Repair, reuse or redo it, but never throw away

Back in the late fall, I received a letter from reader Lloyd Revis, who lives in Warren. He has written before and apparently we had similar backgrounds and experiences when we were growing up. My apologies to him because when I tried to find his letter to re-read it, I had put it someplace where I couldn’t find it

He lived on a farm near Oakfield, which is east of North Bristol, if you have never heard of the community. At one time when it was a main stop on the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was an active, busy community.

In his letter, Lloyd mentioned that the word “replace” was not one that was used when he was growing up. Rather, when something would not work or was broken, it was “repair.” Or maybe it was “fix,” “mend” or “redo” — whatever it took so that a piece of equipment could still be used.

Replace was not part of the thinking in the 1940s or ’50s or other years when times were hard on the farm. There wasn’t much money to be made, so things had to be repaired and continued to be used.

When wire-tied hay balers were invented and a few were being sold and used, farmers who had hay baled with wire usually had excess wire around the farm. Being frugal, they felt like there should be a use for some of that excess wire.

So if something broke and they could patch it up with a piece of wire, they had a ready supply. The expression “it was patched up with baling wire” was commonly used and would fit many repair jobs. The repair was usually just temporary but sometimes lasted for quite a while.

Eventually, wire-tied balers were replaced with heavy twine. It was less expensive and eliminated the problem of pieces of wire getting into cows’ stomachs and causing problems. But string-tied hay bales provided a lot of excess string lying around the farm.

Being adaptable and ingenious, many farmers started looking for ways to use that baler twine. So they figured out how to weave it into halters to put on the heads of livestock or to make ropes for other uses around the farm.

At one time, there was a lot of excess baler twine used in various ways. Some was woven into floor mats or small rugs for use around the home. Since money was not plentiful, it was difficult for farm families to throw anything away.

Since I was the third of four boys and one girl, I grew up with hand-me-down clothes. If one of my older brothers had not worn out something before they outgrew it, it got passed on down until it was completely worn out. Often, there were large patches on the bib overalls that we wore for many years.

Let’s fast forward to today. Instead of using things until they were completely worn out, we live in a throwaway society. If we have an appliance that doesn’t work, we often just throw it away. It may be because we can’t fix it ourselves and it would cost too much to get someone to repair it.

If our clothing gets out of style, we give it to some organization that will pass it on to others in need or we may discard it. We don’t bother to alter or change it so we can wear it longer.

It also seems like companies may make appliances and other items so they will only last a short time. Then we need to replace them.

Our society has changed. If we have been around a few years we recognize that change. Then decide if we like it or wish for the past.

Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Contact him at 149woodside@twc.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)