Letters: Maybe we had that ‘back in our day’ after all

Editor’s note: This tale is an Internet sensation with no discernible author. We’ve checked, and it’s run anonymously in a Chicago daily newspaper, in blogs, on Facebook and YouTube, in England, and in publications with conservative, liberal, Republican and Democratic audiences. It was sent to us by Robert Smith, aka Rabbit, who received it from Hooney, his 1957 Richmond High School classmate. Anyone old enough to know Rabbit probably also knows Hooney, so we won’t worry about using his real name here. Rabbit’s local version follows the Internet sensation.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
She was right – our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.
So they really were recycled.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings.
Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts –wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart young person. And remember: We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to tick us off … especially from a young wiseacre who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much.

Saving the Earth in ignorant bliss

I can remember in 1945 when my grandparents lived in a little house on Jabez Street. Out in the backyard was an outhouse that took care of the sewage and recycled it. My grandpa fed table scraps to the chickens. In addition, they got their eggs from the chickens and a Sunday dinner every once in a while, too.
He also had a garden where he grew a lot of his own vegetables. Empty tin cans were put into a gunny sack on a nail on the outside of the house.  Clothes were dried on a line, and since there were no sewers, wash water went into a ditch that flowed down to a creek below the Ray County Museum.
We carried our lunch to West Ward school in little paper bags. When we were through with lunch we folded them up and put them in our back pocket to be used again and again and again until they were too greasy to use any more.
They had an ice box and they would put a little sign on the front porch that could be read from the street telling the ice man how much we needed.  In the summer, we would steal little pieces of ice off the back of the ice truck before the workers would chase us away.
In those days, if a person wore a hole in his automobile tires , they did not go out and buy new ones.  They would put a “boot” in the tire and run it 10,000 more miles.  I think that everyone in those had “bald eagle” tires.
The shoe repair business across from the old Richmond Hotel did a thriving business.  If you wore leather shoes, you could have new soles and heels put on your shoes.  In an emergency, people would put cardboard inside their shoes to cover a hole.  That worked pretty well until it rained and the cardboard got soggy.
Most of the kids on the west sde of town got a new pair of Converse tennis shoes before school started.  (In the summers, we went bare-footed.)  By the time school was out, those old tennis shoes were shot.  That was OK because that is when we went bare-footed again.
There were even people who made a living by repairing small appliances. Old man Tarwater had a little place next to the depot where he repaired odds and ends. Now, everything is disposed of rather than being repaired.
All bottles were reused. Pop bottles, beer bottles and milk bottles were used over and over again.  Kids like myself could always make a little money picking up bottles and selling them back to the stores.
Here it is seventy years later and people have discovered ecology.  Back then, people lived it, and were not even aware that they were saving the planet.

– Your friend, Bob “Rabbit” Smith, Panama City, Fla.

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