June 9, 2022
Recycling has been a buzz word for several years. This month the Trailblazer Resource Conservation District is holding electronics recycling events in the district’s multi-county areas. Tire collection events are also scheduled. Many communities have centers where materials are collected for recycling.
Long before recycling was a buzz word, my family was into recycling only we didn’t know to call it such. We called it “salvage.” Perhaps the word recycling hadn’t been coined.
I don’t know when the Blauvelts began salvaging but it was before my birth.
When my father and mother decided to marry, they needed a place to live. The decision was made to build a house on what has come to be known as Blauvelt’s Hill. Money was tight, this area was recovering from a drought and the devastating 1935 Republican River flood. The nation was recovering from the Great Depression.
Emmett Sheets of the Valley Lumber Company drew the plans for the house bur my parents didn’t have the money to buy new materials with which to build their house. So they looked around to see what they could find.
For lumbe, my father and his mother tore down a house located in the Abdal neighborhood. Even the lath was cleaned and reused.
The basement and water lines were dug by hand.
A lumber yard owned by the Sheets family had burned and Dad was able to salvage from the fire enough asbestos shingles with which to side the house. The shingles were discolored and made brittle by the fire but they did the job.
For chimney bricks, they brick vault that had served the Cadams bank. The vault’s bricks were cleaned and reused.
They obtained enough cement blocks for two basement walls. The other two walls were made of poured concrete. To obtain the cement to make the concrete, railroad cars being returned to the Ideal Cement Plant for reloading were cleaned. The cement for the sand was dug out of the pasture. Much of it was too fine so it was screened and the courser material used.
In the later years, as other building projects came along, Dad and his helpers tore down three barns and salvaged the material.
With my allergies I was never able to help with the disassembly of a barn but I did get to help salvage the Burlington stockyards. Though I was still in grade school and not strong enough to handle the heavy timbers, I was the tractor driver. Helping with “man’s work” made me feel all grown up.
I remember going with my father on scouting trips looking for buildings he could salvage. While he never took down a store building, Dad dreamed of doing so for he expected such buildings contained good dimensional material.
I was 23-years-old when I bought the West Third Street lot on which I built a car wash. The lot came with an old house. Instead of hiring someone to crush it as many would do today. I found an out-of-work man who was willing to tear it down for the salvage material.
Building salvage is hard, dirty work that requires some knowledge about how things are built.
In this current time with soaring lumber prices, I wonder why we are seeing so many structures crushed and hauled off to a landfill. This spring crushers have removed about a dozen houses that once provided homes for Superior families. This newspaper issue contains a story about a former automobile dealership building being crushed in Mankato.
Have we forgotten how to salvage and recycle buildings? Or have regulations made such projects unprofitable?
There have been other changes.
Dad ran a country filling station with a wide variety of merchandise and things like horses, homemade swings and a merry go-rounds to attract customers. Today some would say he operated a convenience store and practiced destination marketing.
He also used a horse drawn drill and planted rye between the corn rows. The next spring he disced ridges and planted watermelon and cantaloupe in that field. I thought he planted the rye for early pasture. In later years, I’ve learned in addition to providing pasture he was also planting a cover crop which helped to preserve moisture, keep the soil from blowing and helped with weed control.
In conjunction with his gasoline station he could store more than 40,000 gallons of petroleum products in 10 tanks. In a time like this when fuel prices are going up, he would hold down the price of fuel by filling the tanks.
He couldn’t have afforded to buy that many new tanks. Instead he bought used. Only one of those 10 tanks was bought new.