Patrick Kuhl: Good-bye, old sport coats

July 21, 2013 

It came down to this: Add a room onto the house or get rid of some clothes I haven't worn for years.

Reluctantly, I opted for what was behind door No. 2 -- a bunch of old sport coats that have been quietly minding their own business at the far end of the closet.

My wife made a face at the green plaid number I pulled off the hanger. She thinks she saw one just like it on "That '70s Show."

Now, hold on just one lint-picking minute. That was one spiffy sport coat for a cub reporter ready to take on the world in the name of truth, justice and the American way 35 or so years ago. See this inside pocket? That's where I kept my reporter's notebook, ready to flip out on a moment's notice to cover a fire, a big murder case or a government scandal. OK, so what if my editors decided it would work just as well for garden club exhibits and the guy who brought the 40-pound catfish into the lobby. I was the best-dressed guy at the planning commission subcommittee meetings.

I searched the pockets to see if there were any notes or my old Corpus Christi Caller Times press pass. There weren't. Just two sticks of Juicy Fruit gum and some vintage lint.

I slid one arm into the green plaid sport coat. It wedged about halfway in when I heard a couple of threads pop. I pulled it off and tossed it on a chair.

Out came a gray sport coat with raised white threads running helter-skelter. It was all about texture, I guess. We have pictures of me wearing it on a Caribbean cruise 30-odd years ago. There's one with the captain at the grand ball. Why are we leaning to the left? Because the ship had just rolled to the right. Don't worry, I didn't get seasick -- at least not while wearing that jacket.

That little dark spot next to my lapel is baked Alaska, one of the amazing desserts from the cruise. If I hadn't had that baked Alaska, maybe I could still fit into it today. The label said "athletic cut."

This ship has sailed, I thought, as I flung it onto the chair.

Next up was a dark gray tweed with brown leather patches on the elbows. Some say I looked professorial in it. I thought about carrying a pipe to complete the look. I wouldn't have smoked, though, just carried it.

People gave me a lot more respect when I wore that coat.

I had a lot of fond memories in my professor coat. It went to a John Denver concert and on couple of business trips. I wore it to my son's baptism. He christened the coat once during the ceremony, but it came out with a little club soda.

A fuzzy brown houndstooth with tiny threads of red, green and blue mixed in puzzled me. The tag said it was a 42L when all the others from around that era said 42 regular. Did the L mean large? Lean? Loud? I'll never know.

I do know I wore it to my mom's funeral. There was a card in the breast pocket that said "In loving memory of Hildegard M. Kuhl, 1910-1981." I thought about her and how happy she must have been that we all dressed up. She liked it when we all dressed up like we did for the family photo hanging in the hallway. I was probably about 6 then and I remember she had put me in an itchy, starched white shirt, a red bow tie that was making my eyes bug out and a white sport coat. As the youngest of eight, I got to stand right between Mom and Pop, who were sitting down. Mom always like that picture because we were all dressed up. She especially liked that white sport coat. I didn't.

The brown houndstooth coat went everywhere. To a first communion. A fancy charity auction or two. To several nieces' and nephews' weddings. It did a mean Duck Dance.

A light blue nubby sport coat stood out from the crowd. It looked like it was meant for fun. I wore it to two grade school graduation banquets, a confirmation and to talk to a high school class about journalism. There were two complimentary drink tickets from the 1993 company Christmas party in the side pocket.

There were several other sport coats added to the Goodwill pile. Two-buttons, three-buttons, double-breasted ... see how I changed with the times?

Now, I'm pretty sure green plaid is never going to come into style again and I'm probably never going to fit into the 42 regulars again.

The pockets yielded a list of first communicants, a valet parking stub from the Chase Park Plaza and an alteration ticket.

Oh, and by the way, the Juicy Fruit was hard as a rock, but it was still pretty fruity and chewy once I pried off the foil. Some things are just too good to give away.

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