≡ Menu

“We Didn’t Have This Green Thing”

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags are not good for the environment.

The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

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

The older lady said that she was right — our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on to explain:

“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.

“Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.

“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 we didn’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 blade 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 in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” 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 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger 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?”

Via Sterling in my email

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nunnya Bidnez, jr June 14, 2018, 5:29 AM

    But we had that Red thing back then, and we still have it now.

  • Clifford June 14, 2018, 5:32 AM

    For those rare times I go to Whole Foods, I put a few plastic Wal-Mart bags in my pockets. When the smug cashier with the green hair and piercings asks, “Paper or reuseable?”…. I whip out my wadded bags and say proudly, “Reuseable!”

    I so love watching their little heads explode.

  • Fred June 14, 2018, 5:50 AM

    I wore my clothes ’til they literally disintegrated or the were given to a neighbor instead of buying the latest fad made with slave labor in Malaysia. And we cooked real food from scratch that produced mere ounces of refuse instead of tons of packaging waste for processed poison. We swam in a mud hole pond with snappers and snakes instead of refilling and chemically sterilizing a pool. We had one TV and Dad watched what he wanted, the rest entertained ourselves through imaginative play, horror I know. We had oil heat that saved thousands and thousands of treas from being felled and coal fired electricity that saved millions of whales from being killed to light our homes with lamps. I could go on.

  • Casey Klahn June 14, 2018, 6:47 AM

    If I get in a grocery line at WalMart where the doof in front of me has brought bags to fill, I quickly switch to another one. My time is more important to me than her sensibilities about bags. Paper bags and trees? Are you f-ing kidding me? It pains me to repeat here a basic truth of the universe: trees grow where the last ones were cut. And don’t give me “if they’re replanted” you pansy; here in Washington they reseed naturally because of the wet, virulent quality of our forests. Paper bags have a net zero effect on the environment, but greenies freak out over the smallest made-up bullshit.

    Grocery line? Scratch that. Now, they make you check yourself out at WalMart. Good customer. Heel!

  • Kevin Dickson June 14, 2018, 7:05 AM

    I loved this…..wish it had a SHARE link,

  • Rob De Witt June 14, 2018, 7:19 AM

    The primary difference between “now” and “then” is that we also didn’t have snotty little 20-year-old kids on every corner intoxicated by their own self-righteousness.

    The cashier in that scenario has been taught her sense of moral superiority from the time her parents let her out in public. She’ll never grow up, and will likely be an insufferable old woman.

  • Tom Hyland June 14, 2018, 7:24 AM

    The green thing I truly miss at the grocery store is cash. Though this green stuff is highly dubious confetti backed by absolutely nothing but faith, the proliferation of plastic payment cards is frightening. Everybody says it’s so easy… it’s so convenient… then why does it take three times as long to pay with plastic than with cash? Often when the plastic is swiped through the slot the system breaks down… smoke and ball bearings erupt and the manager has to be called over. The tyranny of safety screams that it’s for our own good. Use plastic and eventually there won’t be anymore cash, thus starving the drug dealers. The gullible sheep do and they are told. I say pay with cash, use it or lose it.

  • ghostsniper June 14, 2018, 7:52 AM

    My first job upon discharge from the army in 1978 was working with my dad in concrete construction in the blazing hot southwest Florida sun.
    After spending 3 years in the German freezers that sun was even hotter now and that job lasted but a month or so and I got on at the Standard gas station over at Crystal and 41 in Fort Myers. Remember those things? Full service. Gas was pumped (on automatic for fill-ups) checked the liquids, tires, cleaned ALL the windows. At times all 4 lanes were full and I took care of all of them, no one waited needlessly, otherwise I’d have gotten the boot. Gas was about 29 cents for regular and 32 for high test- what’s ethanal? The pay was dismal, around $2.50/hr and one night a friend came in that I hadn’t seen since school and as we were chatting and I was sqawking about the pay he told me Coke was hiring over at his job and that I should apply, so I did, and I was given the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-Arcadia route. In 1978 you walked in, filled out an application, sat and waited a few minutes, then met with the manager and if you were a good worker in the past you were given a job on the spot and expected to report to work the next day.

    In 1978 plastic was just starting it’s introduction to the beverage industry and the only plastic Coke was using at that time was for the 1 liter and 2 liter bottles. Looked like quarts and half gallons to me but whatever. And there were cans, the old pull tab style. But the vast majority of drinks I delivered were glass. 16 oz bottle, 8 to a pack, 3 packs to a case, and a case was wooden thing called a Flat, and each flat of 16’s weighed 36lbs. I delivered about 600 flats per day of the 16 oz bottles on that route. Also delivered about the same amount of cans, and the same of the liters and 2 liters. So yeah, 1800 cases of soda waters per day, 5 days a week, to convenience stores, grocery stores, mom and pops, gas stations, etc. Calculate the total weight of moved product per day. shwew No wonder I had a skoolgurl figure. 🙂

    The P-P-A route was the largest route Coke of Southwest Florida had and looking back I am sort of surprised they gave a novice like me the opportunity to run it. I rode with a supervisor for a week then I was shoved off the cliff and left to fly on my own. They told me of all the horrors I would be subjected to and I balked of course. The first horror occurred on highway 41 in Port Charlotte as I was turning into a Publix grocery store. As my route was the largest I also drove the largest truck, which required a chaufers license. It had 12 bays, 6 on each side, with roll up tambour style doors. At my last stop I forgot to roll up 2 doors and when I went around the corner on 41 44 cases of 16oz glass bottles hit the road. What a mess. Took hours to clean up and the police had to avert traffic and I’m still traumatized. LOL And my route was now out of time and the store owners get rather irrate when the timing is messed up.

    Another time I took off from a store and left my ticket book of invoices on the hood. That night I had to some how make up all those invoices from memory. Another time I forgot to bungee cord the magnaplane hand truck on the back and coming home from Arcadia late one evening on highway 31 it took a permament vacation and the cost ($90) was extracted from my pay. And on and on and on.

    You might ask, “Ghost, why did people work like draft animals as you described?”. The pay was potentially very good. If you were a slacker it was not, but then slackers didn’t last long neither. I was paid commission of what I sold, or delivered, to each store. I sponsored sales, grand openings, new products, etc. I had all the sales paraphenalia in the truck and it was jurisprudent to move sodas anyway I could. I was allowed to give product away in an effort to persuade purchase. It was not uncommon for me, while stocking the shelves in an aisle, to hand an 8 pack or 2 to an attractive strumpet in passing. My wallet was reflected by my performance. I was paid 20 cents a case for sodas and 7 cents a case for empties.

    Say what? Empties? WTH is that????
    Yep, at least half my job was dealing with the empties. See, when I promoted the sales of Coke products I was necessarily promoting the return of the empties as well.
    People paid, up front, a deposit on all glass softdrink bottles, but not on plastic bottles and cans. The store employees rarely did much with the empties but wheel the large carts full of them into the “Bottle Room” in the back of the store. Publix moved a lot of products and their bottle rooms were arena size. Bottles as far as the eye can see and stacked to the ceiling. Broken glass everywhere, cases stacked dangerously. An exciting place. There were many soda vendors back then, maybe still. Coke, Pepsi, Canada Dry, RC Cola, etc., and they all had their own bottles and the store employees never sorted the bottles. Customers never cleaned their bottles. It was a mess. I have spent hours in bottle rooms sorting bottles and assembling into cases, stacking them 6 high for extraction with the hand truck. Then stacking them in empty bays on the truck. During early morning deliveries there were no empty bays so the empties I picked up were stacked on top of full cases and then moved to empty bays as they became available.

    Glass is a funny product, very unpredictable. Mostly fragile, yet sometimes unbelieveably strong. Once, the nails were protruding from the bottom of a flat and I used an empty 1 liter glass bottle as a hammer to pound them back in. Other times just touching a bottle filled with soda would make it explode and that’s always barrels of fun to clean up. You don’t appreciate how much 16 ounces is until you see it spreading out on a freshly polished terrazzo floor in Publix. Used soda bottles are always sticky around the top of the neck, and when glass shatters microscopic particulates go everywhere. Everytime I grabbed an empty to put in a flat I was grinding microscopic glass into my hands but didn’t realize it. To this day I still, now and then, see a little bubble fester up on my palm and go digging at it with a pointy thing and there is is, a teenly little diamond of dispair. I’ve picked thousands out in the 40 years hence.

    As a young child that only got a dime or quarter a week allowance I remember the joy of finding a soda water bottle somewhere. Yay!!! Two Cents! Yay!!! Then the next time my mom went to the store I could get a couple pieces of candy. YAY!!! But. Because people paid 2 cents deposit on every bottle they were reluctant to just throw them away. So finding one was a rarity. Today you can find free plastic bottles in the most unlikely places. People abuse free stuff. It’s a rule. My dad’s work truck always had a bunch rolling around on the floor that would fall out when the door would open and you’d have to pick em up. A soda was only a dime so every now and then my dad stop at a mom and pop and we’d take all the empties in and get those 7oz cokes from the reach in cooler (the red one with the sliding lids on top, and it was always dark inside, and half filled with very cold water, and you opened them with the opener on the side) and my dad and me and my brother would stand right there in the old store, leaning on the cooler as my dad yapped with the owner, and bask in that very rare soda water. We drank soda’s so infrequently back in those day of the late 50’s and 60’s that I can almost remember every single time we did. My mom never bought sodas and there was never any in the house. It just wasn’t a thing. Same with sweets. Candy. Very rare. Sometimes, in the summer, if we were good and while out playing in the yard, my mom would come out and give each of us a single piece of her Brach’s candy and we savored it like gold. Sometimes she’d give us Koolaid. I stopped drinking softdrinks about 8 years ago. Stopped buying them really, and thus stopped drinking them. Couple years later I bought one and the things I noticed were, the horrid amount of carbonation burnt the hell out of my tongue, and the severe lack of flavor. 2 sips and I was done. I wonder how in the hell people could drink them things. I remember a couple years ago and the first time our grandbaby Abby took a sip of a coke. She pulled back wrinkled her face up and started crying. That’s when I knew, that stuff’s poison! Truly an aquired taste. Like alcohol.

    Back then recycling was built into the process, the streets were cleaner, the landfills were lesser, and sometimes little kids hit the jackpot and were able to buy some penny candy. But sadly none of that exists any more and I’m pretty certain all of us are not better off for it.

  • scory June 14, 2018, 8:09 AM

    And back then the people eagerly accepted every single one of these modern, labor saving, electricity using devices as they came along. I will be 71 this year and I do not recall anyone objecting to more TVs in the house or refusing to buy driers and power mowers when they were introduced. People made due with hand-me-downs and such because that was what they could afford but those with the means bought new clothes at the start of every school year or as the kids outgrew the old ones.

    We tend to overlook that today’s culture was built by US. We built it or allowed others to form it without much, if any, objection on our part. In the past a few could see what was coming and said so but they were ignored or mocked by the vast majority of US. Now we are approaching a very real crisis that threatens very real destruction and chaos and we can no longer safely ignore what WE either directly contributed to or simply let develop because we didn’t want to be bothered.

  • Sam L. June 14, 2018, 8:29 AM

    My mom had a stand mixer back in the ’50s. Still using it in the late ’80s.
    Kids these days are ignorant of earlier times.

  • Gordon Scott June 14, 2018, 9:01 AM

    Are you sure about your dates and prices, Ghost? Gas was about 65 to 75 cents that year. I do remember full service–self-service was that pair of pumps over in the corner of the lot under the fluorescent tube fixture, back then. But one could tell that full service was dying. Ethanol wasn’t a thing, but Ethyl was…but it was also dying, along with high-compression motors and leaded gas.

    I remember we furnished the kitchen in our family cabin in the mountains with plates, cups, saucers and such by getting fill-ups at Chevron in 1968 or so. You got one piece with every fill.

  • Gordon Scott June 14, 2018, 9:12 AM

    Oh, and the cabin had a half electric-half wood-fired range. My grandmother and my aunt could cook on either side. The electricity wasn’t always reliable in the mountains, then. The nearest phone was about a mile away, and it was a party line.

    One can still buy that sort of range today. They are popular in Ireland and parts of the UK. There are options for water heating and central heat.

  • JiminAlaska June 14, 2018, 10:02 AM

    Green thing. Reading it I noticed the pants I’m wearing now I bought back around ’89 (Bought them down in Houghton MI when my daughter graduated from Michigan Tech, hence I remember the purchase.) .

    They’re not in Sundaygotomeeting shape but they do just fine for yard work, etc.

    Point is things, perhaps, should be used until they’re useless, not recycled when the styles change.

  • james wilson June 14, 2018, 10:05 AM

    “Green” is of course the new red. Proof of a self-awareness at zero and his bullshit at 100% is that they themselves are not recyclable–they do not reproduce. Theirs is a human extinction movement and misery demands company.

  • rabbit tobacco June 14, 2018, 10:27 AM


  • pbird June 14, 2018, 11:45 AM

    Not long ago I had occasion to shop at a Co-op of which I was one of the founding members back in the middle 60s. The little darlin’ at the checkstand explained to me how bottle deposit and return works with milk bottles…. Oh dear. I didn’t even bother.

  • Chuck June 14, 2018, 2:20 PM

    I miss the local coke bottling plants that recycled the bottles, although I suppose the in stores machines replace that and if folks bring their own cups and jugs — and many do — it isn’t that much different from a green perspective.

  • Anonymous June 14, 2018, 6:41 PM

    All your comments make me think of heartbeats in tune with the best of America and Americans.

  • Daniel Day June 15, 2018, 6:23 PM

    Tom Hyland, your comment reminds me of one thing I do NOT miss: paying for groceries with checks. Every time someone whipped out a checkbook, I resigned myself to a wait at least SIX times as long as paying with cash, by the time the checker had drawn a little cross on the check and written in the relevant info, and the manager swished over to render a verdict on the defendant. Debit cards are a vast improvement, on the whole.

  • Jimmie Roan Sr. June 15, 2018, 9:11 PM

    i appreciate everyone having positive comments about “the old days” but i think some of the comments are a little off.

    i guess it doesn’t matter in the long run but maybe a few of the old farts my age and growing up the way we did might not feel the same.

    1978 really wasn’t that long ago for older people, and if you worked at a gas station in the 50s and 60s you did so for about 75 cents an hour, you listened for the whistle to guess when the tank was full, no automatic shutoff

    back then, car wash a buck, lube a buck, patching innertubes and vulcanizing the tire. the one guy is close on washing the windows and checking the air in tires, check oil and water and battery, but in 1978, I’m not sure on that one. I still have some of my old log books I kept when I drove all over the states back years ago, how much gas was in different places, if stations were open in what towns, yes folks, you had to be careful getting low on gas years ago late at night, you might find your self sitting in your car till morning for a station to open, especially on the way west on highway 90 towards California.

    growing up we wore our shoes to school and church except in winter, our teacher was allowed to bust our butts if we acted up in class, shirts buttoned to the top, tucked in, wear a belt. yeah, I been through a lot of changes in my years here, and I wish I could do it all over again.

  • Howard Nelson June 16, 2018, 9:33 AM

    The common plastic grocery bag is good for the environment! It is reusable as a trash bag and finally buried in soil it remains as a bit of stable landfill.
    The fools who trash the bags in rivers and oceans should be bagged and buried deeply for their sin against synthetics.

  • Nancy Ross June 16, 2018, 2:42 PM

    Back then you had service from the ‘ filling ‘ station. Now they call them service stations and you get no service.

  • Gridlock June 18, 2018, 3:51 AM

    Short Version:

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

    To which the woman replied, “And yet, here you are.”