I’ll never forget one of my first publications. I was in early grade school, but with grandma’s assistance, I was able to write my first book.

It was a story about people, and it was based on pictures that we cut out of catalogs and magazines. As I recall, the story plot was based on the pictures rather than the usual style of finding pictures to fit the story.

We would spend the evening cutting out photos and then paste them on the backs of salvaged notebook paper. The story would be written between pictures and then the book would be bound using a three-hole puncher and paper fasteners. The title page would give proper credit, “written by Jimmy Langham and Grandma Cook.”

As I got older, there were even publication rights. Some of the books actually were established as, “published in Ceylon, Indiana, 1958, all rights reserved.” This information was obviously copied from following a format on the inside jackets of the books purchased in a grade school book club that I belonged to.

The whole idea was suggestive of the salvageable world that I was raised in at the time, just a decade beyond the Great Depression. “Save, salvage, and reuse” was the theme of our lives and no one thought a thing about it.

In addition to manufacturing books from clippings, I would make toys from the scrap kindling used to start fires in our wood stove, draw sketches when pictures weren’t available, and use everything imaginable to create things we couldn’t afford to purchase.

In the kitchen cupboard, we had a pencil drawer (pens were scarce at the time). There was a scrap paper drawer in my dad’s desk, scraps that were often cut and reused several times. We purchased used books for me to use in the classroom, and scanned “rummage sales” for family clothes.

That was true, of course, of the clothes that weren’t made. One of the most cherished sounds of my childhood was that of the old Singer sewing machine pedals going during the night, with the result of a new shirt for me to wear to school the next day.

In the sand box, I would create various landscapes for the trucks and cars that I played with. I would build forest roads beneath flowered bushes and turn the top of our back porch into a lookout tower. While I was doing that, my mother would be utilizing leftovers from previous meals into one of the most tasty soups or casseroles around.

No one thought anything about the time involved in shelling peas or lima beans or snapping green beans. That’s what you did in order to process food for the family. The best strawberry pies were made from wild strawberries harvested along the railroad tracks. Grandma always said that a good apron full would make a good pie.

Somewhere my family obtained wool. Early in life I learned to card wool to stuff into pillows and comforts. Somehow, my folks even made me think that I was having fun doing it. I never objected to sorting apples, pears, or peaches or harvesting crabapples for delicious crabapple jelly.

Because there weren’t the time demands of the present, there was always plenty of time to cut out the best part of partially bad apples or peaches.

It was just assumed that stockings that were torn would be repaired with the use of the sock darner, that torn clothes or dismantled buttons would be repaired. It was a different world, one that I now consider myself to be honored to have been a part of. These days it would be referred to as, “clutter.” Those days it was referred to as “salvageables.” Old clothing that would be discarded these days became rags or quilt blocks.

The most important part of all of this, I understand now, were life’s lessons that were salvaged from all of this. There was something special about walking along the railroad track to pick up coal that had fallen off of trains, or picking up scrap iron and selling it to purchase snacks at school.

There was a family warmth that taught us to give, care about others, look out after each other, and glean items that would not only save us money, but would make us feel good about turning rags back into riches that were once again worth using.

Perhaps one of the most recent reminders of all of this occurred when we were visiting one of our daughters at her apartment in Chicago. She opened one of her closet doors and I immediately recognized a quilt that had been made during a quilting bee at our house when I was young.

In fact, I remembered the days that all of the ladies sat around the quilt frames in the living room while I played at their feet and enjoyed the homemade fudge, cookies, and dinner goodies they had brought with them.

The thing that grabbed my heart the most when I saw it again was the blocks. They were made primarily of shirts I had outgrown. In fact, I had cut many of the blocks a lifetime ago, not realizing that someday, they would cover my daughter with warmth while she slept through cold Chicago nights.

Somehow, deep inside, I hoped that things salvaged from those special days would somehow be communicated to her heart and saved for generations to come.