Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scents of the South

Scientist say that the sense of smell is our strongest and invokes the most memories. I agree. Southern women love their fragrances, some to an excess. In his Drugstore, Daddy always catered to his female customers with a wide selection of perfumes. Well, looking back on it, they were actually eau' de toilettes or toilet water as my Aunty would say. But in the 1970's, no one else in town had anything fancier.

As I mentioned before, I can remember my Aunt Kat wearing Emeraude  which while never a very expensive "perfume", was still respectful in it's time. My mother's sister, always the sophisticated one, wore Channel No. 5, what else would one expect? But, my mother always wore Jungle Gardenia. How southern could you get? If you have never smelled this scent, think the heavy fragrance of a gardenia bush in full bloom in the early evening on a warm southern night. In other words, it was strong.

Back to Aunty, she always had a running joke with my Dad about Hoyts cologne. Dad would give her a bottle every year for Christmas - it wasn't the easiest fragrance to find, so it was a game for them. When I got older, I learned that Hoyts was an extremely cheap cologne that was favored by gamblers and others of that sort (which would fit my Aunty.) To her credit, I don't think she ever wore it.

Oh, there were other perfumes I would read about in the magazines - Arpege, Rive Gauche (which Mom and Dad actually bought me while on a trip to France), and Chantilly. In the 80's Giorgio of Beverly Hills was introduced and was so God-awefully strong that some resteraunts would have signs politely denying service to anyone wearing the fragrance.

And, then there are the natural scents, the most prominent being the wonderful fragrance of Magnolias that fills the air from late May through June. Nothing can match that intoxicating scent. Other smells that invoke my youth are wisteria (a perfumed aroma that fills the air in early summer), sweet hay from the horse barns, smoke from a cigar, that wonderful smell cured tobacco, freshly mowed grass, jasmine, and the heavy smell of gardenia at night.

Of course, I'm failing to mention other "fragrances" some would associate with the south - such as the exhaust from Taladega, the dusty scent of the infield at Darlington, the hot dog stand at Rockingham, but I can't help you there.

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