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A jarful of memories

Published Sep. 10, 2005

The announcement recently that Gerber plans to switch from glass baby-food jars to plastic evoked a flood of memories from our readers.

We asked you to share the creative uses to which you've put those 4-ounce jars over the years.

Ronda Ard wrote to tell us about the project she and her friend Cheryl Tarrou made out of the jars: snow globes they used as favors at a recent baby shower for their friend Roxanne Snyder. They hot-glued poly fiberfill (buy this in bags at craft stores) to the insides of the lid. Then they glued a hard plastic baby doll, about an inch long, to the top of the stuffing. They filled the jars with water and some iridescent glitter. Then they carefully replaced the lid and added ribbon bows around the neck of the jar.

"Turn the jar over and you've got an adorable baby snow globe!" e-mailed Ronda, who lives in St. Petersburg. "Just give it a good shake and watch the snow fall over the baby." Ronda says she and Cheryl liked the look of Gerber jars best, but "If we need to make them in the future I guess we'll use a different brand-name jar."

Sheryl Powers of Dunedin recalled that her husband, Joseph, who died in April, used to create Christmas trees out of the jars. On a rectangular wooden base he laid the jars on their sides in a row of five and glued them to the piece of wood and to each other. (Joe used "a goop kind of glue," Sheryl remembered.) He topped the row of five with rows of four, three, two and one jar, all glued to each other, to make a triangle of jars, a tree shape. Joe spray-painted the lids black and punched a hole in each lid. He cut a piece of silver garland and tucked it in each jar and replaced the lids. Then, using a string of tiny, colored lights, he poked one or two through the hole in each lid. Any remaining lights he arranged around the base, and then he plugged in the tree.

"He loved making these. He gave them to all our family members," Sheryl said. Joe's daughter Debbie, of Holiday, supplied the jars. The Powerses used to stand these illuminated glass trees in the windows, where they were quite eye-catching, Sheryl said.

Paul Swendsen of Tarpon Springs recalled that about 30 years ago, when his granddaughter was a baby, the family engaged a retired glass cutter to cut off the top of a baby-food jar, "cut a pretty edge on top and a beautiful design around the center." Nine years ago, when that granddaughter became the mother of a son, Brian Jeffery, the family found another glass artisan "who cut the jar top off, polished the edge and sand-blasted his initials on it." The same person is engraving names and birth dates on both jars now.

T.J. McHugh of Hudson no doubt spoke for millions of Americans when she wrote, "Our family always had Gerber baby food jars, long after the last baby had grown up. They were found in the garage. The lids were nailed to the underside of the shelves and each jar held nails, screws, nuts and other small objects." The jars were unscrewed when the items were needed, then "screwed back up out of sight and reach of small fingers and mouths."

The jars also became the "sorting and holding vessels for the beads and sequins for all the Mother's Day and Christmas projects the schoolteacher invented and our parents and grandparents still display with pride (much to OUR chagrin)."

T.J. shares this story about her brother, Carl Keener, who majored in commercial art in college. One day he called home asking which tasted better, Gerber's bananas or chocolate pudding. His art class needed small, resealable jars in which to mix paint, and he planned to buy Gerber's baby food, eat the contents and use the jars.

"This problem was solved very easily, since my neighbor had a set of twins and went through baby food jars by the dozens," T.J. wrote. "Not only did he get as many jars as he needed, without ruining his dinner; he also sold the empty jars. The Gerber labels became the color codes for the art department. Banana was yellow, peas signified green and so on." (Historical footnote: After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in commercial art, Carl went on to earn a doctorate in nuclear physics.)

Laurie Mullins of Oldsmar, a Pinellas art teacher, says her students used the jars to create sand jar sculptures. One year they amassed 650 jars for the sculptures! "I will surely miss not having them accessible any longer," she said. "They allowed me to collect a uniform, free product in large numbers to recycle into colorful sand sculptures."

But surely, this ranks as the most unusual use of a Gerber jar. "When my 5-year-old son, Scott, had his tonsils removed in 1962, the doctor asked if we would like the tonsils as a memento," wrote Georgia Loy of Clearwater. "We received them in a Gerber baby-food jar, and his grandmother kept them for several months."