Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without

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(HOST) Folk wisdom is full of thrifty sayings like “Waste not, want not.” Commentator Edith Hunter has another one about “making do” – or else.

(HUNTER) Back in October, 1975, a reader of our little newspaper The Weathersfield Weekly launched a column, “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without”. Many contributed money-saving ideas to the column, and it ran for years.

When Ellen Clattenburg, curator of our Weathersfield Historical Society Museum, recently received a collection of 19th- and 20th- century clothing, she was reminded of the “Use It Up” column. She was struck by the meticulous repairs done on some of the clothing, even on an apron. This set her to thinking about our whole collection in terms of the “use it up” folk wisdom. She decided to make it the theme of our Society’s exhibit at the Vermont History Expo, June 25th and 26th in Tunbridge.

In an economy with little cash, people make do with what they have. Recycling is not a new idea. When the women of the house- hold made most of the family clothing, pieces for a quilt were easy to come by. Some of our lovely old quilts will be in the exhibit at Tunbridge.

Or, consider the pig: there was at least one on every farm, and, as the saying goes, “they used everything but the squeal.” We have the simple tool used for scraping off the useful bristles, the stretcher used in butchering, a sausage stuffer and lard pails.

Weathersfield has a special connection with the lard pails. John Squire was one of our early inhabitants, and his grandson John Peter Squire left Weathersfield for Boston in 1838 to seek his fortune. He found it in the business of slaughtering pigs, founding John P. Squire & Company, which, by 1896, was doing 16 million dollars worth of business.

By the second half of the 19th century, Squire’s lard pails were to be found in every New England home, including those in Weath- ersfield. The empty five-pound lard pails with their tight-fitting covers were wonderful to take berrying, or for holding the lunch of young scholars in the district schools. Mine is full of navy beans.

Even the written word exhibits the “use it up” philosophy. Gideon Chapin was a Weathersfield blacksmith in the 1820s, and we have one of his ledgers. Gideon’s grandson, Wolcott Chapin, in the 1850s recycled the ledger using some pages as an almanac and some for his own poetry. Someone in the next generation of Cha- pins didn’t think much of the poetry and made the ledger into a scrapbook.

If you can’t make it to the Expo in June, our exhibit will be at the Weathersfield Historical Society Museum in Weathersfield Center all summer. It’s a lovely spot.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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