Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Recyling and Junk Yards Now and Then


What do you do on an afternoon in September when the clouds in the sky are whiny and can’t make up their minds if they want to move on by to dump their sorrow elsewhere? You hop on a bus down at the senior hall and head to a recycling center that covers 65 acres where we got to watch a machine shred cars. This place isn’t your standard recycling center where the neighborhood moms and dads conjugate on Saturdays to drop off their newspapers, tin cans, glass bottles and plastic trash. This place is like a modernized junk yard of olden days that, when you think about it, have been recycling long before it became cool. 

I’ve got a long history of going to junk yards. When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to go with my dad when he’d take a load of stuff to the junk yard. Back in those days they let you pick through what other people left behind until they got smart and had one of their workers set aside any useable goods and they started selling them out of a building they put up on the property. That place is still there. In its current form it’s a popular place for people restoring old homes to find architectural savage.

Then along came my husband and his three front-end loaders and street sweeper and I was introduced to specialized heavy equipment recycling centers---bone yards. If a part broke on one of those secondhand ‘beasts’ off we went to spend an afternoon out of town at one of the three bone yards in the state where similar equipment could be found. The rule, back in those days, was customers had to disassemble whatever needed to come apart to get at the part they wanted to buy. Unless an extra set of hands was needed, I’d usually be in our pickup truck near-by with the dog, reading a book. People who own places like that were always down to earth and pretty interesting when you got to know them. One guy in particular stands out in my memory. He once charged my husband $60 for a part, then handed one of the twenties to me and said, “Have this guy take you out to dinner tonight. No reason why you should have to cook after keeping him company all afternoon.” You should have seen the look on Don’s face. “Hey, that’s my twenty!” he said. “Not anymore,” the bone yard owner said. “It’s hers now.” He was a sweet guy with a beach front “cottage” in Hawaii. When he died he had a large, marble bulldozer on his grave and, of course, Don and I had to go see it. 

And then there was the junk yard for cars out by Lake Michigan that we always had to stop at on our way to the Big Lake. Not that we needed to buy anything there, but my husband had met the owner at a gas & oil memorabilia swap meet and he had a private museum that you couldn’t get into without an invitation. Don, being a likeable storyteller, finally got the invitation. Come to find out the guy had a one piece glass gas globe that was highly sought after and that knowledge started “the dance.” It took two years but eventually Don talked the guy into to selling him the globe for $6,500. Let me tell, I about had a cow at that price and for something so fragile, having been responsible already for breaking a lesser quality globe. But that hand-painted gas globe was his pride and joy for several decades and when I sold it after he died, I got three times what Don paid for it. The man who bought it, just died and his gas globe collection is up in the air because the out-of-state daughter in charge of the estate is an idiot. I passed along the contact information for the leading appraiser in the field but she'll probably have a junk dealer haul it all away---all 300 globes.

Back on topic: The recycling place we toured today has a set of scales that all the trucks coming into the place have to drive over and it can weigh up to 200,000 pounds per vehicle and trucks never stopped coming and going the whole 2 ½ hours we were there. The place employs over 650 people and 75% of their business is shredding cars. They had mountains of mixed metal including vehicles and every conceivable thing you can name waiting to go through their giant shredder. All that stuff comes out the other side sorted and melted and ready to be sold to industries that use the aluminum, copper, brass, bronze and steel to build new stuff. We got to walk up the 75 steps to the glass tower where a person controlling the shredder works. He monitors 5-6 screens and a computer keyboard making sure everything is working as it should be. While we watched the machine in action we got to see a couple air bags go off as cars got crushed, sending up a cloud white gas. Once in a rare while, he said, if they haven’t gotten all the liquids drained out of a car properly, a fire will start but the machine puts it out quickly. “It’s pretty cool to watch,” he said. “I’m surrounded by flames.” The tour cost a whole six bucks for our transportation. Quite a bargain, don’t you think and the tour also brought back some priceless junk yard memories. ©

NOTE: The photo at the top is what the junk looks like before going through the shredder and next two photos is what the sorted and smelted metal looks like when it comes out the other side of the shredder. And the third photo shows a pile of wiring that somehow in the process of shredding mixed junk gets separated out from rest. Oh, and this place has other areas where they process paper, plastic and electronic equipment into a form that can be used in manufacturing more stuff. This place is where all the community recycling centers and pickup services bring their stuff after they've sorted and bundled it on their sites.




photos off their website

24 comments:

  1. Interesting!! I liked that man who peeled off the $20 and gave it to you for your 'labour' - nice of him.

    I have to admit I found the price of that globe eye-shocking - and the resale price you got, even more so - good on you! Nice of you to help that collector's daughter to sell her inheritance at a fair stuff - I can imagine my kids shrugging similarly too as they'd also consider it junk and not worth the bother.

    I believe in recycling and glad that its become fashionable. I saw a doco on the humongous waste that the fashion industry produces with fast changing fashions - such a waste. China has certainly made many things cheap, but ultimately at what cost? We live in a throwaway society. ~ Libby

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    1. I would have liked to see the part of the recycling center that deals with clothe/clothing but we couldn't see it all in one afternoon. But you're right. When you think about it hardly anyone wears their clothing out anymore. Not even kids.

      The jury is still out on the collector's daughter. But her dad was super rich and that collection doesn't matter to her in the long run. That globe I sold her dad has gone as high as $27,000 in specialized auctions and the guy who brokered the sale for us got $2,000 on top of what I got. The appraiser (who I called before selling it) just this week said that particular globe will always hold its value because it's so unique and rare. I wouldn't even let the dog have a ball in the house when it was in our living room.(A sign from the same company just recently sold for $50,000 and the appraiser said he saw one go higher than that! That's how junk dealers get rich.

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  2. Jean, your blog today was interesting but a little weird but I love weird especially about that guy that lived in Hawaii and the large, marble bulldozer on his grave. I love it. I didn't know recyling plants allowed people in to watch what is going on. I would love to say more but my computer is goofing of this morning. It's disappearing constantly so I just say see ya for now my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Actually, this recycling plant doesn't usually allow tours. It was a special favor for one of our senior hall directors who knew the owners. The place even bought us brand new hardhats, safety vests and glasses. That was pretty cool. We bought over 4 batches of 25 people, staggered over two days.

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  3. Dear Jean, this post was fascinating. Truly. I just never knew about "junk yards"---what we always called them here in Missouri---until reading your posting. I'm not sure we have anything/place in this state like you've described. Really fascinating. It's so responsible and wonderful to recycle. Peace.

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    1. The guy told us how many places in the U.S. we have like this but I forgot the exact number. Maybe 300? He said trucks come in from all over the place...not just locally. They actually get paid per ton to drop stuff off. Seeing that operation made me feel good about recycling at home because I know where it all eventually ends up. Next summer we're going to the a recycling place were our household trash gets sorted before going to a place like this. The do that tour every other year and I missed it before.

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  4. Interesting to know how specialized recycling plants are. Here I thought they only sorted plastic and aluminum.
    When I was a kid and lived on a lake which was home to about 20 families, there was a small dump that we all used. When my friend and I got bored which wasn't often, we had the choice to go rummage in the dump for cool stuff or hike a mile to the store to buy a Squirt and a Clark bar. If it was hot, the store won out.

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    1. I imagine a lot of people in our age bracket have been to dumps to rummage through the stuff. Love your lake memory. We used to walk to the store from our cottage too.

      About the only think I ever found of real value in a dump when I was a kid was a pair of etchings that twenty years ago I sold for almost a $1,000. The recycling plant we went to has a section where they set aside interesting things for sculpture artists to pick over. That is so cool!

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  5. That is very interesting to be able to see how the center works. A couple of years ago, while in England, we watched a BBC program on the recycling centers and how the machines sort through the different materials. At some point, are their machines able to sort through the different metals?
    Regards
    Leze

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    1. Yes, all sorts of metals in sizes from school buses to guns go into the machine---and any material you'd typically find in cars. It shreds it all and then sorts it out using things like giant magnets and heat. Different temperatures melts different metals away from the rest. When it's gone through the whole process the different metals---aluminum, copper, brass, bronze and steel---come down different shoots in a form that they sell as raw materials for manufacturing or cars, appliances, windows, etc.

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    2. P.S. Read the note about the photos. They show the before and after going through the machine.

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  6. An interesting woman who can write about JUNK! You are amazing. And your Senior Center is also amazing. Who would have thunk it?? I'm going to have to use some of your outings as suggestions for my senior center!

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    1. Our center is outstanding and no there is no other like it in the county and I don't even write about half the things they do. Like go to off Broadway plays, circle theater, choral group programs, exercise classes, handcraft and woodcarving groups and their 12 hour day trips. And tons of walking tours to places like cemeteries where city founders have huge tombstones, and around buildings and churches of interest in town. I've been on some of the walking tours---nice for history bluffs. I signed up for a color tour by train coming up in October. I can't wait for that.

      All of us have interesting lives if more would sit down to write about them. Looking back it's easy to connect themes that weave in and out of your lives, and what was just living a boring life to us is interesting to others when we share those themes. Like you with all your world travels. There is a wealth of material to mine there, if you ever start blogging again.

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  7. This is really pretty interesting -- way out of my wheelhouse yet so intriguing! Sounds like quite the afternoon, that's for sure! And a profit to boot!

    Thanks for coming over. Glad you liked a look at Harry and Ellie!

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  8. I had been looking forward to this tour for a long time. It really was interesting and it made me happy to see that recycling actually ends up back into usable stuff and not taking up space in landfills.

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  9. I think it's commendable how wide and varied the field trips are that your senior center offers. If someone can't find something he/she is interested in, then it simply doesn't exist!

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    1. They offer so many things, the issue is never finding something interesting, it's getting your RSVP before someone else does. The mini tours are limited to 125 and the long tours at 50. The musicals and plays depending on who many tickets are made available to us but we average 50. Lectures and lunches can go up to 180, except at Christmas when they rent a bigger venue to get 300-350 in. They average taking 1,700 RSVPs in the first few hours. When I stated going there 7 years ago they had one part time director. Now they have one full time and two part timers.

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  10. Really interesting, Jean! Your senior centre rocks. Is this due to any one individual in particular or is there a really great team in place?

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    1. The place was very ordinary and under used until a young woman with background in organizing events took a part time job ten years ago to run the place and she built it into place it is today and turned the job into full time with two part time paid staff. There are volunteers for lunches, decorating, phone chains and putting out the newsletter but she's the idea and planning person. She successful because she believes in providing "life learning" opportunities as she calls it.

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  11. Unusual but interesting activity. Can be amazing what people will discard into trash. Enjoyed reading your account of this outing. We used to periodically go to sawmills, for seconds which then were turned into attractive functional cabinets and other furnishings.

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    1. I don't think I've ever been to a saw mill. Lumber yards, many times. Seconds in wood sound interesting.

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  12. I love a good recycling centre! When I was young they were just called rubbish dumps and people could go and rifle through all the junk and take what they wanted. They are more sophisticated now and in the UK are run by councils and private people who charge a small fee for items. You brought back one memory for me. Not long after I met my husband he called at my house and said, "Get in the car, I'm taking you out for a treat." And he drove me to our local rubbish dump because he wanted some item or other - his idea of a joke!

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    1. Now that's a date for the record books! Thanks for sharing it.

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