MACKINAW MEMORIES: The Silverback Coat
Half a century ago, just a youth, I was rummaging through our hall closet and came across a rugged gray and black wool garment. I asked my mother, “Whose coat is this?” She replied, “Daddy’s.” I said, “Grandpa’s coat?” She said, “Yes, it’s a mackinaw. He wanted you to have it.” Grandpa had been the lead foreman of a construction gang that built roads throughout the northwest. They lived in the backcountry, engaged in long days of honest, hard work. Inclement weather was part of the job. I was told that Filson clothing was a staple for these men – loggers, road builders, longshoremen, and market game hunters – it kept them warm and protected from the elements. The clothes took on the status equivalent to the tools such men used on a daily basis: no less important than the axe, surveyor’s maps, compass, firearm, and pocketknife. This was Grandpa’s favorite work coat. It kept out the chill of the biting wind, flurries of tap dancing snowflakes, and daggers of slicing rain. I was enthralled with the strange pocket that covered the entire breadth of the back of the coat. Mother told me this was for holding maps. Once I inherited the coat – Grandpa, though long past, was with me on my journeys, both near and far. I’ve worn it for over fifty years – it has never failed me. It’s been to the docks of Oporto, and the tapas bars of Barcelona…harbor against adverse conditions hustling about the damp alleys of Europe, and apt attire for business in Paris or New York…unflinching cover and warmth, with style, throughout the West Coast – from Los Angeles to Vancouver. A few years back, I traveled to Seattle, Washington. On the waterfront, the fierce winter wind did not penetrate my coat; Grandpa had chosen wisely. I journeyed to its birthplace – the original Filson factory store in Seattle. A friendly salesman said that he hadn’t seen one exactly like it. The mackinaw will probably outlast me before it gives up its ghost. A fine coat indeed – a Filson.
-G. M. Yore Califo