Waste not want not in ‘hard times’


Whatever happened to the March lamb? Did the ferocious March lion have lamb for lunch before slinking back to his lair, growling and lashing his tail as he went?

Do you remember my warning after January’s benign presence that somewhere down the road Mother Nature’s payback would take place, and I was right on the money. Everyone is complaining and most parts of the country have been seeing extreme weather of some kind.

If global warming is upon us, why am I still wearing layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox? And why is it still too cold and wet to pull last year’s dead stalks from around the blooming crocuses and the emerging daffodils and hyacinths?

I tried during one hour’s let-up of the cold rain, but too much wet earth came up with the stalk so I quit.

The lawnmowers have returned from their spring tune-up, but with the price of gasoline they may have an easier year than usual. Truthfully, I’ll do without something else rather than look out upon an overgrown yard. Maybe once a week will do instead of twice.

And since I mow the grassy boulevard — no one asks me but again I can’t bear to see it untidy — I may even ask the township to help with the gasoline. However, the township is having its own financial troubles so I’ll just save my breath and consider it my community contribution.

One of the news networks is trumpeting ways to deal with “hard times” and to those of us of a certain age — before credit cards, before the “I want it and I want it now” mind-set — the ways were drummed into us from the get-go.

We recycled without knowing there was such a word or practice. We saved our bread wrappers rather than buy wax paper. We “shaved” bar soap rather than buy liquid or powder detergents.

We turned lights off when we left a room. We made casseroles and soups to stretch the food budget. We grew our own vegetables and preserved them by canning. Freezing had not yet been discovered.

We did not go out to eat unless there was a special occasion. We hung our newly laundered clothing outside if the weather was suitable and in the cellar on rainy days.

Shoes were resoled when necessary, never thrown away. Holes in socks or stockings were mended and there was even such a thing as a “darning egg,” which made mending a little easier.

Shirt collars that frayed from wear inside were “turned” so they looked as good as new.

There were so many other ways to deal with “hard times” and though at the time we children didn’t know how important these savings were, they got us through the “hard times” and the concept has stayed with us to our benefit.

Sadly, the more recent generations will have to learn the tricks the hard way.

* * *

In a 1985 publication of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society is a fun account of a happening in the early 1800s in Poland Village, involving Oswald Detchon, born in 1761.

William Bishop, who lived in Boardman Township across the road from Detchon, recounted the tale, and here it is:

“In the early days all citizens of proper age were required to meet and receive military instruction and drill for one day in each year. This was called Training Day.

“I belonged to Oswald Detchon’s Co.: He was an officer in the militia. We trained on the Village Green in the Village of Poland. After the duties of the day were completed we always met at the Stone Tavern and had our grog — all the men in those days drank their liquor without moral prejudice.

“One evening after training we met as usual at the Stone Tavern and had several drinks. After the first round Oswald excused himself, saying that he could not remain longer. It was then near sunset. He started westwardly along the Poland & Boardman road to his home about 1 1/2 miles away.

“The rest of us remained, had a few more drinks and then the Boardman Crowd started homeward just at dusk. About a mile west of Poland Village we saw through the dusk of evening someone standing in the middle of the road.

“When we came up to the man, it was Oswald, standing upright on his knees. He had been overcome by the liquor, had fallen and could only get up so far as to stand on his knees. We younger men helped him to his feet and all proceeded home together.

“Oswald was very crestfallen that he had taken so much liquor as to place him in the ridiculous position in which he was found. As a result he refused to drink again at any public house.

“The thing that impressed me was the fact, that standing on his knees he was about as tall as any of the boys standing on their feet.”

* * *

As of April 4, I have been retired for 21 years, which doesn’t seem possible. And it is true, that when you are retired there is even less time than you had when you were working, and you don’t get nearly as much done.

Happily, my only deadline is every two weeks for this column and if I don’t happen to make it, no one is going to fire me, I hope!

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