The Way it Was: Looking back at how uses for glass has changed

by John Straka Published:

I remember when milk was sold in glass bottles or gallon glass jugs. Now I buy milk in plastic jugs.

I remember when eyeglasses were made of glass, not plastic. That got me to thinking about how many things that were made of glass in the past, are now made of plastic. I can not find very many.

Pop now comes in plastic 2 liter bottles. When I was a kid, Nehi orange, Hires root beer, and Coca-Cola all came in glass bottles with metal and cork bottle caps. A cash deposit was paid with every purchase, and it was refunded when the bottle or jug was returned. The deposit on a Lawson gallon milk jug was 20 cents. That was a lot of money in those days. If you broke the jug, you lost the deposit.

Those bottles were returned, washed, sanitized and refilled. Today, we empty a plastic bottle or jug and throw in out with the rubbish. There is a lot of pressure on consumers to recycle all that plastic, but I don't know if that's very effective.

With a deposit system, kids and sometimes adults, would go searching for empty bottles, and return them for the deposit which was usually 2 cents for a small bottle and 5 cents for a larger one. That was good for the environment.

I find it difficult sometimes to tell if a bottle or jar is glass or plastic. Right now, just about all the spices in my kitchen cupboard are in plastic bottles except paprika. The way I can tell the difference is to squeeze the bottle. If it is rigid, it's glass. If not, then it must be plastic.

In my refrigerator, ketchup, salad dressing, instant coffee and vinegar are in plastic bottles. Pickles, olives, salsa, steak sauce and spaghetti sauce are in glass. I wonder causes the manufacturer to decide which one to use?

Windows are still made of glass, although I think there is some kind of law requiring storm door windows to be made of plastic. Mine are so old, they were installed before the law was passed.

Automobiles use lots of glass and lots of plastic. Windshield glass is different from side window glass. Early on, windshields would shatter on impact and the shards would be sharp and pointy, resulting in many horrible wounds. A chemist working in his laboratory accidently knocked a glass jar off his workbench. It broke, but the broken pieces stuck together. They did not fly off like in an explosion. Upon examination, he saw that a plastic substance that had coated the jar, held those pieces together and that gave him the idea to make safety glass. Cars today have windshields made of two layers of glass with a layer of plastic in-between.

Side windows are made of tempered glass that, on impact, breaks into small pieces with more or less rounded edges. Years ago, I had my driver's side window do that. It must have been hit by something thrown up from the roadway. I was showered with glass pieces, but they did me no harm. Not even a scratch.

I think some lenses, maybe on taillights and brake lights, are made of plastic. Camera lenses, are probably made of plastic, too, especially on inexpensive and very small cameras. If you take something like a teaspoon and gently tap tap whatever you are holding, the sound glass makes is very different from plastic. Try it. You may be surprised at the difference. Glass has more of a ring to it.

One kind of glass window I haven't seen for a long time is the kind with what looks like chicken wire in it. That's probably a two-way safety feature. It keeps the glass from shattering and prevents an intruder from sticking his arm through in order to open a door or window.

I wonder what is happening to the idea of making road surfaces out of a blend of recycled glass held together with recycled rubber? Waterproof, expandable, hard, long wearing and good traction. Sounds good to me.

There used to be an old saying that men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses. I don't believe that at all. I don't know about contact lenses. There is an old joke about the man who asked his wife if she knows where his glasses are. Her answer was, "They're right where you emptied them last night."

On a tour of the Corning Glass factory, we were shown glass that bends and glass that conducts electricity. The prettiest marbles are made of glass. So are some of the most amazing works of art. Have you ever taken the time to really look at a good stained glass window? Many depict religious topics and served to teach in places and at times when most people could not read or write. Some of the most beautiful are just patterns of color. Examine such a window and pretend each piece represents a person. Then determine which piece most likely represents you.

I have always believed that glass flows, slowly, and after many years, windowpanes become thicker near the bottom than at the top due to gravity. Recently I learned there is no evidence of that being true. Does scratched glass "heal" over time?

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