Claremore Daily Progress

June 20, 2011

COLUMN: Yesterday’s thrift is today’s recycling

Joy Hampton
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE — Mama used to say there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

She was good at problem solving. Growing up during the Great Depression, if there was one thing my folks knew, it was how to eat well without spending a lot of money.

Daddy’s family were poor share croppers. My grandma was very resourceful but times were hard. Daddy told stories of how his mama would wash and patch his overalls every night so he’d have clean clothes to wear to school.

She had been a school teacher and a refined lady, and she taught her kids that being poor didn’t mean you had to be dirty.

Like most farm wives she stretched her resources through reuse, something we now call recycling but back then it was just plain ol’ making do with what you had.

The kids department those days was mama and daddy’s closet. When something was nearly worn out it got cut down to fit the kids.

Quilts were made from scraps after worn clothes had been cut down so many times there was nobody small enough to wear them.

The fabric department was also know as flour sacks.

My folks passed their home grown wisdom along, and I grew up being taught not to be wasteful.

The cupholder in Daddy’s pickup was a mayonnaise lid nailed to a board. It fit the cup of his thermos lid perfectly. Bent nails were straightened and saved in an old coffee can, and new nails were stored in jars sorted by size. There was a lumber scrap pile out by the shed which I could use to build things, like the puppet theater I nailed together one summer.

Fabric and yarn scraps, buttons out of the button jar, and old socks were among the recycled items I used to make the puppets. That project entertained me for hours and also became entertainment for the littler kids in the community when I put on puppet shows.

We didn’t have to buy a kit to make stuff like that because there was always something in the scrap box.

My best Halloween costume was a clown outfit Mama sewed up out of scraps. I wore it more than once and then one of my nephews wore it and eventually my kids wore it in their turn.

Talk about getting your money’s worth.

Accuse me of being nostalgic, but it seems things were simpler when I was a kid. Family picnics involved cold fried chicken, bread and butter sandwiches, and, on occasion, pork and beans. Those were some good meals and I’d wager a darned sight less expensive than the prepackaged and over-packaged stuff I see a lot of parents buying these days.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, do you really have to buy an over-priced package to feed your kids cheese, baloney, and crackers?

No one can dispute that times have changed and some of that was good and some of that not so great. Mostly, I worry that kids don’t get enough exercise from outdoor play, enough unstructured sports to just have fun regardless of ability level, or enough creative, make-believe playtime to stretch their imaginations.

With all of our ability to communicate across distances via texting and talking on cell phones, email and more, do we REALLY talk to each other anymore?

When I was growing up, conversation was what happened when you were sitting around shelling peas or snapping green beans.

We might not know what happened in China yesterday, but we knew who was sick and who was dying and who was getting married in our little town.

We knew the first and last names of our neighbors, and by age 14 most of us knew how to drive a stick shift, a lawn mower and a boat. Quiet a few could operate a tractor.

Today, we have modern advancements that would have blown Grandpa and Grandma away, and I wouldn’t go back. I like my Android phone particularly if I get lost or have a flat tire.

But we can embrace change and still hold onto the best of the past. Everyday, we make a million choices on how we’re going to live, what we’ll throw away and what we’ll use, what we’ll give of ourselves and our time, what we will eat and wear.

Those decisions add up to a lifestyle over time and reveal my priorities.

With choice, comes responsibility. May we all choose well.