Possumhaw: Made in the U.S.A., or not

March 31, 2014 10:00:28 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


The jean jacket label said Bangladesh. Prairie skirt made in the U.S.A. Old Navy jacket made in China, as was the Longleaf camo jacket, as was the Ralph Lauren skirt. Really? Ralph Lauren made in China? Ann Taylor -- Hong Kong; MSU baseball hat -- Taiwan R.O. C. Shoes were a mix of Brazil, Mexico and China. 


"Our Year Without 'Made in China'," by Sara Bongiorni, prompted my checking fury. Author Sara Bongiorni is a journalist whose "beat" included international trade and its impact on local economies. She convinced her husband, Kevin, to embark on a year without goods made in China. Kevin, aka the "Weakest Link," reluctantly agreed. Children Wes and Sofie had no choice but were soon to realize the prospects of a summer without a kiddie pool, Elmer's glue or Mr. Potato Head. The only shoes Sara could find for an ever-growing Wes were wooden clogs to which the "Weakest Link" said absolutely not, or the $68 shoes from a catalog. She bought the catalog shoes two sizes too big. 


I noticed Sara's book was printed in the U.S.A., as expected. I checked local author Deborah Johnson's book, "The Secret of Magic," and Michael Farris Smith's "Rivers." Both were printed in the U.S.A. "Stepping Heavenward," Barbour Publishing Inc., a recent gift, was printed in China. The Chinese are sending us boatloads of books. 


Families trying alternative lifestyles of recycling, abstaining, sacrificing, simple living and so on fascinate me. I like the idea of competing with myself so I bought Sara's book at the library book sale. 


I don't begin to understand global economics, but I do understand that products from China have allowed many of us to live better than we could have if it weren't for $9 shoes from Walmart. I don't personally shop Walmart 'cause I find it big and scary and, for the most part, I buy thrift because I like it, thus the Ralph Lauren skirt. On the other hand, my kitchen touts ceramic bowls, cups, dishware all from China. Electronics, including my coffee pot, are from China. I confess to finding a can of strawberries from ... China. Revere Ware cookware, founded by patriot Paul Revere, is now manufactured offshore.  


Sara ordered an advertised "Made in U.S.A." lamp only to find a component in the box printed "Made in China." She called the manufacturer.  


He told her, "There were hundreds of American lamp makers just a decade ago, including 40 or more in Southern California alone; today maybe four or five exist in the country." He said his family business survived by making large lamps that don't travel well in containers. He explained the Chinese component: "Light switches are no longer made in the U.S.A. at all." 


I can honestly say that I haven't looked at the "Made in" labels, evidenced by the strawberries, but I'm starting to. If I have a choice then I'll chose Made in U.S.A., because the makers are my neighbors. If I don't have a choice I'll buy because it gives the salesperson a job; on occasion I'll consider if I need the purchase anyway.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.