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

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Old 04-03-2009, 12:09 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-03-2009, 02:48 PM
 
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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).

"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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Old 04-03-2009, 07:16 PM
 
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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!!!
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Old 04-03-2009, 07:20 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-03-2009, 08:54 PM
 
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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.

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Old 04-03-2009, 09:00 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:02 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:12 PM
 
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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

Monther of Riley (11), Andrew (4) and Victoria (7 months)
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:18 PM
 
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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.

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Old 04-03-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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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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Old 04-04-2009, 05:14 PM
 
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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 live in a really yuppy suburb too, and we have 4 kids in a 2 bedroom condo. It's a sacrifice we're willing to make for good schools. Owning a single family home in my area costs more than we can afford.

Re: the expectation of going to college... I would like my kids to at least try college, but I don't expect them to go straight to a 4 year university right out of high school. I know that I'll catch hell from the IL's for this in a few years, but I'd like my kids to start out at a community college... it's a much gentler transition into college life, especially for young adults who are uncertain about what they want to study, or uncertain if college is really what they want to do.
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Old 04-04-2009, 06:05 PM
 
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I live in a really yuppy suburb too, and we have 4 kids in a 2 bedroom condo. It's a sacrifice we're willing to make for good schools. Owning a single family home in my area costs more than we can afford.

Re: the expectation of going to college... I would like my kids to at least try college, but I don't expect them to go straight to a 4 year university right out of high school. I know that I'll catch hell from the IL's for this in a few years, but I'd like my kids to start out at a community college... it's a much gentler transition into college life, especially for young adults who are uncertain about what they want to study, or uncertain if college is really what they want to do.
Isn't it weird how CC goes against the grain? Like for my SIL's niece who has some anxiety issues, it would have been perfect. But no, not good enough. So they pressured her to go across country to Georgia Tech, she dropped out, now she's in some religious-based private school--nuts IMHO. And while the girl is an excellent student, she really, really, really likes to bake and cook. But culinary school is beneath her, according to SIL. Madness! I went to CC myself, and I never had it come up on a job interview, I always said I graduated from University of Florida, which I did.

Since DH and I both have advanced degrees, of course we'll expect our boys to consider college. But really, the way things are, I think they'd be better served to get some kind of tech training like plumbing and then put themselves through!
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