Those Wacky Old Folks and Their Saving

The recession has gone on long enough that it’s likely to have a long-term effect on people’s buying and spending behaviors. We may find that when we are old and gray (if we’re not already), that we are just as frugal as our grandparents used to be. I used to have lots of fun laughing at my crazy Depression-era grandparents who had 13 toasters in the garage because they saved everything for parts. However, considering the budgeting I’m doing these days, my grandchildren are probably going to have some good laughs at Grandma BBQ’s expense. By then, they’ll probably make disposable computers and they’ll all make fun of me for hoarding laptops.

That said, it’s still lots of fun to hang out at a Depression-era person’s house and check out what they’re collecting. Unfortunately, most of the time, you find these treasures when you’re cleaning out the house after a death. It’s sad, but these things are an interesting reminder of a time when resources were scarce and people were living a very frugal existence. I’m not just talking about grandmothers who save plastic bags until the cupboards are bursting. I’m talking about real family heirlooms here.

When I cleaned out my grandmother’s closet, I was rooting around on a back shelf. Suddenly, I saw teeth. I screamed and jumped back. It was a jar full of the lower plates of dentures. Just the bottom teeth. At first, I thought I’d stumbled on to some sort of “Silence of the Lambs” situation but she’d just hung on to them in case she had a burning need for the back three lower teeth. Many of them were broken. I wasn’t aware that people kept dentures for parts.

I’ve cleaned out many a house where the women saved every bit of makeup they ever owned. Some of the old cosmetics cases are actually beautiful. They used to make intricate lipstick holders and compacts that you seldom see today. Also, lipstick used to be the most unbelievable shade of red. I know that the colors change with age but there is a certain shade of red that was popular in the 1940s that I cannot imagine wearing today. It looks like those candy lips that little kids wear. It’s interesting to think what luxury cosmetics used to be and how long people used to hold onto them. A woman would keep a lipstick long enough to warrant an elaborate case. How shocked would those women have been at the advice we get to throw out makeup after a few months because of bacteria?

Every time I help clean out a house, I thank the powers that be that I live in the modern era and don’t have to be taunted by hosiery at every turn. When I see the stockings, garter belts and various pantyhose and girdle torture devices that were forced on women, it makes my butt itch. There are usually drawers full of these horror. These things can be fun for a little risqué dress-up but I do not want to live in a world where I have to wear pantyhose every day. I absolutely refuse to do it.

When do you reach the point that your saving has gone too far? I’ll tell you when. It’s when you feel compelled to duct tape a douche bottle. That’s the line. I found an actual reusable douche bottle in my grandmother’s closet (They actually existed. All the classy ladies had them). At some point, the nozzle must have gotten loose and started to leak. So, she duck-taped it. It made me wonder, “When is the point that you suck it up and spring for a new douche bottle?” These people were not dirt poor. They did not live in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a simpler time but resources were not quite that scarce.

I think it’s important that we take the time to laugh at the previous generations before we start behaving this way ourselves. Please take the time to tell us all about your aunt that saved jars of boiled peanuts in case there was an embargo. I simply cannot wait to find out what you’ve found in your grandparents’ attics.

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