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NYT article--first-hand stories about the Great Depression - Page 2

post #21 of 42
I also had grandparents who were reluctant to talk about hard times in their lives - their hard times were much worse than anything I've ever known. While I would have loved to know more about their lives, it was quite simply too painful for them - I can remember my grandpa breaking down to tears as he tried to talk about his experiences as a POW in Japan. The little I heard was bad.

Grandma was a chunk older than him and experienced the Depression more, but still didn't talk about it. I know the basic family story of her first husband going off to look for work, and coming back with syphilis. It went downhill from there, until after the war when she met my grandpa. They are both gone now. I can't say that I'd want to talk about things like that either, esp if I had hopes of life being better for the future generations.

They did lead by example, though - they always had a huge garden, wasted very little, made the pennies count, and never put money into stocks, or even money market accounts. But they were always generous with family who needed help. We rarely lived close enough to learn from them directly about things like canning, but the example was there and I am learning these things now - better late than never. And if people in your community show an interest, you can always learn together and share knowledge and skills. I do think that the fact that most people 80 years ago were not far removed from farming really helped them cope better than our generation can.

I think that it can be easier to learn from others' experiences of hard times - if you are a bit removed from the stories - don't we all have a hard time picturing older family members as younger than they are?

I also like "Little Heathens". Enough reality without being really grim.

I think they should teach history backwards in school - it always seemed like the most relevant stuff was rushed and crammed in at the end - I would've loved to learn more about Vietnam, WWII, the Great Depression and other things that touch my life more than the early days of American history.
post #22 of 42
I'm old enough to have had grandparents who lived through the first gd and it left nary a mark on them to hear them tell it. My paternal gp was a fireman, so he had a job throughout, and my maternal gp's had a large working farm so they were all right. I used to ask them for horror stories after reading about the first GD in school and they didn't have a lot of first-hand stuff to tell. My father grew up pretty poor, but he's often said he didn't realize it until he went away to college b/c everyone he knew lived the same way.

I think this depression will be worse in some ways, b/c most people (generic, not the people I read here on MDC) expect a college education, vacations, a big house, cheap and plentiful food, cheap energy and transportation, numerous cars, cheap clothes, etc. I wonder if the majority will be able to adapt, or if they'll just continue to sell themselves into cc servitude. That seems to be the gov't solution--make us all slaves of debt, if not cc then slaves to inflation and higher taxes--to keep big business/the economy afloat.

Maybe this will be the wake up call to demand better accountability for our tax dollars (like downsize the world's largest military) and work on a more progressive tax system to decrease the insane wealth disparity in our country.
post #23 of 42
About clutter and the depression - when you have to walk to the store and carry things back (or take a horse!) you end up with fewer possessions. Yes, they saved coffee cans, rags, worn out metal bits and whatever else... but their starting level of "stuff" was smaller. Look at the size of closets in older houses - what does that tell you about the amount of clothing each person had? Kitchen cabinets - same deal.
post #24 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post

I think this depression will be worse in some ways, b/c most people (generic, not the people I read here on MDC) expect a college education, vacations, a big house, cheap and plentiful food, cheap energy and transportation, numerous cars, cheap clothes, etc. I wonder if the majority will be able to adapt, or if they'll just continue to sell themselves into cc servitude. That seems to be the gov't solution--make us all slaves of debt, if not cc then slaves to inflation and higher taxes--to keep big business/the economy afloat.

Maybe this will be the wake up call to demand better accountability for our tax dollars (like downsize the world's largest military) and work on a more progressive tax system to decrease the insane wealth disparity in our country.
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post #25 of 42
I second The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan
post #26 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
If people are interested in reading more, I suggest the Reminisce series of books for more first-hand stories. "When the Banks Closed, We Opened our Hearts" and "We Had Everything but Money : love and sharing saw America's families through the Great Depression" are two of my favorite anthologies. Also, the FIREFOX series is interesting from an Appalachian perspective. I love my cookbook that I actually have used a lot over the years, "Dining During the Depression: The simple-yet-satisfying foods that saw families through tough years". This is where I got my dandelion soup recipe. Of course, there is the infamous Studs Terkel book, "Hard times; an oral history of the great depression" and a newer interesting read by an occasional NYTimes Op-Ed columnist, Tim Egan, "The Worst Hard Time".
Thanks for this book list. I've read Studs Terkel's oral history and man, it was amazing.
post #27 of 42
My paternal grandparents were teenagers during the Depression. My maternal grandfather was a child during the Depression, was the 8th of 10 children, and grew up on a farm. My maternal grandmother was a child in wartime Japan, and a teenager and young adult in Occupied Japan.

I've heard lots of stories about how frugal they were. I remember my paternal grandmother saying that her family lived on chocolate pudding for weeks once because a family member who was a truck driver had been given it because it was an abandoned cargo.

I remember my paternal grandfather talking about what he would buy with his pocket money.

I remember my grandmother telling me how her mother would hide hard-boiled eggs in her rice balls (lunch for school), so her classmates wouldn't get jealous. Her father was the head priest of a Buddhist temple, so they ended up with a lot of offerings.

edited to add... the Firefox books that pp have mentioned are actually called the Foxfire books.
post #28 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by WC_hapamama View Post
edited to add... the Firefox books that pp have mentioned are actually called the Foxfire books.
That's right. Firefox is my web browser!!!!
post #29 of 42
My grandmother and her sisters were children of the Depression. Their stories are usually limited to entertaining anecdotes, not much that is educational. Perhaps our family is a bit different in that cooking, gardening, canning, sewing and knitting are practices that are normal, and taught to all the children (who were interested), these skills are far from "lost". Nanny is infamous for her frugality, but that isn't something that's much admired but everyone. I'm only 31, so I've only become greatly interested in these topics for the last few years.

Since we've bought our 20 acre property, I've been corresponding with my great-aunt on a regular basis. We mostly talk about gardening and putting up food, but it's not like these things are trade secrets by any means.

The sheet blanket is certainly creatively frugal, but I'm in the middle of making a scrap quilt which I hope will be a little more attractive. It would be free, but I'm choosing to buy the backing because none of my fabrics would look as nice. I haven't reached *that* level of broke yet, I guess.
post #30 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post
I think this depression will be worse in some ways, b/c most people (generic, not the people I read here on MDC) expect a college education, vacations, a big house, cheap and plentiful food, cheap energy and transportation, numerous cars, cheap clothes, etc. I wonder if the majority will be able to adapt, or if they'll just continue to sell themselves into cc servitude. That seems to be the gov't solution--make us all slaves of debt, if not cc then slaves to inflation and higher taxes--to keep big business/the economy afloat.

I agree.

I do payroll for 25 +/- employees and what newbymom05 describes above is exactly what I see happening to some of them - spending their way into proverty or a lower standard of living.

I can look out my window and see $40,000 pick up trucks/$20,000 Harleys owned by people who can't pay, because of priorities most of the time, the mortgage on their $80,000 house. ($80K buys a decent single family home in my area.)

I admit that I stood on the edge of the same thing a few years back but thankfully I woke up/grew up before it got too bad.

(I do think motorcycles can be a reasonable form of transportation in some cases but these were not purchased as gas-sippers, they are toys.)
post #31 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post

I think this depression will be worse in some ways, b/c most people (generic, not the people I read here on MDC) expect a college education, vacations, a big house, cheap and plentiful food, cheap energy and transportation, numerous cars, cheap clothes, etc.
Is that really true, statistically? The last US census, in 2000, showed that less than half of Americans had gone to any college at all, and not all of them had graduated. I doubt that "most" Americans really take vacations other than visiting relatives. The other stuff, maybe, but OTOH some of those Depression-era houses look pretty big to me, and in large cities it's common to cram an extended family into a small apartment. There's a lot of publicity about how the average "new" house is built twice as big as the average just-post-WWII house, but again, people are still living in those older houses.
post #32 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
Well, I'm older and my father is nearly 80, so you're right. I tend to forget that many people here are young enough to be my own daughters... so I'm talking about my generation (a generation being 20 years) or those born before 1970ish. I realize that if you're, say, 25, that it is rare to have had the GD generation of people in your lives. I apologize if I've offended.
They have to be willing to teach. My dad (who died in '06 at 83) grew up in the depression but he was a butcher before the war (not much help there). My mom is twelve years younger and did canning and such, but didn't teach me (perhaps because my much older sister wasn't interested) and went back to work when I was seven (I'm 32 btw).
post #33 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
Is that really true, statistically? The last US census, in 2000, showed that less than half of Americans had gone to any college at all, and not all of them had graduated. I doubt that "most" Americans really take vacations other than visiting relatives. The other stuff, maybe, but OTOH some of those Depression-era houses look pretty big to me, and in large cities it's common to cram an extended family into a small apartment. There's a lot of publicity about how the average "new" house is built twice as big as the average just-post-WWII house, but again, people are still living in those older houses.
I wrote "people expect to go to college", not that they go or have gone. For example my SIL has 3 kids and expects them all to go to college, private and/or out of state college, b/c they deserve it b/c of their good grades. OK, but the family has no savings, and she and her DH have taken on tremendous debt to send her girls. The girls have too, so they're going to start their careers severely limited thanks to debt. They could have worked first, or not gone at all, but my SIL felt they should go straight out of HS, I think b/c that's the cultural expectation.

I worked in an urban high school and most of my students thought they would go to college, even though they didn't have the grades nor the money. This is just my opinion based on my observations, but whether or not people actually can attend and complete college, it's now something everyone expects they "should" do, whether or not they have the aptitude or ability.

As far as big houses, my father grew up in a fam of 4 in a 700 sq ft house, and he says that was common in his neighborhood. His dad was a fireman, so they weren't well off but they weren't super poor. Can you imagine a fireman willing to cram his family of 4 into a small house like that today? Not because s/he couldn't, but b/c people expect everyone to have their own bedroom, bathroom, ofc, whatever, and that's just bare bones--you should really have a separate dining room, office, game room, 2 or 3 car garage, whatever.

What I was getting at (or trying to!) in my post is that our cultural expectations have really changed. It isn't like people are foolishly greedy or improvident as much as they think they are *supposed* to have these things.

But of course w/o worker protections like a living wage, it's easy to work hard and still be the working poor and have to use credit. I don't know, I'm sorry I'm rambling--we are just so screwed as a country right now!!!
post #34 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post

As far as big houses, my father grew up in a fam of 4 in a 700 sq ft house, and he says that was common in his neighborhood. His dad was a fireman, so they weren't well off but they weren't super poor. Can you imagine a fireman willing to cram his family of 4 into a small house like that today?
Actually yes, that's fairly common around here.
post #35 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
I think it's shameful that we have to read a newspaper article to get first-hand stories about the Great Depression. Had we not ignored our parents and grandparents... had we actually listened and practiced what they knew and know, we wouldn't be the greedy, consumer-driven society we are today.
Unless you have parents who totally turned their back on all the things they grew up with and that their parents taught them. All my grandparents died (or were diagnosed with Alzheimers) when I was in college, so I didn't get much of a chance to learn much of anything from them since I was in the selfish teenage stage at that point. So I'll ask my mom stuff, and she won't have a clue. My dad died in December, and he didn't even want to write down a few memoirs for my kids to read later on. So I'm stuck learning from folks online, attempting (poorly, I might add) to find local folks to learn from/with, and so on (a few years ago I was buying canning jars and a little elderly lady about fell over herself seeing a young'un buying them!). And basically stumbling my way through it and coming up with ideas with the hubby. Oh, and my dad was 68, my mom's almost 63yo.
post #36 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmeline II View Post
They have to be willing to teach. My dad (who died in '06 at 83) grew up in the depression but he was a butcher before the war (not much help there). My mom is twelve years younger and did canning and such, but didn't teach me (perhaps because my much older sister wasn't interested) and went back to work when I was seven (I'm 32 btw).
You and others may have already read this--Cheryl Mendelsohn's Home Comforts. It's a housekeeping how-to w/ commentary. One of the things she writes about is that the women of the 50-60's weren't taught many household tasks b/c their mothers just never thought they would need those "old fashioned" skills and so they didn't teach them. My mom grew up on a dairy farm and has never canned anything. She said her mother only canned peaches. I asked if they had a garden, no, it was easy and cheap to go to nearby farm stands. My GM sewed and knitted and braided rugs, but for her children, textiles had come down so in price that those skills weren't needed other than as a hobby. So maybe a lot of skills fell by the wayside b/c it seemed like they were no longer practical.
post #37 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
Actually yes, that's fairly common around here.
Wow, I'm in the suburbs, land of the McMansion, and people are SHOCKED that we haven't moved since we have a 1900 sq ft 3 bedroom w/ *gasp!* 4 people. One of whom is a baby! Our neighbor is moving out of their twice-as-big 2 story b/c they're adding child 3. I do live where land values are cheap, so I guess my view is skewed.
post #38 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmonter View Post
Unless you have parents who totally turned their back on all the things they grew up with and that their parents taught them. All my grandparents died (or were diagnosed with Alzheimers) when I was in college, so I didn't get much of a chance to learn much of anything from them since I was in the selfish teenage stage at that point. So I'll ask my mom stuff, and she won't have a clue. My dad died in December, and he didn't even want to write down a few memoirs for my kids to read later on. So I'm stuck learning from folks online, attempting (poorly, I might add) to find local folks to learn from/with, and so on (a few years ago I was buying canning jars and a little elderly lady about fell over herself seeing a young'un buying them!). And basically stumbling my way through it and coming up with ideas with the hubby. Oh, and my dad was 68, my mom's almost 63yo.

I volunteer for Meals on Wheels twice a week. Let me tell you, a lot of them are MORE THAN HAPPY to tell you all kinds of stories with no provocation (sometimes five or six times...). Not only can they tell you about the old days and sometimes lots of stuff about other countries (I have a few who were military families) but I'm amazed at what I've learned about my own TOWN. My site co-ordinator calls me "Gabby" because I'm always late getting back. Just something to consider if anyone is into that stuff and has a few extra hours a week
post #39 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post
Wow, I'm in the suburbs, land of the McMansion, and people are SHOCKED that we haven't moved since we have a 1900 sq ft 3 bedroom w/ *gasp!* 4 people. One of whom is a baby! Our neighbor is moving out of their twice-as-big 2 story b/c they're adding child 3. I do live where land values are cheap, so I guess my view is skewed.
I know! We've got 5 people (2 boys and baby girl) in a 2100sf 3bd/2ba house. And I want to keep my guest room because my mom and sister visit fairly often, and I have all the kid clothes/diapers in one single room (it's full, for sure with the three dressers and queen bed they cosleep in, but doable until I need to add a loft bed or something in a year or two). Easier to just keep the guest room sparse, but I'm lazy like that. If anything, I'd just want to bump out the kitchen or dig out a root cellar next to the laundry room.
post #40 of 42
I've been busily writing down everything I can remember that my father told me about how they "got by" and what my MIL's been telling me about how her family managed. I think we're going to need the info, and it's usually my experience that older folks like to talk if they think you're paying attention.

My mother doesn't want to talk about, though. All she says is that her mother kept stretching food and stretching food, and now she hates leftovers. I make a point of not telling her just what's in the food I keep making for her.
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