Beer cans recycled back in the 1970s for oddball arts, crafts

Australian Women’s Weekly published a pattern for beer can hats. We provide it here so you can make your own, should you be so inclined.

By Kim Pederson 
Baby Boomer columnist,
Special Correspondent 

I was wrong. 

In previous articles, I speculated that the dumbest ideas to come out of the ‘70s were pet rocks and streaking. That was before I remembered beer can furniture. Beer can hats. Beer can pop-top jewelry. 

Ample resources drove the craze. 

What wouldn’t burn in the burning barrel    made its way to the landfill or the ditches. 

So many empties! 

Ditches full of riches! 

And who wouldn’t flip their lid over a table made from Schmidt beer cans? 

Boomers will recall that Schmidt beer cans had several outdoor scenes on the can. Minnesota wildlife artist Les Kouba painted the scenes for the beer cans used by Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in St. Paul. The original set of seventeen cans, from the early 1950s, came with a lid that had to be pierced with a church key opener.

Just when you’re inclined to think the table idea is too shabby, the cringe-worthy crocheted beer can hat bursts on the scene. When paired with some smokin’ bell bottoms and a polyester shirt with a hot dickie underneath, a dude could make quite a statement. I can’t help but wonder who crocheted these razor-sharp cans together, but I’m guessing their scars exist today.

Lovely as it is, the sharp edges so close to veins made this necklace or bracelet a less-than-desirable gift.

For ten glorious years, from 1965 to 1975, beer can ring tabs would offer yet another opportunity for boomers to use their formidable talents. Beer tab necklaces and bracelets could be made to fit any size neck or wrist. 

Nothing says Christmas like beer tab tree garland and the always groovy beer tab streamers. In hindsight, that was a better idea because the tabs were quite sharp, making them less than ideal as jewelry. 

The ring-tab design began its phase-out in 1975 after injuries were caused when people swallowed the metal tabs. With all that cutting our necks, gashing our wrists, and swallowing beer tabs, it’s a wonder we had time for school or a job. To save us from ourselves, a new modification called the StaTab replaced the ring tab. The StaTab uses a flange of aluminum on the lid as a lever to press down on the sealed opening, a design still in use today.

Uniquely beautiful, it’s hard to imagine the ‘60s or ‘70s apartment without the beer can table. Clearly, this would have been a classier piece had it been made of Schmidt beer cans, but one must make do.

According to How Products are Made, American can makers produce about 100 billion aluminum beverage cans annually, equivalent to one can per American daily. At a recycling rate of about 50 percent, this leaves 50 billion aluminum cans just waiting to be turned into something awesome. Estimating 150 cans per end table, that’s 333 million tables a year—enough to provide an end table for every American. 

Coincidence? I think not. 

Maybe I was wrong about it being a dumb idea. Maybe it was just an idea before its time. And maybe John Wayne was right. Beer won’t solve all your problems, but the beer can just might. 

Kim Pederson

Special Contributor, Baby Boomer columnist

Editor’s note: Pelican Rapids High School graduate Kim Pederson’s regularly appearing column in the Pelican Rapids Press is a special feature, for the Baby Boom generation..

Pederson herself is a “Baby Boom” era product—Pelican Class of 1976.

Her reflections will appear in future editions of the Press.

Born and raised in Pelican Rapids, Kim continues to live in the area. Kim spent most of her professional life working at Otter Tail Power Company in Fergus Falls and was the manager of Market Planning at the time of her retirement.

She is a freelance writer and is currently working on a series of short children’s stories.

We encourage readers to connect with Kim at a special email address: