How Deep Will You Dive? (Into a dumpster)


  It was 6pm on a week night, and my parents and some of us kids were in town doing errands. The age old Winn-Dixie was being demolished and there was a dumpster in the parking lot chock full of  construction debris. It caught my mom’s eye and she says to my dad, “Stan, drive past that dumpster, I want to take a closer look.”


My dad was rarely in a hurry and was quite obliging to my mom. (Most of the time.) He turned into the parking lot and we drive up to the dumpster. I start slumping down lower in my seat. Oh, no. What’s next? At a closer look you could see that the dumpster was chock full of BRICKS from the demolished Winn-Dixie.

Just as my mom had hoped.

We found ourselves in these kind of scenarios because my parents raised 12 kids on my dad’s low-moderate income and they were of the frugal type. Dad was pretty calculated and was darn good at spreading small amounts of money to go far. My parents never had a car payment, credit card debt was unheard of, and dad paid off the home mortgage by the time he was 40 yrs. old. All while raising a bunch of us! This wasn’t easy. He and mom gave up a lot of first world comforts and truly embraced frugal living. Because of their dedicated efforts to financial freedom, big purchases were rare, and small purchases were always in a state of consideration.


They had purchased a home and it lacked having a concrete driveway; something that my mom was definitely wanting, but after purchasing the home and fixing the interior, cash funds were low……


Back to the Winn Dixie parking lot What was to happen next was that every one of those bricks were going to be put in our family vehicle (ahem, a small, 1975 Chevrolet school bus) because instead of putting aside money for a paved drive, we’d just turn those bricks into a no cost driveway! Dad drove  the younger ones home, took out the back seats of the bus, called the capable hands to helm and we headed back to the dumpster. After a couple of trips we had every bit of brick lying in a huge pile at the end of our driveway.


There’s a vague memory of talking to a fellow at the dump for permission to take the bricks and he gave us the go ahead, but in my humble opinion I’m pretty sure he was just a mutual dumpster diver.


Now, you may think the hard work is over and we really scored with having hundreds of free bricks on our hands, but when we got closer to the bricks we  noticed that almost every single one of them were heavily laden with mortar and there was much work to be done before we could even begin to level out the ground and start laying them down.


The next day I had a chisel in hand (as I was among the kids that were too old to play inside and too young to have a job elsewhere). For 2 days straight my mom managed all available Claerbout kids and we chiseled off every bit of mortar.

In short, my mom got a driveway; not a concrete one, but a brick one. It was crazy. I actually kind of loved it. The whole thing. I mean I hated it, too, but that’s how insane ideas and projects are, ya know?


Money was not on our side, but time was. (And yes, maybe some child labor.)


A couple of things that I find interesting about this story:

1. It was my personal experience, so it’s just interesting to me

2. My family is kind of weird

3. My parents were determined to  put up with a butt load of inconvenience and “stupidity” for that driveway and they got it


(If I remember correctly, the brick drive was not done too professionally (go figure); after a couple of years, we ended up with a concrete driveway and sidewalk. Once again we moved all those bricks. To our backyard. And made a brick patio. And last I visited my parent’s house I noticed it has held up these past 20 yrs.)

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