When String was King: A Reminiscence

As the title of my blog (“Writings & Reminiscences”) proclaims, I occasionally lapse into a reminiscing mood. That is what I’m doing today.

First, let me share with you a photograph of an item (I don’t know the actual name to call it) that was given to my mother by her sister-in-law (my Aunt Della Lester Bertram) many years ago. There’s a message written on the back (“To Iris, From Del, Dec. 14”). I wish my aunt had included the year, but I’m guessing it was around 1930, give or take three or four years.


As you can see, this could be mistaken for a purely decorative item, an apple with stem, part of a branch, leaves, and something resembling pine cones in the lower left corner. (Not sure why pine cones would be included.) However, this apple served a utilitarian purpose. It was a string dispenser, as you can see in the picture below. A ball of string was stored in the hollow back and fed through a small hole in the bottom of the apple.


Why would anyone need a string dispenser? Remember that this was in the days before twist ties, tape, and the various other closure methods that are in use today. Too, string was used by manufacturers to sew together the tops of cloth bags such as were used at that time for animal feed, flour, and other staples. I can still remember my mother unraveling the string across the top of a cloth bag and adding that string to the ball she kept inside the hollow in the back of her string dispenser, which hung on the side of a kitchen cabinet for as long as I can remember.


I suspect that this string dispenser was a Christmas gift from my aunt to my mother. In any case, it served an important purpose for many years and remained in Mom’s kitchen until she passed it along to me a few years ago. I don’t use it to dispense string, of course, but it hangs on my wall and reminds me of bygone days when string was a necessity of everyday life.

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