Column: The many, many uses of brown paper bagsWORTHINGTON — I was sitting in the car on a supermarket parking lot waiting for a friend. A man came out, and it appeared he was eating a Twinkie. That could not be, of course. No more Twinkies. I decided the man was eating something from the bakery.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I was sitting in the car on a supermarket parking lot waiting for a friend. A man came out, and it appeared he was eating a Twinkie. That could not be, of course. No more Twinkies. I decided the man was eating something from the bakery.
That set me thinking. I wondered if I would erase a giant business and eliminate the jobs of 18,500 people because some of them were pressing me for a wage hike. I am glad I never had to make such a decision.
I looked at the sky. Not a cloud anywhere. That turned thoughts to Ken Burns’ new series on the Dust Bowl years and to my own memory of a dust storm. Night at noon. Oh my. I hope we never go through that again.
People were coming out of the store in a steady flow. Some had shopping carts, baskets filled with plastic bags. Some were carrying two or three or four bags. I remembered what I read about those plastic bags.
They never deteriorate. All the bags I could see in every direction will still be here 100 years from now. I wondered how many millions of bags that will be, and I wonder what they will do with them. Bags will cover acres of land.
I am generally not a Greenie. I get the National Wildlife Federation magazine, but I am not a conservation crusader. The thought of all those plastic bags piling up by the millions each year bothers me, however. That set me to thinking about paper bags.
I remembered the brown paper bags my teachers and classmates from the farms brought to school each morning. In that time no one said they were “brown bagging it,” but that’s what they were doing. I envied those kids. I had to walk home each noon, and then walk back to school once again. I wished I could sit at my desk with a brown paper bag.
I was in first grade. We had a horrendous blizzard that winter. In that time Worthington had no radio station, no way of making an announcement that schools were closed. You got there if you could.
My dad could do it. I don’t think there ever was a snowstorm that kept him inside. Dad and I set off for school. I think he lifted me over a couple of drifts. The thing important was: I had a brown bag. It was decided I should not try to come home for lunch at noon.
When we got to school, my teacher was there. Wonderful Elsie Rowe. There was no one else. “I guess we’d better head back home,” my dad said. Somehow, Elsie Rowe knew how important that brown bag was to me. “Oh, let him eat his lunch,” she said. And so I did. Maybe nine o’clock in the morning. I went to my desk and took my lunch from the bag. Maybe cheese and crackers. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, wrapped in wax paper. Miss Rowe and my dad stood talking. I have never forgotten that day.
Oh, we did a lot of things with brown paper bags. When there was a package to be mailed, it got wrapped in the brown paper of a paper bag.
At least a couple of times we made Halloween masks from brown paper bags. You slipped a bag over your head to determine where the eye holes should be. Then you took off the bag and colored it with crayons. You tried to color a ghoul or a ghost or a gorilla.
When we were carry-out boys at the old Sav-Mor grocery, we used to snap brown paper bags. If you take a closed paper bag by its top edge and whip it in front of you it will go, “Snap!”
Snap! Snap! Snap!
I guess we were having contests to see who could snap a bag the loudest.
Paper bags deteriorate to nothing but they bring down our trees, of course. It takes time — 20 years? — to grow a new crop of trees. It seems to me this is a challenge to scientists. Why can’t we make paper from corn stalks? Work on that.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.