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Let’s Cook: Charmed by Johanna

By Chuck Repnow - | Jul 31, 2021

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to view some spectacular vintage clothing. You know me, I take to vintage like the race car’s rubber tires take to the road.

Seeing the first, beautiful and pristine two-piece suit stopped me in my tracks. Seeing the right fabric, perfect pattern style and certainly hand-covered buttons does this to me.

Before my eyes was a Gilbert original suit in muted burnished gold and black with highlights of skiffs of white. It was neatly tailored to perfection with a cropped jacket, large covered buttons, clean lines and the skirt was slim and trim and lined as if were a silk purse.

I must say a prettier bridge of fashion was never built than this one, spanning fall and winter with such classic style.

Johanna Amon of Towner years earlier had stepped into her matching suede pumps that featured a tone that was between Spanish moss and pewter and complemented her suit attractively; she was sure to win a best-dressed accolade or two.

The story of Johanna Black-Amon started in Towner. She was raised there by her parents Joseph and Lena (Sitter) Black on a farm near Fulda, the eldest of ten children. She met her husband, Otto, in 1942, and their first date was a dance. They were married September 4, 1944 at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Towner. Otto had enlisted in the U S Navy and was stationed out West.

In time, Otto and Johanna made their home in San Francisco, California for over nine years. It was during this time period that Johanna’s love of fashion and stylish clothes was further developed by shopping at many of the fine ladies stores there.

They returned to North Dakota in 1953 and their daughter, Deborah Carol, and son, Kevin James, made the family complete. Even with many duties as a wife, mother and involvement in the community, Johanna maintained her love of fashion.

She was a person who had the ability and desire to think in a longer time line. She understood that preserving her collection of garments would be of value. How right she was. As a author of fashion, she carefully cared for each chapter of clothing. Some of main characters included generous flat felt seams, darts, beautiful fabrics and invisible zippers.

She often put her best foot forward in stylish Selby shoes. After an evening at the Towner Golf Club, a lovely afternoon tea with Charlotte, or Sunday church, shoes were returned to their original boxes where they kept company with the original sales slip. There was a time or two when her shoes did embrace the twilight because she and Otto simply danced the night away at a place near the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking at vintage, handwritten sales slips from Taubes, Baders and Walter’s was a trip down memory lane. Other popular sales slips included Ellisons Department Store, The Cameo Room, The Jacqueline Shop and many more.

My intent of writing this column is to focus on the value, purpose and joy of saving something that is not only beautiful, but captures a time period when things were crafted with pride. It was a pleasure to spend an afternoon with Deb, and her partner Cindy, as they showcased Johann’s fashions through the years. I looked at this moment as a photographer and pulled back the lens to another place and time when paying attention to one’s appearance was important.

I took the time to take in the small details, lovely buttons, elegant stitching but zoomed out to see the full picture that featured timeless fashions. Value is developed by what we pay attention to, what items we treasure, and looking beyond the obvious.

It was for this reason that Deb and Cindy wanted to give these items to a worthy purpose such as theater, fashion shows and so forth. With the assistance of Cindy Neuharth, many of these fine garments are appreciated by the Minot State University Summer Theater staff. In fact, several of Johanna’s suits can be seen in the latest production of 9 to 5. Recently I presented a tribute to Natalie Wood and her performance in the movie “Penelope.” Edith Head was the costume designer for this movie and needless to say the fashions were stunning. They presented me with a trio of garments including the suit mentioned earlier that qualified to stand in the receiving line of celebrated fashions created by Head for this movie. Having these garments on display, added great interest to the presentation and kindled conversation.

We live in a society that far too often tosses everything out. I thank Johanna for not bending toward this trend. Thank goodness that Deb and Cindy also have broken free from this irresponsible notion. Seeing these garments on stage and in programs makes the world brighter and gives hope to the thought that someday landfills many not need to be open from 9 to 5!

Cream De Menthe Pie

This recipe was one from Johanna’s collection, and it not only tastes delicious, but looks lovely. It is at home on a summertime table, and if made near St. Patrick’s Day, it is the star of desserts.

20 Hydrox (Oreo) Cookies

1/3 cup of butter

28 large marshmallows

12 cup of milk

1/2 cup of cream whipped

Creme de menthe liqueur

Semi-sweet chocolate bar for shaving

Crush cookies with rolling pin for place in food processor and melted butter. Mix and pat into pie plate. Melt marshmallows and milk until smooth. Cool. Add creme de menthe and whipped cream and blend. Pour into prepared pie plate. Chill. Top with additional whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

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