This dress is a 'precious tradition,' too

August 27, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

Editor's note: After a recent Herald-Mail story about five sisters who wore the same dress for their first-grade pictures, Williamsport resident Ivy Britner called and told us about a dress her family has owned for 42 years.

Ivy Britner's family has one custom that never has gone out of fashion.

She and her two sisters wore the same multicolored plaid dress for their first-grade pictures, and so did her two daughters and niece.

"It's a precious tradition," the Williamsport resident says.

--cont. from lifestyle--

Her voice is reverent as she smooths the cotton fabric of what her family calls "the rainbow dress," purchased by her grandmother, the late Anna Miskel.

"I feel so close to her when I reminisce about this dress," she says.

Britner says her grandmother always believed in quality, and that's why the dress has lasted 42 years.

Miskel gave it to Britner's sister, Cynthia Hudak, to wear for her school portrait in 1956. Nadine Flint donned the dress in 1964, and Britner wore it in 1966.


A second generation stepped into the dress when Flint's daughter, Tara Flint, wore the dress in 1988. Britner's daughter Linda Redden wore the dress in 1989, and Britner's daughter Louise Redden wore it in 1996.

Britner, 38, wasn't always so fond of the dress that her mother, Delores Szymanski of Alexandria, Va., made her wear.

She thought it was old-fashioned, and she couldn't wait to get home and take it off.

"I remember thinking 'This is so ugly; why do I have to wear it?' Now I am very proud that I wore it," she says.

Linda says she didn't like the dress at first, either.

"When grandma told me about who wore the dress, I thought it was kinda neat," says Linda, 14, a sophomore at Williamsport High School.

Louise, a 7-year-old third-grader at Williamsport Elementary, says she liked wearing it for her picture.

The dress continues to spark memories for the family headed by Delores and Richard Szymanski, who have been married 49 years.

Britner is married to Tim Britner and also has two sons, Paul Redden, 17, and Joseph Redden, 11.

Hudak, 47, lives in Centreville, Va., with her husband, Steve.

Flint, 40, and her husband, Del, reside in Sterling, Va., and also have a son, Justin, 12.

The family members have a special place in their hearts for the dress that Delores Szymanski is keeping ready until the next family member has a daughter.

When it's time for that girl's first-grade photo, they'll reach into the brown paper bag labeled "Girls rainbow dress from Gramma Miskel" and pull out the garment that has touched so many lives.

And they'll think of the loving woman whose gift started it all.

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