Monday, November 21, 2011

Vintage Recycling

In my post about a batch of warm, toasty vintage underwear that I picked up at a local thrift store, I mentioned that the plastic bag from one of the stockinette underdresses was covered in attractive drawings encouraging the consumer to recycle the packaging in any number of ways. Today I want to bring you a closer look at this most creative and charming bag.

I am almost certain that I was the first person to open it since some worker back in the day sealed in the Continental factory. When I pealed off the tape holding down the flap on the top, a portion of the blue ink came off with it, and after this point I could never put it back again on such that the lines were perfectly aligned. And if you're wondering, the undershirt and knickers inside appeared to be brand new.

If you look closely in the picture above, you will see that the illustrations all surround a poem with three paragraphs:

Hast Du entnommen dieser Tasche
die segensreiche Wärmeflasche
aus Gummi von Continental,
nützt Dir der Beutel oft noch mal.

Denn für das Frühstück und auf Reisen
zuhause für den Schutz der Speisen,
für Socken, Kragen, Taschentücher,
für Briefe, Schreibzeug und für Bücher

für Badehose, Handtuch, Seife,
für Tabak, Feuerzeug und Pfeife,
und noch für tausent and're Sachen
kann sich der Beutel nützlich machen!

If you have removed from this bag
the beneficial hot water bottle [sic!]
made from rubber by Continental,
reuse this bag often.

Because for breakfast and on trips
at home for protecting foods,
for socks, collars, handkerchiefs,
for letters, writing utensils and for books

for swim trunks, towel, soap,
for tobacco, lighter and pipe,
and for a thousand other things
this bag can make itself useful!

Setting aside the fact that the bag proclaims that it once proudly held a hot watter bottle, the sentiment expressed in this little poem is quite clear. Of course I am familiar with how earlier generations would reuse items to save money, but this plastic bag highlights another side of the virtue known as thrift: reducing needless waste.

I find it interesting that a consumer coming from the so-called "make and mend" generation would need convincing in the form of rhymed verses and cute drawings, but perhaps the lesson is even more subtle. After all, whoever wrote this poem ask the consumer to reuse the bag not just once, but rather often.

Let's move on to the illustrations. Here is a better picture of the bag without its contents:

As you can see just to the left of the plate of cheese and sausage a woman stands marveling at her brand new Continental-brand hot water bottle. (The question of why my stockinette underthings came packaged in a hot water bottle wrapping will forever haunt me.)

I am going to assume that these pictures do not follow any sort of a story, or else that cute girl at the beach just put her lunch into the same bag that that nice Bavarian man just used to store his mushrooms.*

Most of these illustrations are self-explanatory, although I cannot quite make out what the woman in the top right picture is doing with the bag next to her bike. Perhaps a close-up will help.

Of course! She is clearly securing her Continental hot water bottle bag onto her bike rack.

As far as I can tell, there is no copyright on the darling designs covering this plastic bag, so if you dear readers are interested, I can convert the sketches into embroidery patterns. Anyone interested?

*And, yes, I am familiar with the fact that you can wash a plastic bag.

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