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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Good use of newspaper

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Today's highly-touted "recycling" programs are not new to old timers. The terms of "save it, use it up and wear it out" were the everyday habits of the early day families in order to get by and survive. Nothing was wasted or just tossed out. There was always a use of some kind.

Hundreds of stories, jokes and pranks recall the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogues saved and hung in outhouses to save having to buy toilet paper. Not only was the habit a money saver it provided many hours of enjoyable reading for as long as you could hold your nose.

No one threw newspapers of any type away. The principle use was to clean lamp chimneys. Something about the ink in the print made the glass globes shine and glisten around the flame. Since most lamps had to filled with kerosene each day, the newspaper was a staple around most rural homes and kept at ready for instant use. Ours was kept on a shelf in the pantry along with a stack of paper sacks, a ball of twine, a pile of white meat wrapping papers and some rubber bands.

Dust from the Dust Bowl along with soot from wood and coal smoke settled on everything inside a home. Newspaper was used to cover shelves so that when they needed cleaning, the paper liner was changed. As most shelving at the time was usually crude and uneven, the newspaper hid the ugly surface neatly as well as providing a clean surface. The item became a home staple.

At first, women merely folded the newspaper to fit the shelving so that it looked even. My mother began trimming the corners at a 45 degree angle and eventually used pinking shears to make decorative edges on the edges of the paper. Though bland in color, the overall appearance of old board shelving could be improved greatly with little cost other than labor.

Newspaper was eventually abandoned with the invention of plain and decorative oil cloth. This new covering was cheap and durable plus pretty to see and easy to clean. The product, like linoleum, could be purchased in any dimension and many designs from the local general merchandise store. The colors could be chosen to compliment floor covering and painted walls.

I remember one occasion when dad, us boys and the men spent the day at a neighbors house branding cattle. Unknown to us, mother had purchased a quantity of pretty white oil cloth with little red checks in its design. While we were away she lined every kitchen shelf with the product leaving a trimmed edge along the front of each shelf.

Other shelves along the outer walls were likewise decorated and curtains made for the window above the sink. Last, she cut a tablecloth to fit our huge harvest table in the kitchen. When we arrived for supper, the room was absolutely beautiful. We were almost afraid to sit down for the meal. However, our growling stomachs finally helped overcome our fears.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" November 18, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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