Monday, February 20, 2012

20 February 1933 “So Many Things not sure Where to Start”

womanpreseving I may seem to be rather lax with posts of late. In all honesty it isn’t the lack of drive nor the scarcity of information that has made me thus. It is, in fact, the sheer amount of things occurring this year that I want to speak about. Their correlation to our own current world continues to astound me and having to also put it into the perspective of the various little recipes and hints is almost putting me in a sort of stasis.

I have yet to talk of the amazing 1932 Nationwide march and strike of the WWI veterans. Three days ago, on the 17th, the Blain Act was enacted, ended prohibition:

The Blaine Act was sponsored by Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine and passed by the United States Senator on February 17, 1933. It initiated the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which established Prohibition in the United States. The repeal was formally adopted as the21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933.

This, though once simply believing prohibition was brought about by the actions of many T-totaling women and men, oddly coincides with Henry Ford’s final giving up on his ‘growing fuel’. Prior to prohibition, Ford had developed a motor that ran on a form of pure ethanol and living in the mid-west felt strongly he could ‘grow his own fuel’ thus adding to his business model. Rockefeller, head of Standard Oil, did not like this one bit. Oddly enough Prohibition was enacted making it illegal to move corn and grain alcohols (thus the fuel Ford developed) to not be allowed to be transported and created. His final ‘letting go and shutting down’ of this idea was, in fact, this year and suddenly prohibition ends. Perhaps they are not connected, I don’t honestly know. I just know I bump into these odd facts, dates start lining up and I suddenly have those, ‘ah-ha’ moments. But, I digress and move along.

I want to discuss garbage and rubbish and our concept and view of the stuff. That it was not always viewed as a ‘mess to be taken away’ but that in fact much of our garbage wasn’t garbage at all. The saving of and dividing of garbage into sections, though modern day recycling seems to think it a new idea, was rather a norm. Ash, Organic, and unusable were the three main categories. Ash was saved and in some places and other countries as well, as UK, there were ash men who paid YOU to take this away. It was used both in agricultural as well as soap production. Secondly, the compostable or organic waste was often bought by various people as well to use here in the USA as feed for the hog industry. A very sound idea which also gave better nutrition to our hogs than today’s need to feed the ‘special feed’. This, again, seems to suddenly stop as companies such as Monsanto grow who require certain feeds for animals and also populate various political offices as well as heavy handed lobbyists. Again, I am not saying things are planned but I am saying it was a fact that we once treated garbage quite differently. Much was saved and used over and over and would NEVER be considered garbage, such as fat and drippings.

Bottles and containers, as well, were either saved for canning, preserving, storing and many things, like milk bottles, wine bottles and such, were taken back or brought back to stores to be refilled. The ultimate recycling rather then their being trucked from place to place smashed and remade they simply were sterilized and re-used.

Even something as simple as writing pens were refilled with bottled ink rather than tossed away and more bought. There was literally less garbage as more things were considered to be bought and to hold onto for a lifetime.

There were even Rag and bone men who made a living from collecting these from homes. And at one point the drippings were considered part of the pay of the family cook, or if you were servant less, the homemaker was able to sell these drippings to a local man as well. These were also used in the production of soaps and cleaners. And, of course, there were NO plastic garbage bags/bin bags. What trash there was was put into a trash can and either  a trash man came or you buried or burned it in your incinerator, yard and as the 50’s progressed, garbage became mixed at dumps.

There are many photos of the Depression of people living and getting what they can at the dump. Could you imagine a modern family down on their luck even trying to get into the dump? We need a paid sticker and a car to be even ALLOWED into our local dump processing area and everything is put into large metal bins and taken away.

A 1930’s person transported to a modern house, restaurant, or hospital would gape wildly at the food thrown away. The amount of clothing and such also tossed out would appall and amaze. The lessening of garbage was simply a natural part of buying less, using more, and realizing the inherent value in many things today we would scoff at. Why save the pure drippings from your cooked meat to use again as cooking oil, to oil pans for baking, in pastry, or recipes when you can buy heavily processed vegetable oils?

I am also finding many fun things such as easily drying apples in a low oven, an easy one egg donut recipe, preserving eggs in ‘Water Glass’ which is liquid sodium silicate. This can be bought at some drug stores or even some automotive stores. When this is mixed with water eggs can be set into this liquid and preserved as fresh eggs for up to a year! So, I am finding many non electric forms of storage, remember that it wasn’t until the 1930’s WPA programs that brought electricity to many rural areas of many states. Living without electricity was a very real state of being for much of the USA in the early 1930s.

There is just so much information that I want to share that, as I said, it is almost too much and I find it daunting how to bring it all to you. Therefore, I need to simply try and bring a bit at a time. Today, so faced with this dilemma, I felt the need to simply create this post explaining both my excitement about all that seems to be learned as well as my need to find the best way to present it to you.

I am finding that with many of the shocking things I also see rays of hope. As we can try ourselves to begin to implement the little changes that, though not popular en masse, our certainly doable for we as individuals. Things like approach to garbage, preserving more foods without refrigeration, considering alternative reactions to things that might not be garbage, such as drippings and old bones; these are not only fun ways to connect with our own homemaking past, but also a boon to our pocketbooks in these trying and recessionary times.

I hope today’s ramble gives hope to my future findings and patience with my increasing learning curve of the best way to present and share these things with you.

Now for fun, some inventions that didn’t stick around but fun to view from 1933 from Modern Mechanixhomemakerinvetions


  1. Hi Donna, Your package in on it's way ;o) What a wonderful post! I will be sharing it with my husband later today. I had to smile about the "garbage." My grown son and a friend came over for lunch and my son had to explain our "complicated" system. Recycling, worm composting, regular composting, and trash. I love to figure out ways to re-use everything as my grandparents did. Thank you so much for all your research - it is fantastic! Dee

  2. Great post! I love reading all the things that have been done forever are NEW and Improved by each genertion!!

    By the way, until I moved to my farm, my family and I were ill concerned with our garbage. Now we are very careful and little goes to the actual garbage dump. We save all labels and paper to use as firestarter (tp rolls too), glass jars are for storing items, food waste goes to animals and the likes. We do not do this for the environment(not that this is a bad idea), but for our management and use of everything we have. We are getting closer and closer to making most of our foods, or canning and preserving them, then this will really change.

    Thanks again for the lovely post.

    ps, I am having a cookbook giveaway that all are invited to enter.


  3. Such a wonderful post! It really nudged my memory for all the things my grandparents did. Drippings were saved in a tin can on the stove. They had a coal furnace and the ashes were taken to the curb for pick up. Everything was saved and re-used. The photo could be my grandmother -- she had an apron like that and wore similar dresses. I'm assuming this is a kitchen - but the walls seem to be of concrete? Almost looks like a cellar kitchen. Do you know?

    1. It does look like a cellar kitchen! My grandparent's had one in their basement.

  4. You do take your research seriously....and we're glad of it! There are a good many things I didn't know, or I knew about vaguely, but not the reason behind it.

    Good post-

  5. Donna, I love what you are doing. Very timely stuff, and my daughters and I are learning so much.
    Thank you for all your research. You are spurring me on to do the things I have looked into but never found the time to do. Amy, aka Ma Kettle

  6. This post makes me miss my great-grandmother. She was such a fabulous woman! I don't think there was anything she could not do from living through the depression!

  7. We all really need to return to those old recycling ways! Why can't we sterilze bottles now? I mean home cooks do it for jam and such, and you'd think commercial ways would be stronger. Thanks for sharing - however you do it I always learn something.
    Love the inventions too - we actually have a timer on our old fridge, as the thermostat went and was too dear to replace (so 2012). It goes on at night and off during the day, and keeps the beer cool.

  8. Think back :what did they use before we had plastic bags? We wrapped the kitchen garbage the same way the butcher does meat to put it in the trash. That is what was not reused or composted. We did not have a compost pile We just sheet composted. We dug a hold and buried the garbage then covered with dirt and did the same until we got to the top then dug a hold beside it doing the same. Course we reused the bows and wrapping paper from any presents..using the comic sections to wrap children's presents. All glass jars of any kind were saved to be used to put jelly up in or some other use. If you didn't need them a neighbor would. Our trash cans were metal. Each family bought their own. One short metal can with lid per family. Most tree trimmings not used in the fireplace ware burnt in the metal receptacle for it in the back yard.The ashes used later. You have brought up so many memories for me as to some of the ways we reused things as a way of life. I saw an article where someone mentioned how recycling was new ..why didn't people do it before? Well someone wrote back and told them just how much was recycled and or not bought back then and the list was amazing! I had forgotten how much we used to do,...just because it was a way of life back then. Wish I could find the article now. Love your articles. Anyway you can present the information is fine with me...keep it coming!!! :) :) I am amazed with your talent in discerning all this information and presenting it to us! Sarah

  9. Donna, did your information say what the ash man used the ashes for? Or does anyone know? Just curious.

    Thanks for another interesting post!

    Sarah H

  10. Great post! Now to try to incorporate more of this into my everyday life.

    Loved the picture of the shower-tub! i did have to wonder about getting water all over the bathroom floor...LOL!

  11. Before Prohibition ended, my grandparents used ketchup bottles for beer, and then after Prohibition used beer bottles for homemade ketchup.

  12. Sarah, ashes were used in small amounts for gardening as they are full of minerals. Ashes soaked with water also make lye which was used to make soap.
    Donna, I remember my mother had a trash can with a tight lid on a high stump. There she put the food waste except for meat scraps which could bring rats, so they were put in right before the garbage man came. My dad burned all paper in a metal trash can in the back yard. In winter he burned it in the small wood stove.
    As late as 1981, there was garbage only pickup for use in feeding hogs in a small town in MA.
    We had a hole dug and a can inserted inside with lid. The garbage man knew where this was in each yard.
    Hope this helps.

  13. Great post! I had no idea about the ethanol/prohibition "coincidence." That worth investigating!

  14. Thanks, Shelia!

    Sarah H


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