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Friday, March 30, 2012

Good Old Days! Or, How I First Started Recycling.

A LONG time ago, in a small country community where people helped their neighbors without thought of being paid or filled with beer as a reward, I was helping a neighbor clean out his basement.  My neighbor was old, about ten times my age, and I was about eight years old.  I was a stick with skin on it, not strong, but I had endurance and speed.  I could only carry small boxes or bags of "this gets thrown out" up the stairs and out to the garage for more sorting, but I could run them up the stone stairs, out the door, and across the back yard in just a minute.  Then dash back to see if he was ready with the next box or bag.  The last box to appear was much larger than all the rest had been and I remember Mr. Rosewarne saying something like "I'd sell this for a dollar if anyone wanted it."  Looking inside the box I found that it contained a bicycle.  I immediately told him that if he was going to sell it, I would buy it but I would have to make payments because I did not have a full dollar saved up yet.

My allowance at that time was 40 cents a week, a nickel for each year in age.  Every Saturday we received our allowance and I would put a quarter into savings leaving me with 15 cents to spend.  Usually a nickel was spent on Coke and the rest on bubblegum and comic books.  I realize now that Mr. Rosewarne was probably well aware of my financial situation.  He agreed to sell me the bicycle for 50 cents now and 25 cents a week for two weeks.  He also warned me that the bicycle had never been put together because the person he had originally purchased it for had moved away and had gotten a much better bicycle as a moving present from his parents.  The tires and inner tubes might be bad because he had put the bicycle into the basement many years before.  I informed him that I could take care of any problems that it might have as I half carried, half dragged it up the stairs, out the door and down across his side yard and our sandy driveway to our garage.

A bicycle! One of my very own!  I quickly started removing items from the box.  In those days a bicycle arrived in pieces, completely.  There were no parts pre-assembled, you had to do all of the work yourself.  There were no instructions in the box. There was not even a diagram of how the parts needed to be assembled.  No  problem.  I would figure it out.  Axles, washers, nuts, and gears.  Wait! GEARS!  It was a 3-Speed!  This was no run of the mill bicycle!  I dragged out our "Sears and Roebuck" catalog and thumbed back to the well worn section on bicycles.  There I found just what I needed, a diagram of all the parts in a 3-speed bicycle in an exploded diagram so you could order just the part you needed to replace.  Only, I needed it to see what order to put this advanced bicycle machine together properly.  It took me a full day to assemble the bicycle except for the tires.  The tires might be OK to ride on for a little while but the inner tubes would not hold air and they were in such bad shape that they could not be fixed.  With all of my money for the next two weeks accounted for there was only one place to possibly find the parts I needed... the dump!

Today they are called "Landfills" but back when I was a kid they were just dumps.  My father worked as a heavy equipment operator and repairman for an excavation company (he fixed bulldozers, front end loaders, cranes, trucks, etc).  He made parts and tools that he could not obtain otherwise and I often helped him in the shop.  I had used the Oxygen/Acetylene torch and the Arc Welder a few times under his supervision, and I had full access to his hand tools or the drill press.  My dad often had to take items to the dump for work and we would tag along with him to see if anyone had thrown away any interesting items that we might use to make a go-cart or other contraption.  We often found broken bicycles and since they were metal pipes, we usually ended up going home with more that we actually took to the dump.  On the next trip to the dump after I had acquired my new bicycle I did find tires and tubes that might work, and several spares too.  I was in business!  With a little testing I found two good inner tubes and was soon riding my new bicycle around the neighborhood.  THANK YOU MR. ROSEWARNE!

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