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March 15, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: That green thing ...

  Of late we have noticed that our email inbox has been much busier than usual. In fact, we find ourselves hard pressed to keep up with all the various messages we receive. As a result we suspect we have not answered some in as timely a fashion as might be thought appropriate. Others we have simply chosen to delete because, although they may be interesting, we know we cannot put whatever issue the email may be touting on our radar screen. Others require, we think, instant feedback which always results in our pounding away like mad on the keyboard. And then there are the ones we always find ourselves wanting to share with as many people as possible.

Therefore, this week we are passing on an email which we received recently and that has the rather intriguing title of “The Green Thing.”

Checking out at the store,  the young cashier suggestedto the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right.

We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and  stirred by hand because wedidn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.

And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

We must admit this email really took us back. Unfortunately, we can remember very well when we didn’t have the green thing. We remember Sunday nights around the radio, listening to “The Lone Ranger.” We remember going to the grocery store with our mother, brother and sister pulling our trusty wagon in which we lugged the groceries home. We remember helping hang up clothes on the clothesline in the back yard. We remember the glass bottles of milk from the Sherman Dairy in South Haven that were delivered to the cottage in the summer and the glass bottles of milk delivered from the Lockshore Dairy in Kalamazoo the rest of the year. And the only electric appliance our mother had was an electric mixer, which if we are correct, is still in use at the Lake Michigan cottage. At least the one there looks like the one we remember from our childhood.

And as we look back on it all, we had no idea at the time that our childhood would be considered today not to be green.

Of course, growing up we had no idea what being green might mean.

And while we are more than willing to participate in the green scene today, we are not particularly thrilled with being blamed for not having partaken of the green thing growing up. In fact, we cannot help but think that the ending of the “The Green Thing” email really expresses our current thinking about such blame being assessed. It read: Remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to tick us off.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 607-547-8124 or by email at

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