Wedding dress exhibit showcases love from the past

Gloria Shacklett Christy, The Murfreesboro Post, January 13, 2013

While once again preparing for the wedding dress exhibition at Oaklands Historic House Museum, I reached up into the closet and carefully opened the tattered box containing the wedding dress belonging to my grandmother Nena Verelle White Shacklett. 

One can only imagine its former loveliness from almost a century ago. As I stroked the fabric dotted with delicately formed French knots across the bodice, images formed of my grandmother, primping with excitement in front of a large oval mirror on her special day, July 8, 1914. 

Another visual appeared of her youthful, flushed face as she slipped into her white leather gloves carefully buttoning them over her small, soft hands. And then perhaps, my great-grandmother Ora Rion White placing the veil over her head, giving her a kiss while Nena smoothed the organza over her petite, 20-inch waistline. 

The two, Nena and Arthur,  had found each other – the bride, a young woman in her early 20s, a recent graduate of Tennessee College for Women and the groom, a formidable up and coming Murfreesboro businessman, co-owner of Shacklett, Staley and Sanders Dry Goods. 

Their union was a time like no other in our family’s history – marking their commitment to their relationship and new life together. 

Their wedding celebrated the forming of a new family and from that union, offspring, a new generation – John, a businessman, William, a doctor, Claude, a photographer, Sarah, a businesswoman, and Bob, a pathologist. 

All grew up during the Great Depression, but “there was not a day that they did not know for sure that each was loved. Somehow, it seems that out of their love for each other, just came more love so that more love could be given to others,” as my aunt Sarah repeated often.

Strangely enough, the image of my grandparents – youthful and in love was the farthest from my mind one hot summer day in 1960. 

Granddaddy was in the garden visible atop the tractor with a sizzling July sun shining on his almost hairless head, sweat pouring down his wrinkled cheeks scored by the years and hard farm life. 

Meanwhile, in the side yard, with her crinkled hands clinched and along with an aching arthritic body, Granny and I were pushing a power mower through some tall grass.  

Without warning, the mower slung a piece of tin into the air slicing Granny’s leg. Blood began spurting and streaming all over. 

For a moment, seeing as I was the one mowing and a 10-year-old who was frequently in trouble, I began to feel a fiery panic swirl like a whirlwind across my body. 

Furthermore, fear grabbed me as I ran to the garden waving my hands in the air alerting Granddaddy, hoping that I would get his attention. Years before, he had lost all his hearing and was virtually stone-deaf.

He dropped from the tractor and came running to where Granny lay in the yard.

All of sudden, tears began flowing profusely as he cried, “Please, let her be alright. I just love her so much, and just don’t want anything to happen to her.”

There was the verbal confirmation of what I had instinctively known my whole life: Granny and Granddaddy were really in love. 

The years of successes and failures had drawn them only closer and stronger. At such a young age, I witnessed something special between the two of them. 

The drama continued to unfold while Granddaddy told me to call my uncle Bill, the doctor.

I watched them clutch and comfort each other as they waited for him to arrive oblivious to my presence. That demonstration of love and affection after almost 50 years of marriage has been imprinted in my memory for decades.

So, it is with pride that the Shacklett family shares Granny’s wedding dress – a symbol of their lasting love for each other at the “Wedding Dresses Through the Decades” exhibit. 

Wedding dresses from many decades will be on display in Maney Hall and can be viewed by the public at the Oaklands Historic House Museum beginning today through Sunday, March 3.

During this exhibit, the public will have the rare opportunity to view items from not only the museum collection, but also elegant and fashionable wedding dresses worn by ladies from both Murfreesboro and around the country.

“The clothing and textiles are now very fragile and delicate,” said Nila Gober, curator of the Oaklands Historic House Museum. “We look forward to sharing the hidden collections of Oaklands and others in the community with our visitors.”

This is an excellent way to walk through the past and see the changes in fashions from the different areas, times and cultures, she said. 

The exhibit will be open during regular visiting hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. till 4 p.m. Sunday. 

Admission to the exhibit is $5 per person. 

An open house will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today. The open house is $5 per person.

The exhibit is in conjunction with Language of Love and Courtship tours that will also take place through March, which is included with regular admission to the museum.

The Oaklands Historic House Museum is located at 900 N. Maney Ave. near downtown Murfreesboro.

For more information about the exhibit, contact 615-893-0022 or e-mail

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