TAMPA — As troops returned home at the end of World War II, American women had something else to celebrate: nylon stockings.
Sale of the stockings, which were considered more comfortable and better-fitting than the silk variety, were delayed because the military needed nylon for parachutes and aircraft tires. When the first nylon stockings went on the market in 1945, Macy's sold 50,000 pairs in six hours.
In the middle of the craze was Dorothy Rosen, who sold hosiery in St. Paul, Minn. She was there when it all began, and would sell hosiery for the next 40 years.
But while fluent in fashion, she afforded herself few luxuries, devoting most of her energies to her husband and son.
Mrs. Rosen grew up in St. Paul, one of six children born to Russian immigrants. She met her future husband, Milton Rosen, in high school. They had a son, Stephen, who took the bus after school to Alberts Hosiery to be with his mother.
A trim woman with a quick smile, Mrs. Rosen made an excellent model for the stockings she sold. "She got to be good at it," said Stephen Rosen, 60. "Everybody wore hosiery. She could convince people that they should choose this or that style or shade."
They ate dinner in the store. She called him "Tatelah," a Yiddish term meaning "little man."
"Consumers were clearly in an acquisition mode at that time," said Sally Kay, president and CEO of the Hosiery Institute in Charlotte, N.C. "During the war when they had a scarcity of nylon, women would take an eyebrow pencil and draw an imaginary seam on the back of their legs, so it would appear as if they had their stockings."
Mrs. Rosen saw hosiery evolve. After nylon came Spandex, which manufacturers combined with nylon to make pantyhose in the early 1960s, just in time for the miniskirt. Hosiery sales peaked in the 1980s, Kay said, with more women in the workplace and before the 1990s, when people began finding more ways to work from home.
Mrs. Rosen rode the initial wave. From Thanksgiving through Christmas, she usually worked 12-hour shifts, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Milton Rosen, a short-order cook, worked different hours. The couple rarely saw each other during the week. On weekends, they bowled together in a "Mr. and Mrs." league.
"They had very little and never wanted very much," Stephen Rosen said of his parents. "Everything that they did, they did pretty much for me."
After they retired, Mrs. Rosen and her husband moved to Tampa in the 1980s. She died on Wednesday at age 83. She had suffered a series of strokes.
Mrs. Rosen knew scores of Yiddish folk songs, and sang them around the house. Among her favorites was My Yiddishe Momma, made famous by Sophie Tucker and Connie Francis.
Stephen Rosen is a Tampa lawyer who was recently appointed to a judgeship in Jacksonville. "It saddens me," he said, "how much more I could have appreciated what they sacrificed for me."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2248.