Cannery donates unlabeled cans after fire

Lefty Graves
Pork and BeansJoice Kelly/Unsplash

** This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by my husband, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My husband's parents were dirt poor when they first got married in 1946. They were both working hard to live in a small shack they would call home for several years. With his wife pregnant and money tight, my father-in-law was looking for any way to cut corners on their grocery budget.

His prayers seemed to be answered when the canning factory caught fire one afternoon and would have to be rebuilt. My father-in-law and others in the community rallied together to clean up the debris and help the company rebuild the cannery. It wasn't a glamorous job, but it was a job nonetheless.

In those days, people often bartered their services and were paid with food or other tangible items instead of cash. One afternoon the boss came around and told each of the men working to help rebuild the cannery that they could take all of a stack of canned food home with them for their help.

This was great as far as my father-in-law was concerned; they would have plenty of food for at least a month! However, there was only one problem, none of the cans had labels. My father-in-law pulled his 1941 Chevy Coupe up to the stack of unlabeled canned food and began to load his car with cans.

He proudly took home his "pay" to his wife. The first can she opened was pork and beans. She heated the pork and beans at the little stove top, and they ate them, grateful for a hot healthy meal. My mother-in-law carefully wiped the soot from the cans and lovingly put each can into the cupboard. She was quite proud of my father-in-law for providing them with plenty of food for at least a month.

The next night my in-laws sat down to dine and opened the next can of food. It, too, was pork and beans. This soon became the norm. Finally, one afternoon my mother-in-law opened a can, and it was green beans. After having eaten so many cans of pork and beans, she ran to the door as my father-in-law stepped from the car.

"Honey," she yelled across the yard, "you'll never believe it, but we're having green beans tonight." They enjoyed their green beans that night. But unfortunately, there would only be one other can of green beans in the entire canned food "payment" that my father-in-law received; the rest of the "payment" was all pork and beans!

Bartering is a great way to add to your food supply; however, if you are offered a stack of canned food without any labels, be mindful that you may be getting all the same food. With today's economy bartering is becoming more common. What's your favorite bartering story?

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming & more. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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