Saturday, May 14, 2011

Moral and freebie decline

Those of us who search for the sources of moral and economic decline in this great nation have never adequately considered, I believe, the decline in quantity and quality of freebies. Think about it.

The 1980s, for example, included recession, a stock market crash and Reaganomics, none of it pretty. But this also was the golden age of quality cutlery at co-op annual meetings and during Christmas at the feed store and bank.

This is just a sample of my 1980s accumulation, still in use daily, from farm and electric co-ops and businesses that served Chariton, Russell, Thompson, Leland and Rake.

My First State Bank of Buffalo, Wyo., bread knife vanished some months ago during a potluck outing --- and I still miss it.

The economy always bounced back.

Even though the mortgage payment was late, the spouse had kicked you out of the house and the church booted you for nonpayment of pledge, you knew that come the next co-op annual meeting there would be a modest dividend check, a meal (at least dessert), a pie server --- and hope.

There also were sewing kits to repair ragged overalls, wonderful sets of tiny screwdrivers to tighten loose screws in aging glasses and much more --- pencils, pens, caps, notepads, letter-openers, the range was limitless.

You drove away feeling good.

Annual meetings, often held on Saturdays, encouraged church-going, too. The entertainment rarely lived up to the quality of the freebies, often was quite painful --- and that made even a 45-minute Nazarene (20-minute Lutheran, 10-minute Catholic) sermon seem appealing.

Much of this is gone now as the number of co-ops has declined and business owners have fallen back on calendars, ballpoint pens or nothing at all. The economy is in decline and church attendance is down.

But there is hope. As part of a birthday package this year I received this wonderful little device shaped to fit a hand and distributed not long ago during an annual meeting in the great Southwest.

Look at it. It contains a flashlight and a tape-measure and serves as a screwdriver, too --- with six heads tucked neatly inside. I’m told it whistles “Oklahoma,” but haven’t figured out how to make it do that yet.

So there is hope out there. Perhaps the golden age of cutlery will come again.

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