Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

February 2017

Moving from the plains of Oklahoma to New England subjected me to many culture shocks in 1953 when I was considerably younger than I am today.

For instance, I learned that not only did few people say, “Howdy!” greeting others, but many people also laughed at me. Plus, they talked funny. The issue of who had an accent my new friends and I never settled, as everyone cited the voices on the radio as examples of how people without accents talked “just like me.”

The one thing I found very strange, but was reminded of these decades later, had to do with waste disposal. In Enid, Oklahoma, most people had an alley that was lined with oil drums where you threw your trash, which was collected by men on horse-drawn wagons. In Wellesley, Massachusetts, garbage was either thrown in a little below-ground barrel with a cover operated by a foot lever, or thrown in a compost pit shared with garden leaves. It was picked up weekly by a town contractor, often a pig farmer. Trash, per se, was taken to the dump.

In Wellesley, the dump was a social gathering spot. My cousin Scott was an ambitious junior executive who would dress for the dump trip as if going to a corporate gathering: clean shirt and tie, sometimes even complete with suit jacket and vest. He had hopes of meeting other business people he could eventually say hello to as they rode the train into Boston from Wellesley Farms station — all a networking process that could lead to new boys’ becoming old boys.

Now I live in two condominium communities. In Florida, huge trucks with mechanical booms pick up recycled paper, cardboard, bottles, cans, and most plastic at curbside and empty the contents of rolling waste bins once a week. The next day, garbage in bags or barrels is picked up by real people and tossed into the cradle of a huge truck.

In Vermont, we have a neighborhood set of dumpsters: one for garbage, the other for recycled materials. There is a complicated locking system on the garbage dumpster to keep the bears from being habitual browsers. We still see the occasional bear loping through backyards looking for bird feeders or good-smelling grills.

Looking up news on my old high school, I found an article about the Wellesley dump. Folks still go to the dump in Wellesley, and there is a special set-aside place where you leave stuff too good to toss and look for someone else’s leavings that would be just perfect for you. The article was about a performance-art show featuring stuff in the give-and-take area.

The culture of trash handling is still evolving. Garbage disposals have deprived pigs, fire wardens frown on trash burning, electronics still require special handling, aliens often steal space in our dumpsters, and Wellesley folks still complain about stuff left in give-and-take being taken by the same early birds.