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Senior scene

April 23, 2011

Looking Back: The lessons learned back in the day still valuable today

Being a youngster back in the 1930s and comparing our life then and now I can see some similarities and lessons that can be learned.

Much was and is now written about our economy. This is a time for many to "make do with what you have" or in other words live within your means. Perhaps that's good advice throughout a lifetime.

A friend just recently e-mailed us photos of their travels into a third-world country. They visited behind the scenes where tourists rarely go. If we all could see how other people live and seem to be happy with their little means, then our appreciation of what we do have gives us much to think about as to using soundness of mind when it comes to needed maintenance and expenditures.

Compare the populace in our affluent country. There are the few "haves" versus the "have-nots." Many have learned to "make do," fix up and use hand-me-downs from friends, thrift stores and yard sales.

Eye-catching clever advertising, which whets the appetite to buy, buy, buy, is most prevalent. Buy now, pay later _ without interest until whenever _ sweetens the pot. But "buyer beware" and do your homework.

Think: How about how much is in our pocket? Tomorrow might not be too profitable and the pocket might again be nearly depleted after bills and necessities are taken care of.

Yes, there has to be thinking, planning and most of all being realistic as to wants and needs. Again the expression "soundness of mind" or thinking ability is used and, do you know, that was exactly what my Bible recommend at Proverbs 3:21.

I didn't know all the Bible directives those many years ago but, as time goes by, a wealth of knowledge can be obtained and, if applied, bring many benefits to our lives right now. I'm a living example of just that.

Remembering the yesterday of childhood I clearly recall how my mother and grandmother economized by using our handy Singer sewing machine. That trusty machine stayed with our family for years and years.

Curtains and some frilly dresses for my sister and me were made from a bolt of dotted-Swiss cotton. The leftovers made many dolls' clothes and decor for boxes that turned into doll houses. Nothing seemed to be wasted.

Learning to sew at an early age certainly was a plus and we carried this accomplishment over for our children and then into the next generation.

I've written about the savings of having a Victory Garden back in the 1940s with all the canning and food storage. Thankfully today we have economic freezers within the reach of many and so bulk buying and special sales can be taken advantage of.

Of course there is always a warning of buying too much and having the need to watch due dates and figure the shelf life of a product. Materialism can be quagmire.

Grandma's words echo throughout my lifetime, "Waste not, want not," but then the accumulation of "stuff" isn't wise either.

Back in the 1960s, I remember a somewhat overly thrifty family actually buying five-gallon cans of frozen food at reasonable prices. This they defrosted and then canned in smaller portions.

Now to analyze this scenario: Time, energy, purchase of extra containers and then the reprocessing ... when all taken into account, was this wise? Then, too, I wondered about the loss of nutrients. Good questions.

My father had a "Think" sign hanging on the wall behind his desk. Large capital black letters on a white background clearly made an impression on our young minds, since now well over 70 years later I still try to practice just that.

Life goes on, thankfully, and I have enjoyed writing these many columns just as my farsighted editor said I would. Remembering and reminiscing seems good for us older folks. It brings to mind many happy times and perhaps some sad ones too. Many a time I have mentioned the hope of looking forward to the tomorrow and the happiness that will be found as promised by our Creator.

Another hope is that we can put that mental 'think' sign to good use.

Elaine W. Kniskern is a 78-year-old resident of Schenevus and a grandmother of five. She can reached at 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at

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