Bring Back Paper Bags

Published by

Throw up in ’em. (Yuch!)

Make masks.

(For nonsmoker & nonBBQ parties)

Carry diamonds.

(They DO in NYC Diamond District, except in rain)

Use ’em for baseball gloves.

(Kids DO in The Dominican Republic – Ouch!)

And a lotta people couldn’t

punch their way outta one!


They’re biodegradable, and thus”sustainable.” That alone should appease all the dirt people, tree-huggers, and eco-freaks out there.

(Yes, some of us only worry about dumb stuff like the economy, jobs, Qaddafi, unions, leaving 3,000 troops in Iraq, and critical issues like “All My Children” finally leaving TV, if Casey Anthony was really guilty, and will it be a Yankees vs. Phillies World Series).

Anyway, I think it’s time to return to the substance and simplicity of yesteryear by bringing back the all-time king of convenience — the plain brown paper bag! It was used for more tasks and had more “apps” than your PC, laptop, iPOD, iPAD, BlackBerry, Wii, electronic reader, invisible fence, and barcode scanner combined!

Once upon a time . . .

One of the jobs Fat Norman and Skinny Frank did (they ran the grocery store downstairs from the apartments by the railroad tracks on Chatsworth Avenue, in Larchmont, New York) was to collect customer order money and put it in the cash register — a fancy drawer with a hand crank and a little bell that rang when it opened.

No plugs. No adding machine.

Brothers Norman and Frank both kept a crayon behind one ear. When you brought all the groceries you wanted to get to the counter (no shopping carts) and piled them up, out came the crayons . . . and a brown paper bag.

The left side was for one-word descriptions of items (carrots, milk, bread, toilet paper, etc.). The right side was the important side; that’s where the prices were written.

Norman usually broke his crayon when he tried to add up the column and carry the two. His pudgy hands hated the task, and Mother always found addition errors on the bag (which was of course also the receipt).

If the errors were in the store’s favor, Mother would send you right back with the bag and instructions on what numbers to jab your fingers at. Frank, though, was always right.

Frank did an old business trick that must have enhanced his mathematical accuracy. He’d wet the tip of his crayon with his tongue when the price part was hard, like five pounds of mixed onions at 3 1/2 cents a pound for yellow and 4 1/3 cents a pound for red.

Sometimes he had to turn the bag over and use the other side as a worksheet.

Everything was packed with great care . . . with always a piece of penny candy tossed in . . . and handed over with a smile, a thank you, and “tell your Mother hello!”

The bags were only doubled up when you had messy, bloody stuff or if it was pouring rain. They were always recycled for garbage and returning empty soda bottles for a penny each.

One time, Norman caught kids taking bottles from the back alley and re-paperbagging them to bring around the front and turn them in. He broke more than crayons that day.

The bags that survived became –you guessed it– plain brown wrappers for gifts, packages, storage, and shelf paper.

Slower, simpler times indeed, but something to be said for the personal exchanges and personal service attention required by the absence of technological advances.

So, just a good old story? I don’t think so. I think there’s a message here about the occasional value of looking back to gain a better perspective for looking forward.

# # #

FREE blog subscription: Posts RSS Feed

Hal@Businessworks.US 302.933.0116

Open Minds Open Doors

Many thanks for your visit and God Bless You.

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

Click Here to Comment On This Post

Please Feel Free to Leave a Comment Below


Tag Cloud