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Story Stories of the Great depresion and advice from survivors
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die

    Stories of the Great depresion and advice from survivors

    I am not claiming this thread for myself. Anyone who has a Great Depression story or advise from one of it's survivors please feel free the add a chapter. - OGM

    Conversation With NaNa

    The smells of turkey wafted through the air and the muted Thanks Giving Day game played on the TV. There was the sounds of adults talking, children playing and the ring of the good china being set on the table. I was wasted space in the kitchen with all the hands already there and busy making sure nothing burned and putting the final touches on the meal.

    I wandered into the living room. The outcome of the game was a forgone conclusion by the end of the half. The men had deserted the living room for the back porch away from the ears of the women and kids to do their own catching up. NaNa quietly sat alone in the room. She appeared to be watching the game but wasn't.

    I sat down near her. She turned her attention to me. We started talking. I mentioned my worries about the problems I saw on the horizon and mentioned stories about Great Depression.

    "You don't need to tell me about the Depression. I lived it." She replied with a smile.

    "NaNa people went hungry and I'm trying to prep so that my children will not go hungry."

    Nana nodded as if hunger and financial depressions were just a part of life not something in distant, almost forgotten history.

    "Some of the cousins think I'm crazy for putting food by and getting ready for hard times.".

    "Don't worry about what they say. You live your life the way you think you should. They heard the same family stories you did the difference is you listened. We got through it. You and your family will deal with whatever happens and get through it.". There was no modicum of doubt in her statement. She radiated a quiet faith that all too few are blessed with. It was then I noticed how frail NaNa looked. Her eyes were still clear and her words were from the heart.

    "Dinner!" we turned at the call and went in to join the rest of the family for the feast.

    The End
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  2. #2
    Good Evening OGM,

    With all the clean up and putting away done from today, What a blessing to come here and find a short story from you tonight..

    Hope you are doing fine, and if you have time to post later on, I can't wait to read some of your olde time Christmas stories.

    Thank you so much,

  3. #3
    Thank you O.G.M.

  4. #4
    The last conversation I had with my grandfather, before he passed last year, he told me about how during the depression (he would have been pre-teens at the time), his dad (my great grandfather) used to trap possums so that the family would have food. He said they would eat the possums with sweet potatoes that they grew in the yard.
    "...Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:14-17

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    On top of the Mountain

    This comes close to a book I read about how to plant your yard to yield 4000 calories per person. Can't find it now. But this is a good place to start.
    "Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we will all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy."
    Dumbledore to Harry Potter, Goblet of Fire.

    Luke 21:36

    A people who no longer recognize sin and evil, are not a people who will recognize tyranny and despotism either. Invar

  6. #6
    Both my parents grew up during the Depression. Grandpa had bought a bunch of equipment right before the crash, and lost almost all the farm. They lost the equipment, and probably 2/3 of the land they owned. Dad was born in 1925. He remembers lard sandwiches in his lunch, and LOTS of beans to eat. They had a milk cow, but all the cream was skimmed off and sold in town. The kids went barefoot most of the year, and when the soles of their shoes wore out, they would put cardboard inside the shoes to make them last just a little longer. (arg - barefoot in western Oklahoma with all the sandburs and rattlesnakes!) He started working for the railroad handing up mail bags when he was 16. Graduated HS and straight into the Army. He was a telegraph operator with the US railroad while in the Army, but was also designated as a sharpshooter (probably from skills he learned while hunting squirrels).

    Mom was born in 1929, but was a foster child, then went to an orphanage at age 12. What she will talk about (I"m sure there was more she won't) is sleeping in the showroom of a car dealership. They would hang blankets for privacy, and have to clear out in the morning. When she worked at a local market, they would add oatmeal and ketchup to the ground beef to make it go further. I'm sure a psychologist would say mom has some 'food security issues'. All of us are normal size, but mom has always stocked a pantry (well-stocked)!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    Continued from OP. Merry Christmas everyone. - OGM

    The Christmas tree was surrounded with freshly unwrapped presents. "I want an official Red Ryder 200 shot range rifle!" A Christmas Story was on the TV. Ralph was pleading his case in front of Santa. "You'll shoot your eye out!" the department store Santa replied. Relatives were scattered here and there busy catching up on family gossip. I sat down next to NaNa with my plate of finger food. Dinner was still a ways off. The cousins were busy tending the pots and doing all those last minute things that need doing to prepare the family Christmas feast. My turn to work would come later with clean up.

    "NaNa I have a confession to make. I posted what you said about the Great Depression and my trying to put some food by for my family in case of.... Well, in case.", Some people really like it." I was nervous, unsure how she would react to this. I shouldn't have worried.

    "Dear you have to follow your heart. You won't go wrong." She smiled at me.

    "NaNa could you tell me how did you make through the Great Depression? How did the family do it? I've heard bits and pieces but I'd like to hear it from you. You are a treasure. The great depression isn't words in a dusty history book or something found in Wikipedia. You lived it. You were there." I watched her hoping to glean some data that might help me prepare my family having to face something similar.

    She was quiet for a minute. She seemed unsure. "Yes I was there. I was very young at the time.". She didn't look at me but off into a distinct place I could only experience second hand. "We didn't know we weren't well off. We did things we got to go to the circus. I remember the circus and go to concerts. At school they would just tell you, you were going. I don't know who provided the tickets or how.". She stopped. The silence was uncomfortable.

    "What did you eat? How did your Mom keep everyone fed?" I asked. Over NaNa's shoulder I could see Uncle busy carving the meat and arranging it on the platter.

    She looked at me, coming back to the present. "Mom would get a flyer from the market each week and whatever was on sale she would base her meals around. She used to walk to the market and do her shopping. It depended a lot on what was in season. It wasn't like it is today with food coming from around the world. You had to eat what was in season."

    "We ate a lot of beans, lentils and whole grains. Mom had two hard working men to feed so sometimes she would buy half a lamb at the butchers. We ate everything: the kidneys, the brains, the liver, the lungs... The legs she would roast. The chops went fast. The bones and bits left over would go into stew. She made a lot of stews. Beef we didn't have. No we did, but it was only on special occasions and it was salted and dried.". She said.

    "Daddy had a big garden. So we ate a lot of vegetables. Whatever was in season. My Mother pickled the vegetables and stored them in the root cellar. The pickles she made she stored in crocks with a lid. She stored things she canned in the cellar to, along with fresh vegetables. It was our refrigerator. When mom cooked the bits of meat and bones from the lamb she would store that in the cellar to. It had a layer of fat on top and I would go down (into the cellar) and take bits of meat from the broth and eat it. I knew she was not happy about that when she went to make a meal out of it. She never said anything. She didn't know who took the meat!". NaNa laughed at the bit of long ago mischief. I did to but I bet NaNa's Mother knew who the culprit was.

    "NaNa you lived in the city. I thought only country people had root cellars?" I said.

    "Root cellar, food cellar, we had one. The cellar had a dirt floor. The root cellar was a room with a door on one side of the cellar, The coal bin was on the other side and the furnace was in between. We heated with coal." She added.

    "You use spiced in the family recipes. Where did your Mom get them?". I asked. In the kitchen, food was now being ladled into bowls and readied for the table.

    "She would get them at the ethnic markets. It was a special trip and she did not go often. To get there she had to ride on the trolley.". She started to look off into that place full of memories only she could see.

    "How did the family make ends meet. I know money was tight.". I asked hopefully.

    "My parents took in boarders. Sometimes a single. Sometimes a couple. The house had three bedrooms and each family had a room. Your cousin's family had one room. Our family had the second one and the boarders got the third bedroom. ". She said.

    "What kind of work did your father do?". I asked hoping this was not the end of the conversation.

    "He worked in an automobile factory. He said he used to carry axles. I can't imagine him carrying an a car axle by himself. I think it was on a hoist and he guided it into place.". She replied.

    "But auto workers are well paid." I said confused.

    "Not back then they weren't!" She said with a finality that told me that subject was closed.

    "With so many children in your family how did your Mom get you clothing. Did she sew?" I asked.

    "No She didn't sew". One of my sister was giving a coat and she wore it all the time. I would get hand me downs from my older sisters and from the extended family. You should talk to your Aunt. She's older than I am and probably remembers a lot more than I do." NaNa answered.

    One of the cousins got everyone's attention yelling "Dinner!".

    I reached over and hugged NaNa. "Thank you for this Christmas present: The story of how you and the family made it through the Great Depression. I appreciate it.". I gave her another gentle hug and smiled. Christmas dinner was waiting.
    Last edited by Old Gray Mare; 12-25-2015 at 11:58 PM.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    She hear the phone pick up on the other end of the line; "Hello?".

    "Hi Aunty it's me. Remember over the holidays I asked if you would mind talking about how the family made it through the Great Depression? Do you have the time now?". I asked.

    "Sure Honey. I'll tell you what I can remember. That was a long time ago. I was four years old when the Depression started." Aunty sighed.

    "My father had a big garden. There were empty lots on either side of the house and the back yard. The lots were built on later but until then he used them. He had a rake, a shovel and hoe and those were the tools he used. We used to help pick what was ripe and wash it at the spigot outside. Oh the tomatoes.... We shared food with the neighbors and relatives that didn't have a garden. People helped each other. Mother canned and stored food in the cellar. She made things like pickles and ketchup." Aunty paused for a moment and then continued. "We ate a lot of chick peas, rice and vegetables. We had fish on Fridays, mackerel. Meat came later."

    "Things were different back then. There was no such thing as an allowance. I didn't know the language. Someone taught me to beg for pennies: "Gim me penny! Gim me penny! I remember that." She laughed maybe a little embarrassed. "A penny was real money back then. A bus ride cost five cents. My father told me: Enough pennies make a dollar. If you only have four pennies, they will not let you ride the bus. ". She said.

    "What about clothing?" I asked.

    "Oh we wore hand me downs from other relatives and the church helped. I remember having holes in the soles of my shoes. We did a lot of walking and made do with what we had. We took the trolley to church. The church was far away and we didn't go every Sunday. When we did we dressed in our best. People made an effort to dress well and look.... look presentable.". Aunty answered.

    "Father worked for the Ford Motor Company in 1936, manufacturing cars. The factory unionized. I remember the strike and the picket line. He took me with him and we walked on the picket line. We lived in Detroit . I remember the race riots. That was a bad time. When I was older I got work at the factory. I started work two years before the war. I worked as a clerk. Things got better. That's what I remember."

    "Thank you Aunty".

    "Love you Honey. 'Bye.".
    Last edited by Old Gray Mare; 04-16-2016 at 09:32 PM.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    Stories of the Great Depression from the National Archives as told by the survivors and their families. I am trying to figure out how a man managed to cut four to six cords of wood a day using a buck saw and ax and hauled it out of the woods with horses. They made a dollar day. The pictures are very telling especially of the farmers. They are all so tall and thin. It is hard to find many in the video who look like there is an ounce of fat on them. The other thing is how rural homes were not painted, roads were dirt and sometimes rutted, no tractors, did not have in door plumbing or electricity. Some had walls of bare wood and others had wall paper made of newspaper. Horses and mules were still in wide spread use.

    The story of the black grandfather who, on the farm, always managed to eat because they raised their own food, had cows. pigs and chickens. There wasn't money for clothes or shoes but there was food and he did not go hungry as others did. His grandson said his grandfather said, "If you did it right.". I wish he was still here to tell us how to "Do it right.". - OGM

    Some how this seemed an appropriate place for the video.

    Fair use.
    Stories from the Great Depression
    Last edited by Old Gray Mare; 08-24-2016 at 07:59 PM.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    I talked with NaNa recently. She told me they cooked with gas but homes were heated with coal. The coal was delivered to storage area in the basement via a shoot. The coal furnace had to be stoked to heat the home. Ashes from the furnace were stored in a metal "ash can".

    At sometime during this period there was a change from wooden ice boxes on the back porch to refrigerators. Some refrigerates were also run on gas but were dirty and left the kitchen walls and ceiling covered with a film of soot.

    In the Boston area what we now call trash cans were partially buried in the ground to take advantage of the refrigeration quality of below ground temperatures. Edible food and garden waste was put in these containers. The contents of the containers were picked up by area farmers and fed to their pigs. If you are in Boston or it's suburbs and see a round metal lid in the back yard lawn it may be one of these forgotten containers.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    Merry Christmas everyone.

    Christmas during the Great Depression

    The holiday feast was all but over. Giggles could occasionally be heard from the children's table in the other room. The bowls of ice cream were almost empty and the video games were waiting. A few last pieces of pie lay in their serving plates safe from the immediate attentions of the over stuffed family surrounding the table. Coffee helped to settle the delicious meal. Conversation turned to missing family and past Christmases.

    I asked NaNa; "What was Christmas like during the Great Depression?".

    "Oh Dear, that was so long ago and I was so young. I remember going with my Dad and standing in line to get our ration. Things were rationed back then. You had a ration book and everyone in the family was allotted so much and you had to wait in line at the store to get it. Things like sugar, flour and butter were all rationed.". She glanced at the table littered with remains of pies, Christmas bread, ice cream, brownies, cookies and other treats. "Clothing was rationed to. I remember ration stamps being traded within the family so the men in the family would have shoes for work. You couldn't just go to the store and buy a pair of shoes. To get a pair of shoes you had to have a special ration stamp and the money to pay for the shoes.".

    She paused for a second and then went on. "Things were different. It wasn't like it is now. People were different back then, even in the city. I remember we (my sisters and I) got tickets to go to a concert from school. We were poor. I don't remember who donated the tickets. My parents couldn't afford them. But it was important back then that everyone have a chance to experience culture, even the poor.". Her eyes got a far away look. Then she smiled and said; "I remember one Christmas someone gave my older sister a new coat. She really liked it. The coat was passed down to me and then to my younger sister. After that I don't remember who in the family it went to. One of the younger cousins I guess.".

    From the other side of the table one of the in laws spoke; "I remember one of my aunts saying for one Christmas all each of them got was a new pair of mittens Great Grandma had knitted for them.". She said.

    Nana nodded. "Christmas wasn't like it is now. I remember one of the big department stores downtown... Oh what was it's name? It's gone now... They donated toys. I remember getting a doll.". Her eyes lite up at the memory. That doll must have been something very special to her. "People, churches, stores, companies did things like that at Christmas. An insurance company headquartered downtown sent a turkey to my cousin every Thanks Giving and a ham every Christmas after she retired. She died years ago. I don't know if they still do that. Could I have a little more Coffee? The weather is supposed to turn this evening and I'd like to be home before it dose.".
    Last edited by Old Gray Mare; 12-27-2016 at 01:32 PM.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  12. #12
    Thank you, OGM.

  13. #13
    Thank you for this. I love to read about & hear stories of the Great Depression. So much to learn from.
    All of my grandparents are gone as is my mother and I miss the stories they would tell me.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Where hiking boots go to die
    You'er welcome.

    One thing (I do not remember the source) was the reason for rationing gasoline was not from a lack of it in the states due to the war effort but due to a shortage of rubber needed for tires for the war effort. At the beginning of WWII rubber trees outside the US were still the major source for rubber. The manufacture of synthetic rubber in larger quantities grew over the course of the war. The less fuel available, the less people use vehicles, the less rubber was used and needed. It points out the vulnerability of dependence on imported goods during war or hard times.

    A reoccurring thread I have heard from survivors was how hard it was to buy new shoes and maintain them.
    Last edited by Old Gray Mare; 12-28-2016 at 03:30 PM.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain


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