Opinion: We used to make things


Commentary by Ward Degler

Someone recently pointed out that shop classes have been virtually deleted from high school curriculums. That’s sad, because kids no longer learn how to build things. They only know how to buy them.

Considering that America was built by men who used their heads and their hands to design, build and improvise their way through problems, I have to agree. This didn’t happen overnight, either. It’s been encroaching on our culture for years.

Mom used to stay home while Dad went to work. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and mended clothes.

I was thinking about that the other day when I pulled a pair of socks out of my drawer,  only to find one of them had a hole in the toe. Back in the dark ages of my youth, that would have spurred my mother to open her sewing basket and break out her darning egg.

It was magical to watch her darn socks. She slipped the wooden egg tightly into the sock and centered it over the hole. Then, using a special needle and heavy thread that sometimes (but not always) matched the color of the sock, she wove a crisscross pattern over the hole, filling it with new fabric.

When a hole appeared in a shirt or pair of pants, Mom always had patches of the same material she could cut and sew into the hole. There was no shame in wearing jeans with patches in the knees. All the kids had them.

Today, of course, folks pay big bucks for jeans with holes in them. Seriously? Can someone explain that to me? I just know I was sitting on a fortune before I cleaned out my closet and threw away all my ragged jeans a couple years ago.

Most moms work today. The high cost of new jeans makes it necessary. And the kids are always on the lookout for the newest stuff to buy.

I took wood shop my freshman year in high school and metal shop when I was a junior. I built a magazine rack from a single piece of white pine and stained it with something called French polish. It graced our living room for years.

In metal shop I made a screwdriver. I turned the handle on a lathe from a block of aluminum, and fashioned the shaft from tempered steel.

The magazine rack finally fell apart after umpteen years of Life magazine subscriptions being dumped into it. The aluminum screwdriver handle turned my hands black, and I stopped using it after a while. Ultimately, it disappeared.

But the point is, I didn’t buy them, I made them.


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