Roosevelt said, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” We did that for all the years of the Great Depression and we did not need to be told to do it for either World War II or the rest of our lives. Some of the ways that we lived up to the part that said “Make it do” would be improvising substitutes for things we did not have.

Cleaning and polishing

1. A man who boarded school teachers told me to substitute mackerel for tuna in salad. I tried that, and NO WAY, it smelled to high heaven. Don’t try that.

2. For instance, no toothpaste? Mama mixed salt and soda and made a good tooth cleanser. Of course it tasted awful, but it cleaned.

3. Dry cleaning was too expensive so Mama used white gasoline to clean clothes. She aired them out for a long time before bringing them in off the line. But they did not smell like perspiration, just smelled like gasoline.

4. No shoe polish for patent leather shoes, just use a biscuit cut in half. Polished like a charm. But why waste a perfectly good biscuit on shoes?

5. If we could not afford mascara to darken eyebrows, just burn a match or two and the charcoal would darken your eyebrows.

Shine and hair

6. Sponge a little vinegar over shiny pants, such as the seat, and it will remove the shine.

7. Paint a little fingernail polish over a red bug that has bitten you. The itching will stop and the red bug will die because the oxygen is cut away.

8. Soda water (baking soda in water) is good for a heat rash, because it will dry it up.

9. Rinse a lady’s hair in vinegar and it will shine, maybe it may look a little red, but it still shines.

10. Rainwater saved to wash hair will make hair soft and manageable.

Tar and pans

11. An aspirin tablet placed over a corn will help remove the corn. The corn will peel off after the corn is soaked in warm water.

12. To ecru a piece of lace or a ruffle just soak it in a solution of tea.

13. Kerosene will dissolve tar from the fenders of a car. (If you have driven trough where road work is in progress.)

14. Johnson’s Baby Powder is refreshing after a bath, soothing heat rash.

15. Way back then, sixty years or more ago, aluminum pots and pans were made of very thin metal. After scrubbing for a few times often holes would come in the bottom. Kits called Mend-its which consisted of two washers, a scrip and a nut. One washer was placed inside the pan and the other on the outside. The screw was inserted and fastened in place with the nut. The life of the pan was extended for a long, long time.

Stamps and sewing

16. And then we had half soles (rubber) that came with a little tube of glue, all for a dime. The sole stayed in place until it rained, and the glue came loose and would trip you up. I have the distinction of being the first person to fall up the stairs in Minden High School. It is easy to fall DOWN but not to fall UP. Not only was my nose badly bruised, but also my dignity crushed.

17. In the not so distant past we had two types of trading stamps that were offered where you bought groceries, or gasoline. There were S&H Green stamps, and Quality Stamps. I always used my stamps for something I really wanted. (Before these stamps we had still another kind and I cannot remember what they were named.) We had a redemption store here in Minden for at least one kind of the stamps. One gift that I redeemed my stamps for was individual salt-and-pepper shakers. They were silver and rested in a little silver basket with a handle. I still have them, and they are still so pretty.

18. Some stores had quality material at a reasonable price. Morgan and Lindsey had beautiful prints from 17 cents to 22 cents a yard. I often went to the children’s dress shops, looked at a pretty dress for my little daughter, and went home, cut out a patter and copied it at a fraction of the cost. Now material is so expensive that you cannot afford to take a chance on making a success of the dress. So now I do not sew my clothes.


Now for an addition to a previous column on Mama’s old homemade remedies. Several people, including a man, phoned me that I had skipped Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic. How could I ever skip that awful stuff? I had to take it and wondered what the little hard gritty stuff was that was so bitter. I later learned that it was quinine. Tasteless? Boy, was that a misnomer.

And then there were the bags that some parents put around their children’s necks with a stinking stuff called Asafetida. No danger of catching what someone else had because no one would get close to you because the bag smelled so bad. Thank goodness my mother never made me wear that. Several of my friends reminded me about wearing those bags.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. I suppose that explains it. Did you ever try any of these things? If you did, I am sure that you remember.

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.