Simpler times when garbage can lids had meaning

Simpler times when garbage can lids had meaning 5.00/5 (100.00%) 1 vote

By Ray Hanania

RayHananiaColumnBoxElections have changed a lot over the years. These days, it’s about representation, equality and fairness.

But there was a time when it was all about garbage can lids.

I grew up on Chicago’s Southeast Side when Daley’s Democratic Machine had the city in its first headlock.

You really didn’t hear much from the politicians, and most people wanted to stay away from them, until election time. That’s when the precinct captains, usually a neighbor you knew, would come by and ask you to commit your vote to “our” candidate. It was really “his” candidate, but he was “our” friend.

Back then, we didn’t scream about skyrocketing crime and violence. The “murder rate” didn’t exist. We were just happy to live where we lived.

Who locked their front door?

But there was one problem. Garbage can lids.

We had a cement trash bin that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The waste haulers had to shovel the trash from the cement bin into the truck. It was a lot of work.

But sometime in the 1960s, someone came up with a new invention. The galvanized garbage can. They weren’t painted. They were just silver looking. And there was nothing more important than the lid, which as it turns out, was stolen, a lot.

cement garbage container 1950 from

Chicago style cement garbage container 1950’s, 1960’s from

Who stole the garbage can lids? I’m not sure. My dad always suspected it might be the precinct captains. What I mean is the garbage can lid in the 1960s was a lot like the T-Top panels popular in the late 1980s on Camaros. The two glass T-Tops would always get stolen, and you would have to go to the auto dealership to buy replacements, which ran about $600. Who benefited from that arrangement? The car dealers, who we always suspected of stealing them so they could re-sell them.

And that brings me back to the garbage can lids. My dad was convinced the precinct captains stole the garbage can lids. He noticed that lids were often stolen from the homes that voted, or were in the voter rolls.

Because just before every election, the precinct captain would come by, knock on our door, ask us to vote for “our” candidate, and then promise to get us a new garbage can lid.

modern garbage can

modern garbage can

How did he know?

Eventually, they cement-paved our alley and removed the now un-used cement garbage bins. And, we forgot about the garbage can lids. Who needed garbage covers anyway?

Of course, at about the same time that garbage can lids became a non-essential item of sanitation or vote bribery, we noticed an increase in crime, something similar to what is sweeping Chicagoland today. I’m just saying.

Every time I hear about a series of street gang related killings over a weekend, it makes me think back to the 1960s, when all we cared about were garbage can lids at election time.

The only thing that came close to replacing a garbage can lid during an election that I can remember was in the 1970s, when John Fary was the congressman representing the Southwest Side. Fary, who was a decent guy, would hand out little replicas of “toilets.” His way of reminding you that his name was “John.”

I wonder what would happen today if precinct captains went around handing out garbage can lids or little toy toilets to voters?

These days, I guess, we’ve come to expect a little more.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him [email protected]. His columns on American life are syndicated in Chicagoland and appear in the Des Plaines Valley News, the Southwest News-Herald, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.)

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network online news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley).

In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. He hosted a live weekend Radio Show on WLS AM radio from 1980 through 1991, and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM and shows on WSBC AM in Chicago and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate and his column is feature every Sunday in the Saudi Gazette in Saudi Arabia. He has written for the Jerusalem Post,, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His Chicagoland political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News on several Chicagoland blogs including the and

Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is Email him at: [email protected].