The other day I enjoyed a conversation with a local friend. We were discussing our childhoods in Itawamba County, Mississippi and how times have changed – especially in the area of frugality. Both of us were raised in typical middle class homes yet our parents practiced frugality in all aspects of their lives – and that frugality rubbed off on the children. It was simply a time of “waste not –want not” and “a penny saved is a penny earned” type of living.
Times were drastically different growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s around these parts. Most of our parents had survived The Great Depression and through that experience, always knew the value of a dollar and crafty ways to stretch that dollar as far as possible.
It was a time when our moms saved used aluminum foil. Called “tin foil” by the folks in rural northeast Mississippi, the used foil would be rinsed with water, dried, neatly folded and placed in a special drawer in the kitchen. It was a time when every glass jar was saved – from the mayonnaise jar to the pickle jar – those glass containers were washed and put away for future use. The brown paper sacks from the local grocery store were saved. Many of those sacks were cut, opened up, and used as coloring paper for us kids using our Crayola crayons. Kites were made from week-old newspapers and sling-shots were made from a tree branch and rubber from an old auto tire inner tube.
It was a time when kids would collect soda bottles and get paid a penny for each bottle at the local market. Redeeming 100 of those bottles would buy a jumbo bag of plastic toy soldiers at White’s Store in town providing months of entertainment and fun. Thirty-five of those redeemed bottles would buy you a Saturday afternoon matinee double feature at the New Dixie Theater complete with a soda and candy bar.
It was a time of make do with what you had and fix what was torn or broken. Patches on jeans, mended socks, and trips to Tallant’s Shoe Repair Shop with the painted motto on the window greeting visitors with “We don’t preach but we save soles” were a part of everyday small-town life. Everyone in the household was taught when you leave a room, you turn off the light and doing such was just second nature.
It was a time when most everyone had a small garden – even families living in town. Home canning was the norm – not the exception. And nature’s bounty was enjoyed by all. Some of the best eating was wild muscadine jelly, blackberry jam and dried fruits from local apple and peach trees. There was nothing more sumptuous than a grandmother’s warm spicy apple pie made from home-dried apples, taken from the oven and served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Perhaps it’s time to return a little frugality to our daily lives. Living with that same type of “waste not – want not” attitude that was instilled in us from a simpler era in times past would not be a bad thing in today’s world.