My cousin, Marianne Volk, and Cindy Stanoszek Mitrik shared their friend William Lankenau’s story recently and I really enjoyed it. I thought I would share it with you to enjoy as well. I took the liberty of “embellishing” it and bringing it a bit closer to home for all of us. I hope you enjoy it!
Checking out at Giant Eagle, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags the next time that she shopped 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 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.
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 a few blocks. But then again, back then, neighborhood family owned grocery stores like Manns Bros., Isadores, Kennedy Meat Market (aka- Andys), Alexanders, etc., were just around the corner or up the street a bit. Supermarkets were not the first “go to” since the smaller “Mom and Pop” stores did not try to price gouge you but were honest and fair to all of their customers, neighbors and friends. But she was right …we didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Those same 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 scribbling’s. 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.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store or to the beer distributors. They would send them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized and refilled so that the same bottles could be used over and over. So, they truly were recycled … but we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away 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 store in the basement or 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 or even the garden hose when we were thirsty instead of using a styrafoam 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 to McKeesport or Eastland. Kids rode their bikes or walked to school, their friends, the library or Little League practice instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. 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 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza or hot dog joint. We ALL knew where Irene’s Pizza and Jim’s Hot Dogs were!
But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were, just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
When I used to be on the air at WIXZ, way back in the 70’s, Irene’s Pizza was next door to the radio station. I worked the graveyard shift at the time, and would go over to Irene’s at midnight and get one of their great pizzas to go, take it to the station, and munch on it while I was on the air. Great memories. Irene’s Pizza is long gone. (sigh). Jim’s Hot Dogs is still there… but the recipe on the sauce isn’t the same. I stopped there about 6 months ago, and the sauce doesn’t have that “tangy bite” any longer. Ya know… if it ain’t broke… DON’T FIX IT. Randy, The Lazy Comic
Just yesterday, I asked my wife, after our having taken notice of quite a few modern, electronic marvels around us, if she had thought, during her childhood of the 50’s and her adolescent years in the 60’s, that the world and America and her hometown and neigbrhood would change (at all,) especially as much as they had. She immediately shook her head, “No,” and I concurred readily.
I mean, it was obvious, upon graduation from DHS, that most everybody would be moving away and entering upon wholly new lives, and that I might not see many of my dear classmates ever again (which turned out to be very true, alas,) but I thought we would all be moving forward in an America and world that would be, largely, the same familiar society we had enjoyed as children.
The biggest signs I experienced of change as I grew up in Duquesne Place included seeing the newest models displayed at Schreiber’s Chevrolete dealership at the bottom of Miller Avenue, (usually by November each year.) Also, we knew we were getting physically bigger, and that our interests were shifting away from toys and going towards being with members of the opposite sex; we knew the President would change every so often. However, we had no idea such changes as those in flux right now were in store for the Church and for our country, to name just a few special considerations. We certainly had no idea the mills would ever be gone!
What has stayed the same in life, for us, is the value we place on friends and family. That gift of understanding is what I left Duquesne holding in my heart. I have no idea if I realized that as I grew up, or if I had any such understanding as I matured into an adult, but I certainly understand it now, thanks to life having started out for me in Duquesne and McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
VERY well said Frank!
Fantastic post from Jim and Frank Mullen-and so nostalgic and true!