutzer added.
Before moving to Baton Rouge, Kreutzer worked at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. She had a house on Bayou LaCombe filled with her grandmother’s antique furniture, silver, china and trousseau items. Some of it she brought with her when she moved. Hurricane Katrina took care of the rest, in particular all of the furniture and silver.
“I learned to crochet using sewing machine thread,” said Kreutzer, who wore one of the slips at her own wedding. “I still crochet baby things, but I don’t do lace anymore. I made one tucked-bodice evening dress for myself, and I still make ring bearer pillows. One took 28 hours to make; it went to Budapest for the wedding of Sophie Kelli. She’s the daughter of LSU professor Peter Kelli and wife Suzannah.”