This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pop tabs, myth and reality

I stopped by the annual Van Rensselaer PTA Craft show on Saturday to see what was happening. I noticed that the school was collecting pop-can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and was amazed by how many they had collected. (I assume that the can if full of only tabs.)
Several years ago a student at SJC told me that the tabs were made of a special alloy and worth much more than the rest of the cans. An Internet search quickly told me that this was not true. Doing the math using the numbers in the snopes article, it takes 28 tabs to earn a penny.

Why then does Ronald McDonald House collect them? One of the Ronald McDonald House web pages says. "Although the whole aluminum can is valuable, the tab is much cleaner and easier to collect in large quantities than whole cans." Another says, "Collecting pop tabs is a great way to teach kids about philanthropy and the importance of recycling...." However, Snopes contends that "a lot of really nice people end up sadly disappointed when they eventually discover all their hard work pretty much went for naught."

People like to be useful and to help people in need but often are more concerned about the symbolism of what they are doing than the actual results. The purpose of some of the charities we see is more to make the donors feel good about themselves than to actually help people in need. (I have nothing against Ronald McDonald House. I used their house in Indianapolis many years ago and found that they provide a very useful and valuable service. They deserve support. And they are honest about what they are doing on their website.)

I wonder if the rumor that tabs had special value is an echo from a time in which they did. A couple years ago I noticed this can along a road in Nevada. It could have been there twenty or thirty years--the area is desert, so the process of decay and decomposition are very slow. The can is made of iron while the tab is aluminum. Are you old enough to remember them?

If you are as old as I am, you remember even an older form of tab, the kind that pulled off the can. Those tabs are still around. I had a conversation with a man in Martinsville a couple months ago in which he told me that he had bought a metal detector in hopes of finding hidden treasure. He said about all he ever found were the old aluminum tabs buried three or four inches underground. He said they were everywhere.

After leaving the craft fair, I stopped in the Jasper County Historical Society museum to see what they were doing. The quilt show was gone and a new installation featuring recent acquisitions and resources was being prepared. I will try to remember to go back in two weeks to see it completed. (The museum is open the first and third Saturday of every month.) I reminded them that they should do a show featuring Indian artifacts from the area, and they are considering it. I also suggested a pioneer craft show, but the only pioneer craft that I can think of that is still practiced is basket making. What kind exhibits would you like to see?

Speaking of Indian artifacts, today is the bicentennial of the Battle of Tippecanoe, which took place northeast of Lafayette. It was historically important because it broke the power of the Eastern Indian tribes. We do not have any important Revolutionary War or Civil War historic sites in Indiana, and this battlefield is the only one near us that has national significance. Read more about it here. Update: The Journal and Courier has had good coverage; for example, see here.


Anonymous said...

American Civil War sites in Indiana:

Perhaps not traditional battle sites, but still places of significance during the Civil War. Here is some more info on how Indiana was involved in the Civil War. Sorry it is just Wikipedia:

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on your definition of "important" but the people of Vincennes would beg to differ with you over your last paragraph. The Revolutionary War did extend to the territory of Indiana. See