GENERATIONS: Sue Bruns: Thrifting: My Addiction (and 1953 facts, too)

Body: 

I may be addicted to thrifting.

As I write this, I am sitting in my porch on a pleasant winter morning, wearing my favorite flannel shirt -- purchased at a local thrift store. The previous owner did all the work of washing the shirt several times and loosening up the fibers so that the first time I put it on, it felt like an old friend.

At the far end of the porch is a plant stand that fits perfectly in the space under the window. It holds five plants and several empty vintage pots that may or may not some day hold plants. The stand and the pots are from thrift stores. Since I don’t want to accumulate more stuff, I don’t get attached to my previously owned purchases (except maybe the flannel shirt). I think of thrifting as “renting” items. I buy things cheaply, use them for a while, pass them on to someone else, re-purpose them or return them to a second-hand store.

I’ve bought several jigsaw puzzles at thrift stores this winter. Even when I’ve worked particularly hard to complete a puzzle, I don’t keep it very long. I snap a pic of it with my cell phone in case I feel a need to look back at it. Then I put the pieces in a ziplock bag and into the box, and the puzzle goes to the Red Door or St. Philip’s Clothing Depot.

One “department” in most thrift stores -- the used book section -- draws me like a magnet. When we moved into our new home a few years ago, I boxed up the hundreds of books I’d collected and promised myself they would not all make the move to the new office. Instead, I moved them into the cabin, where they stayed in boxes until I decided to make one corner into a library. I went to two second-hand stores, bought five floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and -- voila -- there was my library. Many of the books in the collection have no sentimental value. Some, I haven’t read, and few of the ones I have will be re-read, but anyone who stops by and needs something to read is welcome to them. And don’t worry about returning them.

In December, I came across four special items at the Red Umbrella: a plate and a gravy boat that match a set of my grandmother’s china that my sister still uses, an hors d'oeuvre platter that matches another vintage set my sister has, and a World Almanac from 1953, the year I was born. The china pieces became Christmas gifts, and the Almanac will be added to the reference section of my cabin library.

The World Almanac 1953 and Book of Facts (68th year of issue) was published by the New York World-Telegram and The Sun. Its 896 pages contain thousands of facts about the early 1950s: census information, sports statistics, major events, and world affairs, to name just a few -- taking the reader back in time to when Harry Truman was President of the U.S. and Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain.

A chart titled ‘’Marriage Information” indicates that in 1950 in all but seven states, a man had to be 21 years old to marry without parental consent; but with consent, as young as 14 in Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Washington. For women, the age was 18 in 34 states; 21 in 14 states. Minnesota was the only state where age 16 was the magic number. (Hawaii didn’t become a state until 1959.) A girl could marry with consent at age 12 in Massachusetts and Mississippi; 14 or 16 in most other states; 15 in Minnesota.

The Almanac’s “Vital Statistics” segment reports that in 1950 and 1951, there were 154,875 recorded births in Minnesota and 56,457 deaths. Cardiovascular diseases were the top causes of death in the U.S. in 1950. Even cancers didn’t come close to diseases of the heart and cardio-vascular system. Of the almost 1.5 million deaths in the U.S. that year, 33,633 were caused by tuberculosis; over 47,000, by the flu or pneumonia.

The Almanac even has a chart of “Lynchings in the U.S., 1900-1950,” broken down by “White” and “Negro.” The ratio was almost one to 10, with white lynchings in the five decades totaling 195 and “Negro” lynchings totaling 1,792.

There were no charts to report deaths by firearms; also no section on deaths by mass shootings.

The facts and statistics in my 1953 thrift store Almanac are interesting, even fascinating. A quick study of my second-hand book of facts makes me think about how much some things have changed, but how many new issues have arisen.