Friday, January 13, 2017

MID-CENTURY CONTAINERS -- PART 6 (PLASTIC PROBLEMS)


Did I ever tell you about Sukey, my old doll? I don’t think so. I wrote a post about her which I subsequently discarded as too sentimental, and now here we are discussing plastics, a perfect focus for that essay.

Kathy & Sukey -- a big doll
Let’s say Sukey came at Christmas 1952. Manufactured by Horsman, she was a big baby doll – 25 inches tall. Until a couple of months ago, I still had her, but in my world today, she represented outgrown interests. (I haven’t outgrown all doll interests – just some of them.) I was sentimental about her because I don’t remember when I didn’t have her and because Mother made more clothes for her than any of my other dolls. I set her in the little white wicker chair, a gift from Hallie, and when months later I picked her up, her legs pulled the white paint right off the chair! I also discovered that her cute little dress was sticking to her. She was decidedly tacky, but rather than make an immediate decision, I covered the seat of the chair with a washcloth and set her down again.

Kathy -- opening a can
 Naturally, I researched this issue online and discovered that mid-century vinyl breaks down and becomes tacky. You can clean it, but it will just keep happening. As I prepared to clean Sukey, I wondered why I would go to the trouble. She showed signs of having lived a rough life at the hands of a small girl. She should have been tossed years ago. Now was the time to part with her.

First, I put her in the shed, and she stayed there several months. Then, early one quiet Thursday morning – before garbage pick-up – I tucked her into the garbage can and listened for the truck to come. It was all over within 20 minutes. She was gone.

Actually, my "Nina Ballerina" has the same tacky affliction, but she lucked out. While her head is vinyl, her body is hard plastic, and she fits nicely into the collection of 18-inch dolls. I gently washed her face, which reduced the stickiness. She will probably need more attention as she gets older.

Nina Ballerina -- vinyl head
So, this same tackiness can be noted in other vintage plastics, such as Tupperware. It breaks down -- even smells -- and we shouldn’t use it for food storage or anything else. Perhaps this breakdown happens before we even realize it, and we should never use plastic for food storage, even when it’s new. They say you shouldn't re-use those lightweight 16-ounce water bottles because of the immediate breakdown of the plastic, and if it breaks down immediately, should we use them in the first place? Also, they aren't recyclable -- at least not in my community.

But there’s some appeal in that vintage Tupperware anyway. I take mine to the rummage sale and it’s among the first items to sell. KW

4 comments:

Chris said...

My old dolls are in a box under the stairs. I guess I should look for them and see how they're doing. Sometimes the only thing we can do is toss, and you did well. Sometimes it's even a relief.

Kathy said...

Relief -- you are so right! -- but I never thought I'd say it. It can be quite freeing to realize you just don't need to cling to something any more. I admit, though, that I was guilty of thinking that if I couldn't have Sukey, no one else could. Her arm had been pulled off and Mother mended her.

I'm now thinking of another doll that can go. She's in better shape -- maybe the rummage sale.

Mike said...

Pretty sad about Sukey.

Kathy said...

Think of it this way -- she passed peacefully.