Here comes the ragman – reuse of household items has old roots

Here comes the ragman – reuse of household items has old roots

April 2022

Everything Old

Here comes the ragman – reuse of household items has old roots

by Corbin Crable

 

You’re going to learn quite a bit about the recycling campaigns born out of the 1960s and ‘70s in this issue of Discover Vintage America since Earth Day is in April. You likely learned about them in elementary or middle school – characters, slogans and PSAs designed to drive home the importance of reducing waste in the name of Mother Earth and her health. Hopefully, you’ve carried them with you into adulthood and passed on the wise lessons they trumpet to your own children and grandchildren.

Eco Club

I remember joining my middle school’s newly formed “Eco Club” in seventh grade. In Eco Club, we learned all about the importance of recycling, reducing waste, and reusing items that could find a second life as something else. Often, we’d pick up trash around the school grounds. Even though it seemed like a menial task, I was proud to do it. I was making a positive impact, however seemingly small.

But did you know that efforts to reduce waste and reuse everyday household items were concepts that existed long before that period in postwar America? Your own ancestors were conscious of the importance of conserving our resources, not just in the name of reducing waste, but in an effort to go easy on the pocketbook, too.

 

According to a 2020 article on History.com, in the 19th century, “People recycled far more than we do now,” says Susan Strasser, author of “Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash.” “If the elbows in a shirt wore out, you’d take the sleeves off, turn them inside out, and voila: new shirt. If a dress went out of style, you added new buttons or sent it back to the dressmaker to fashion a trendier frock. Event-ually, the fabric would be turned into a quilt or a rag rug or just a rag.”

Recycling modern concept

Recycling, however, is more of a modern concept; in fact, in the 19th century, it was nearly unheard of. Back then, Strasser notes, there existed “the ragman,” a worker who went from one house to another in a neighborhood and bought your scraps of used cloth that would later be made into paper.

Garbage pickup as we know it today was introduced in the later part of that century, and city employees separated the reusable waste from that which was unusable, instead sending it to a landfill. If you and your family lived on a farm, you were likely to see your mother save organic waste to feed to the barnyard animals.

 

All of this is hard to imagine in the 21st century, when we are used to recycling centers doing the proverbial heavy lifting for us. But it’s fascinating for those of us who are passionate when it comes to the benefit of recycling in a world where our precious natural resources and wildlife are in danger of the wastefulness of so many of us.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” isn’t just a catchy, alliterative mantra. It’s a reminder that the very least we can do to help protect our planet has been practiced for years, and that we owe it to our ancestors, our families, and those who come after us to continue these practices in the name of preserving the beauty of our Earth. We hope that, in this issue, you’ll learn more about recycling efforts from the past 60 years or so and see them through fresh eyes – and that when you’re done reading this issue, we’ll find our way into your recycling bin.

Contact Corbin Crable at editor@discovervintage.com​

Reading remains a lifelong love

Reading remains a lifelong love

March 2022

Everything Old

Reading remains a lifelong love

by Corbin Crable

 

In this issue, we will explore the rich history of children’s literature, which has given birth to generations of lifelong readers, myself included.

Growing up, my favorite book was Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Published in 1865, the beloved, fantastical tale had already been delighting children for more than a century, and now I was its latest fan. My father gave me a copy of “The Book of Knowledge,” a compendium of children’s stories, factoids, and DIY craft projects, published in the early 20th century. Included in that volume was a serialized version of Carroll’s story, along with its sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.” I can still feel the slick, yellowed pages in my hands and the musty smell that arose from the book as I flipped through its pages.

The story included all of the original illustrations from John Tenniel, so I was able to see Carroll’s characters with my own eyes. Even if the illustrations hadn’t been included, my developing imagination – only strengthened from a love of reading – could have easily brought them to life in my young mind.

That was early in elementary school. As I grew older, it became apparent that society valued children who loved reading and gave them ample opportunity to do so. My school, like countless others across the country, hosted book fairs that I looked forward to with giddiness. Those colorful, paper Scholastic book order forms allowed me to buy books from my desk (a lot of my weekly allowance went to those, actually). Pizza Hut gave you a personal pan pizza for reading a certain number of books. And, in fourth grade, my teacher kept an antique, claw-foot bathtub in the back of the classroom, the interior lined with carpet squares. If you had been an exceptionally obedient student or had gone above and beyond what was expected of you on any given week, you were rewarded with an uninterrupted 15 minutes of reading in that antique bathtub. It was the best reward you could ask for – if you were a bibliophile, that is.

As an adult, I think those of us who proclaim to love reading also follow up that statement with, “But I just don’t have the time to do it much anymore.”

Our book collections have moved from the tangible, physical realm to the Kindle app on our e-reader or tablet (OK, OK, I do still enjoy my physical books, too, and have plenty I need to get rid of in order to free up some space at home).

We’ve all heard the statistics about how reading contributes to a child’s cognitive development in his or her early years. The appeal of reading for fun, however, seems to have taken a drop in recent years. According to a November 2021 survey from the Pew Research Center, the number of children who indicated that they “read for fun on their own time almost every day” has reached its lowest number since the question was first asked in 1984. Among 13-year-olds, during the 2019-20 academic year, 17% said they read for fun almost every day, down from 27% in 2012 and 35% in 1984. The survey also found that girls were far more likely than boys to read recreationally. The reasons for those statistics, while frustrating, are better addressed in an entirely separate column.

For now, I hope you take comfort in the memories of some of the children’s books we explore in this issue in Discover Vintage America – and once again delight in the worlds built and lessons learned within the pages of some your favorite books from your childhood.

Contact Corbin Crable at editor@discovervintage.com​

An ode to snow days, now gone

An ode to snow days, now gone

February 2022

Everything Old

An ode to snow days, now gone

by Corbin Crable

 

As I write this, temperatures in the Kansas City metro area continue to hover below freezing, with traces of snow lingering like an unwelcome dinner guest who failed to bring a bottle of wine to your party.

Throughout the winter months, as snow and ice have pelted the Midwest, it’s been easy to reflect on all we’ve lost these past couple of years. But let’s not forget what our children have lost, too – chief among them, the joy that a snow day off from school would inevitably bring.

You know you remember the feeling well – those evenings in the dead of winter during your childhood when you discussed the next day’s weather forecast with your parents – them, with a sigh of quiet resignation, and you, in a voice heavy with unbridled glee and a dash of hope that maybe, enough snow would fall overnight to keep you home from school.

 The next morning, having barely slept at all due to your rising levels of excitement and anticipation, you threw open your curtains to marvel at the work Mother Nature had done while you lie in your bed. Beautiful snow, blanketing the ground, heavy, wet, glistening, and a gorgeous temporary road block on your path to education.

Oh please, oh please, oh please, you exhale, running downstairs to watch the local news, normally a boring part of your parents’ daily routine but today, your oracle of (hopefully) good fortune. Your mother is already in front of the TV, coffee mug in hand, and you join her, watching the crawl at the bottom of the screen as it lists off area school closures in alphabetical order.

And then you see it – your school!

You squeal with delight, shouting “YEEEESSSSS!” and pumping your small fists in the air. Then, it’s off to your landline phone to call your friends to make plans so your precious snow day isn’t wasted. Maybe you’ll build a snowman or go sledding. Maybe you’ll have a good-natured snowball fight.

Maybe you’ll stay in to watch TV or play games. Maybe you’ll just play it by ear. You don’t even notice your mother collapsing into her kitchen chair, already making plans to ensure Dad shovels the driveway.

Now, in the age of remote working and learning, it seems that the joy of snow days have become a thing of the past, thanks to technology (which is great, until it means you have the ability to be available to anyone at any time). Living in the most connected era in human history does have its drawbacks, it appears.

Be glad and relieved that you have those cherished memories of the lazy days of winter without a homework assignment or pop quiz to make your mind swim with worry. And mourn their loss for your children and grandchildren, who will likely never be able to share in that joy, thanks to the dual blessing and curse of virtual learning.

But enough rumination – who’s up for a good, old-fashioned snowball fight?

Contact Corbin Crable at editor@discovervintage.com​

Original NES powers up in this issue

Original NES powers up in this issue

Photo by Ravi Palwe on Unsplash

January 2022

Everything Old

Original NES powers up in this issue

by Corbin Crable

 

Welcome to the January 2022 issue of Discover Vintage America! In this issue, we’ll be covering collectibles for those of a certain age – namely, Generation X, which covers anyone born between 1965 and 1980. Of course, the list of collectibles is lengthy, and it includes video games, those toys that retain a special place in the hearts of Gen Xers like me.

Although video game consoles have been ubiquitous with youth for decades, I’m old enough to remember one of the earlier iterations – the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

By the time the NES was released in 1983 in Japan, video game consoles had saturated the market for a little more than a decade, with the first ones being set up in American homes in the early 1970s. The NES device was released into American test markets in the fall of 1985 and were immensely popular from the start, becoming nothing short of a status symbol for a generation of young players.

I can recall my parents giving me the NES Action Set in the late 1980s for my birthday. The set, which retailed for $150, included the console itself, two game controllers, a ‘zapper’ (a controller resembling a gun), and two games loaded into one cartridge – Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.

 

I also remember hours of fun playing the game Gyromite, whose entire premise involved a mad scientist character attempting to disarm dynamite in his lab, placed there by his nemesis.

Among my friends and my younger brother’s friends, our house was the place to be. Between stints of playing outside for some much-needed fresh air and exercise, my brother and I hosted friends who would come over and stay for hours in a bid to save the princess in Super Mario Bros.

As I grew older, my interests moved away from video games; my brother, Evan, to this day, remains fiercely loyal to the original Nintendo – so much so, in fact, that on the eve of his wedding in Las Vegas, he and Aaron, his best friend since childhood, played Nintendo in his hotel room. On his last day as a single man, Evan had the entirety of the Las Vegas strip at his fingertips, and all he wanted to do was play Tecmo Bowl with his best friend. It was a touching memory. Though they now have families of their own, these two pals still find time to get together regularly to play their favorite video games from childhood.

 

 

 

So, over the years, Evan’s attention has never been lured away from the original system and fixated on a newer, flashier game console. I think he likes the design of the original NES. The heavily pixelated graphics in its games harken back to a much simpler time. When it comes to Nintendo, the pull of nostalgia is extremely strong for Evan. As I said before, he still plays Nintendo as a way to relax and immerse himself in its world – and, by extension, the world of our youth. Who can blame him?

We are both late Generation Xers, and judging by the prices for original NES systems at both brick-and-mortar stores and online at auction sites, Evan isn’t the only one immersed in nostalgia. The original console sells for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in good condition. Today, iterations of the Nintendo and its accompanying games continue to flood the gaming market, a powerful testament to their staying power in our memories and in pop culture.

I’ve always been happy that Evan has a piece of nostalgia that continues to bring him so much joy and that bonds him to his longtime friends. That’s something on which you just can’t put a price.

 

Contact Corbin Crable at editor@discovervintage.com​

A new website for Christmas

A new website for Christmas

December 2021

Everything Old

A new website for Christmas

by Corbin Crable

 

The holidays are upon us, and in the hustle and bustle that they inevitably bring, I wanted to make you aware of a few changes to Discover Vintage America’s presence in cyberspace.

The holidays also bring with them an opportunity for rejuvenation and renewal (think of all of those annual resolutions for the new year). We’ve been incredibly thankful all year long for the loyal subscribers, readers, and advertisers who have stuck with us throughout the global uncertainty of the past year, and as the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, what better time to give our website a fresh look than right now?

Discover Vintage America’s publisher, Patti Klinge, has spent the past few months consulting with an experienced web design guru at our local community college to make several noticeable tweaks to our website, all of which we hope will make your experience in browsing our content, both past, and present, infinitely easier and more enjoyable.

 

First, please note that our URL itself has changed – you now may find us at www.discovervintage.com. When you land on our homepage, you’ll notice that our regular cover feature takes center stage.

Directly above the dominant visual image that accompanies the cover feature is the navigation bar, which breaks up our content into sections: “news,” “shows/events,” “features,” “directory” (which redirects users to The Antiques Finder), “advertise,” and “about us.”Also at the top of the homepage, you’ll find our phone and e-mail contact information, as well as a link that will send you to our Facebook page.

Scroll down, past the cover feature, and you’ll see our regular features categorized by writer. Our team of writers – that’s Anne Gilbert, Peggy Whiteneck, Sandra Starley, and Michelle Staley – each of whom possess a specific area of expertise in the industry and who are kind enough to lend their tips and advice in buying, selling, and pricing antiques, have several decades of combined experience in writing their column for us. I’m constantly in awe of their knowledge and talents.

 

Finally, past the listing of our regular columns for that issue, our display advertisements await the user at the bottom of our page, ready to redirect them to the merchant’s individual website or social media page.

We think you’ll find our new, updated website attractive and easy to use, whether you’re visiting us to read a column from your favorite contributor or you’re stopping by to check out the shows and events coming soon to your town.

Personally, I feel that our retooled website is symbolic of this publication’s perseverance in the face of a difficult time for all of us. Like the antiques industry itself, we’ve faced a challenging year but have come through to the other side stronger and more resilient. This new website is proof of the wonderful things you can accomplish when you keep your focus on moving forward. And, of course, we are ever thankful to you, our readers and advertisers, for your feedback, which was instrumental in making this redesign work.

Happy holidays to you and yours from all of us at Discover Vintage America! May the new year bring you peace, strength, and a renewed spirit.

Contact Corbin Crable at editor@discovervintage.com​