Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Frugal as a poor farmer’s wife —George Garrett

thrift – extreme care in spending money; reluctance to spend money unnecessarily

I have recently seen some examples of thrift associated with my grandparents.  To give a little she was a butcher in their store and he also worked for the railroad.  They had a small farm which provided them with their eggs, milk and meat.  They had a garden to can.  They rented rooms to boarders and sold potatoes to area boarding houses for extra money.

Their house was heated with coal/wood.  There was no electric in the house until after my grandfather died in the 60’s.  There never was a complete water system because she came to live with us in the early 70’s.  There was an outhouse and chamber pots.  Water came into the kitchen but a bucket was under the sink and needed to be dumped.  They owned 100+ acres, never owned a car or tv but did have a small radio.

I try to imagine their shock or awe at the discoveries/happenings just in their life time…Orville & Wilbur Wright first fly to Amelia Earhart to flight being a regular means of transportation, the Model T to hot rods, silent movies to drive in theaters and color tv in the living room, the Titanic sunk, income tax starts, Panama Canal opens, the depression, WW1, prohibition, women get the right to vote, WW2, states added to the Union, man lands on the moon, presidents shot or resign, the atomic bomb…it is truly mind boggling. 

Through it all they lived by the “Use it up ... Wear it out. Make it do ... Or do without " motto.


This came abundantly clear when I went to reupholster a chair of theirs.  I undid all the tacks pulled off the old upholstery expecting to find, coiled springs, coir /straw or animal hair, and maybe a batting of cotton.  What I found was…an old curtain, 

part of  curtains or tablecloths, 

scrap material, a blanket, 

an old flour sack, several yards of white (at one time) material and a pillowcase

made from scrap pieces of upholstery.  Pieces of their life from about 50 years ago.


I went about redoing the chair 

and then remembered that there had been a small pillow tied to the back. 

I wondered what I would find inside of it.  I took out all the stitches of upholstery thread that had kept whatever was inside from sliding and found a knitted object…

I never saw her knit but I do remember watching her darn socks. I opened it up to find it was a vest….

After several attempts to salvage it 

as a usable piece of clothing its usefulness was continued as a back cushion for a chair!  For all I know the yarn might have come from another sweater.

I went looking for an enamel pan in the house they lived in forty years ago.  I found one...

It must have gotten a hole but with the use of a small bolt it’s usefulness was extended to possibly carry beans in from the garden or feed to the chickens. 

How many of us today would have bothered to do that.  A friend of mine had found one of their old pitchers in the barn while tending my animals when I was away. It had been there for many years.  Why they saved it was beyond me.  She had it painted in such a way that the dent and subsequent rusted area didn’t show.  It is beautiful and useful for decoration.

Next I wonder what they would think of us now. Thrift or frugality can be dabbled about on blogs but I think society as a large has lost my grandparents degree of it.  To some extent my family is still like them.  We raise our own meat, we have a large garden, I can or freeze, we pick apples/pears/berries from wherever we can find them but we also have two vehicles and a motorcycle, eat out several times a month, go to the movies, buy music for ipods, pay for wifi high speed Internet for desktop and laptop computers, digital cable on multiple tv’s from 27 to 50 inch, have Nooks, Sirius radio, Wii and Xbox 360, unlimited long distance phone plans, and the kids pay for cell phones.  A whole lot of luxury and very little thrift.  Their lack of luxury and frugality did not diminish their life.  My grandfather died before I was born but some of my best memories of my grandmother are sitting on their porch snapping beans, shelling peas or just taking walks.  I never felt like we were missing out on anything. 


The man wants a camping area where we can go to get away from the hassle of tv, telephone etc.  If you mentioned turning off the digital cable for the summer though you would have a fight on your hands.  He is willing to spend money to have a place to get away from what he already spends money on to have.  Very far from the thrift of my grandparents.  




Linda said...

Loved your story, Judy. What wonderful memories you have carried through your life. We don't live as our grandparents did, but you seem to be doing an awful lot more than most. Consider that most kids today don't even know where food comes from; and don't know what real food is versus fast foods. You're doing fine!!

cyndy said...

What wonderful treasures you found.

....and what an emotional experience it must have been to hold her stitches!

You should frame that piece!

Those "scraps" are valuable textiles that have survived! Family heirlooms! Very Cool!

Sandie Knapp said...

That was a great post Judy. I really enjoyed it. Today, we could all learn a thing or two from our Grandparents or other family elders, but of course, most of us won't.