We have become a throwaway society.
Remember the mop you had in your home as a kid? It had a sturdy wood handle with strings of cloth material at its base. It probably had been white at one time, but after serving your family faithfully for 10 years it had grown gray from the constant rewashing of your floor.
Mops like that are hard to find down the cleaning aisles of the grocery store today. Rather, a plastic handle with a disposal head is available in three colors and four brands.
In many ways, we have become a throwaway society.
Paper napkins, paper plates, plastic containers, all to be used once and thrown away. We want everything brand-new: our TVs, cellphones, cars and even our homes.
I grew up in downtown Salt Lake City and saw this trend firsthand. When my parents first moved into our home in 1978, it fell within the suburbs. Our home was surrounded by other families, and our neighborhood was a great place to live. But as I aged, so did my home and soon most families moved further out into suburbia. The Wasatch front grew and grew with the trend of moving out further and further to the new homes.
As the city grew out, my part of the city grew worse. By my teenage years, very few kids my age lived nearby, and my parents drove me 30 minutes to get me to a decent school. The homes around me had all turned to rentals, with many old homes being broken into multifamily units. Very few homes were fixed up.
Salt Lake City is not alone in this growing trend to dump the old homes for the new ones. Some cities have begun to realize the benefit of revitalizing their downtown rather than allowing it to become the next Detroit. Usually this is only after their city is so large that people are commuting from their new suburban homes for hours in the thick of smog and vehicles.
In the case of Salt Lake City, it wasn’t until there were solid homes from Ogden to Provo that this realization began to sink in. And today, while revitalization has begun and people have started to fix up homes in my parents’ neighborhood, it has still not brought back the schools and, therefore, the families.
What a breath of fresh air Boulder City was when I came here. Despite how wonderful it was to see so many unique homes that had been well kept and fixed up, I will admit when we first came we looked for a newer home. But there weren’t any that were “affordable.” The growth restriction meant that there wasn’t a glut of new affordable homes on the market.
So, we were forced to look at homes that were old and needed a ton of work. We landed one that, like the old mop, was gray but still had much to give. Sure, the former tenants had forgotten that dogs should be let outside when they needed to relieve themselves, but after lots of torn-down walls, repainting and refinishing it looked rather nice.
During this renovation, we were tearing into old newspaper insulation in the attic when we found a letter. Our home was originally built by Jerry Lozada, a worker at the dam. The letter was to his sweetheart, but it had been returned. It said, in part, “Dearest … I was the most surprised man in the world when I got your letter. I’ve practically lived with that little snap-shot you gave me, remember?… I quit alcohol like I said I would try and I haven’t had a drink for two days; that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without, but it sure is making me sick and on top of that … my mother is pretty sick so now I’ve got that on my mind … I tried to get off but they won’t let me; we’re awfully shorthanded here on the job.”
I felt honored to get this glimpse into his life and was more proud to be restoring and bringing back to life the home he had built as he with so many others worked to build an American icon, an icon that still serves us today. At that moment, I was happy that there were no “affordable” new homes in this beautiful town.
Our society might continue to become more of a throwaway society and forget those mops and the Jerry Lozadas. I hope Boulder City always will be different.
Nathaniel Kaey Gee resides in Boulder City with his wife and six kids. He is a civil engineer by day and enjoys writing any chance he gets. You can follow his work on his blog thegeebrothers.com.