Modern red tape by
outgrew family Bibles, tin boxes
upon a time, family records of births, deaths and marriages were kept on a page
in the family Bible. Expenditures and income were kept written on the back of
a feed store calendar hanging on the wall or in the Farmer's Almanac. None of
these entries required more than a few lines of space to be clear and precise.
If you were fortunate enough to own land, you might have a few pages of abstracts
or deeds denoting your ownership. Since most bills were paid by cash or barter
with few receipts involved, most people had few "important papers" to protect
and secure. This usually involved placing all in a big manila envelope and storing
in a closet.
The Crash of '29 came along with the Depression, the Dust
Bowl and the New Deal programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which required all
types of forms to fill out and keep in order to participate. The New Deal forever
changed the way America did business.
The "dole" was not free. Most government
checks, loans and assistance had to be paid back or at least accounted for.
overnight, important papers multiplied. Taxes due were based on the amounts of
income and operational expenditures which required good bookkeeping and receipts.
These papers were best kept for years in case of audit.
arrived, making more papers. Banks began requiring financial statements before
making loans. Suddenly, the storage of important papers grew. Penalties and laws
put teeth into the need for secure storage.
Safety-deposit boxes were
available but cost money and were not open except during banking hours and many
people did not completely trust banks. The fireproof safes and file drawers were
expensive and not always available to the rural people. Important papers were
kept in every conceivable container imaginable.
When my father's important
papers outgrew a small metal suitcase he contacted Howard Holt, a plumber and
tinsmith in Perryton who
built a galvanized storage box about 3 feet square by 16 inches deep with a padlocking
door and shelves inside. As long as I can remember, this tin box kept dad's important
papers sorted and secure. Mother even stained and varnished the outside so it
would go with their bedroom furniture better.
After years of faithful
use and when fireproof file cabinets became available, the old box was retired
and nailed up in the ranch saddle house where it held livestock medicines and
syringes. There was always a gallon of Neatsfoot Oil, a small paint brush and
coffee can ready to use when you changed the oil in your saddle each year.
time I see this old tin box I think of all the business records it has held secure
in its lifetime and the faithful service provided. It's a long way from the page
or two in the family Bible that once held all the important facts about an entire
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" February 25, 2008 Column
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