Lard Cans

Nail Can

Lard Cans, Nail Cans, and Snuff Cans

There were some items that could be found in many homes around the Sandy Point area, in bygone days. Some may sound familiar and others may not.

In the kitchen, there was the “Lard Can”. It did not have a “standard” look. It might be any old tin can with the top still attached but bent up to form a handle. More often than not, it was an old Luzianne Coffee or other such coffee can. It sat on the shelf or the back of the stove, available for the cook to pour up the left over grease from cooking bacon, sausage or fat back. This would be used for cooking or frying and was often just referred to as “grease” and was not too far removed from the axle kind.
Lard came to have a bad name in the health circles and the word was that everyone was going to die from the fat and cholesterol in the lard. But it was a household staple for many years and I’m told it was the best for flakey pie crusts. (Today, there is a renewal of interest in Lard and it can be purchased for various cooking needs and some research says it may not be as bad as first thought.)
Then, along came Crisco.


Crisco was the first vegetable oil substitute for “grease” and over time worked its way in to more and more country homes when they could afford it. It was invented about 1902. Crisco had the advantage that it did not absorb the taste of foods and could be reused. Even my grand mothers started using Crisco but the “lard can” did not disappear for many years.
Snuff cans. Now these were another matter. Snuff was a tobacco product sold in a variety of containers and people have collections of snuff jars. The early history of snuff goes back farther than any of us can imagine and started out as ground up, dried tobacco that was sniffed into the nostrils, or, snuffed. Later, people started using a moister version that they put between their gum and teeth and then, as the liquid built up in their mouth, they would have to spit out the collection. That’s where the snuff can, or spit can, came in.
In the old days, the men that I was around used chewing tobacco, like Brown’s Mule, that came in a “plug” about 2 inches square. It was wrapped in cellophane to keep it moist and the men always had a pocket knife to cut off a “chew”. In some cases, they that just bit off some from the “plug”.
Brown’s Mule
Snuff was more common among the women and was often done in some amount of secrecy. In both cases, chewing tobacco and snuff, spitting was necessary. A spittoon, in higher society, might be found around but in more rural settings, it was a spit can, or snuff can. Sitting on the back porch or out in a chair in the yard was another way of dealing with the spitting. There was often a tale tale evidence of “dipping snuff”: there was a dark brown stain in the corner of the mouth or on the front of the blouse or shirt. I dare say that most women probably took up “dipping snuff” after they got married as I just can’t see how one could get past the snuff in the corners of the mouth of the pretty girl when it came time to kiss her good night. I suppose you can overlook anything if you are in love, though.
As far as I know, neither of my grandmothers “dipped”. My one grandfather liked cigars and the other used chewing tobacco at times. Tobacco and snuff users usually could be spotted in their cars and trucks by the brown stains on the car door where they had been spitting out the window.
The other “can” that I was familiar with was the “nail” can. Now, that was usually found in the barn, the garage, or where ever tools were kept.

The nail can, for some reason, looked a lot like the other cans. It was usually an old coffee can. Very similar to the lard can, and the snuff can.
The nail can was just like the name implies: a can full of nails. Or, it might also contain barbed wire fence staples or roofing nails. These were usually previously used, rusty, bent and recycled. Thrift was the name of the game. Not like today, when I can walk to the Home Depot and usually end up there three or four times when doing a project, buying stuff I already have lying somewhere but can’t ever find until after the project is finished.
The job for the kids was to take the bent nails or staples and to straighten them out by using a hammer and a flat surface. Driving a straight, unused nail can be challenging for some. Driving a slightly bent nail or staple, well that was a daunting task. A staple could fly fifteen or twenty feet if hit off center with a hammer. Safety glasses were not readily available and new nails were only purchased when there just were not enough nails in the “nail can” to get the job done. And, if you mixed up the 8 penny and 16 penny nails on the job, so be it.
None of these should be confused with pea cans. More correctly known as pecans, ( p cons ) but when said in the South it often sounded like pea cans. Red Skelton of bygone days said that “in the North, they had signs saying Clean Rest Rooms but in the South the signs all said Pe cans”.
There were a lot of words that sounded different once you got past the Mason and Dixon Line. Cairo, Ga. is “Kay Row” not Kyro as they say in Egypt. Lancaster, Pa. in the South is often called “Lang Caster” as Armstrong Cork found out when they put a plant in Macon, Ga. Marietta (Mary Etta) is often vocalized as May Retta. And, siren was often “si reen”. My friend lives in Albany, New York and I have been to Albany, Ga. (All Benny) on numerous occasions. And, the word fixing does not necessarily mean repairing but usually is spoken as fixin’ and is used to mean about to or preparing to do something. We won’t even try to deal with Houston, Texas and Houston County.
But, its time to put this discussion in the “Can”. Not to be confused with the restroom.
© 2016

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