Saturday, October 3, 2009

Learning From the Great Depression


My dear blogging friend Lyn is guest posting for me today while I attend to my gardens. If you'd like to see her previous posts just look in the Money Management category on my sidebar and they'll pop up.

When we think of the Great Depression years (although many of us did not live in that era), what does it make you think about? Although I have no remaining grandparents, I do remember talks with my grandmother. Many of us have someone in our lives who lived in that era or has stories about that time in life.




Some have compared this financial recession to that time period. I don't believe that we have even begun to realize or acknowledge just how hard most people had it back then! Today, how many Americans live on just a few vegetables with few extras? Imagine having to cook back then. You were considered lucky if you had meat or meat fat to use in cooking. Having fresh fruit was a treat. We are so spoiled, with our packaged foods, treats, meals out, coffees and gourmet goods. These are things that many today call "necessary". People made their own entertainment and they actually spent time with each other, imagine that. They didn't need to be entertained. They made do with everything they had and used everything up before they bought anything new (something I am working on in my own life).




There was no such thing as a "credit card" back then. People did everything possible to live within their means or they went without. If they wanted something, they saved for it. Personally I don't think that many have learned the lessons yet that perhaps they need to learn. Yes, there are many who have lost their jobs and homes. Budgets are tighter than ever. All you have to do to realize the difference though is to look at what most of us have today versus then. We are blessed with so much - the list is endless.



Why is it important to look back to our history? I believe it is because learning from those who have walked before us teaches us things we may never experience. We are able to stop for a moment to step into shoes that we will probably never step into in real life. It helps to keep us grateful instead of ungrateful, humble instead of prideful.




Like many, our budget is squeezed tighter and some days I think it can't get much more squeezed. Yet truly I feel thankful. How can I not be? I have food in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. I have a home and a comfortable place to lie my head upon at night. I could go on and on...and so could you I imagine. I often wonder why sometimes when things are tough we look to those who have more and feel sorry for ourselves for what we do not have. Instead we should look to those who have had less or have less so we feel blessed and encouraged to keep moving ahead. By doing so we are not self-focused and perhaps we could reach out more to those who have less than we do.



I'm afraid though that many have become a bit selfish. Do we hold onto what we do have with dear life - or do we open up our hands and share abundantly instead? Do we sit with worry and fear, and by doing so, forget about others in need? The most wonderful thing that encouraged me about people in the Great Depression, is that they gave freely to their neighbors and to those in need. Even when life seemed bleak, they opened up their homes. They welcomed strangers in for meals and made that pot of soup stretch even further. No matter where we are financially, we can all do something, whether it is giving material items, money or our time. These are lessons we all need to be reminded of.



Even with all the challenges that these present days hold, there is much to be appreciative for. My mother had told me that my great-grandparents lost everything during the Depression. After losing their home, they rented a place to live and never again were able to own. I never had the opportunity to know my great-grandmother as she died shortly before I was born. I wish I could have had time with her to learn all that she had been through.



I do wonder how many today would survive as those in the Great Depression did. Could you survive it and overcome such a time? I have so much respect for those before me who came through stronger and with much wisdom.



*For some Great Depression recipe inspiration, visit Clara, a 94-year old sweet lady and her YouTube videos here Great Depression Cooking Episodes.



*Recommended reading - "Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression" by Rita Van Amber




Read or listen to actual stories Survivors of The Great Depression Tell Their Stories


*All photos are from Google Images*



29 comments:

Kathleen Grace said...

You are so right Manuela. We really have no concept of what that time was like. I remember my grandmother telling me that my grandpa had one pair of "dungarees" to wear to work and when he came home he would take them off, she would wash them (by hand) and hang them by the wood stove to dry. She used everything up and pinched every penny. They were young marrieds. When my grandpa was still in school he had nothing to take for lunch but lard sandwiches. We can't imagine that kind of poor. We still have so much and think we still deserve everything we want.

Pen Pen said...

Wonderful post. I think most of us would have never made it back then. I am interested in reading more on the Great Depression; thanks for the book recommendation. I found an older cookbook in a thrift store recently, with very simple and plain recipes. Most sounded very good and were inexpensive to make. It made me think of much simpler times and I found myself asking "why not now?".... we are too spoiled with so many convenience foods!

Ally0005 said...

My grandmother lived back then. Here parents had a farm that is the only way they made it.

Ally

matty said...

Yes, we do need to learn how to live more simply and with less. We are working on this in our house. Both our parents were depression babies; my dh's parents keep EVERYTHING from string to paper. My parents are tight with a dollar and will repair things several times before dumping them. Great post!

Jenglamgirl said...

What a wonderful heart felt post. You are so right... we are all so blessed. I had the privledge of being around my great great grandmother who lived through the great depression. A dime means so much to me, if I see one I grab it immediatley, and am reminded of the story of my GG- grandmother who found a dime during the GD, and was able to buy a full meal's worth for stew; potatos, beef, carrots, etc., even bread.... all on a dime. Thanks for the post!

Julie said...

I so remember my grandmother telling us the stories of how hard it was for her as a single parent during that time. But I must say that it has hit hard in our area. Many of my neighbors are out of work and I've never seen so many gardens as I have this year. There has even been classes on how to can!

EmmyLine said...

I just tried a WWII recipe not long ago which used the same theme - using ingredients and substitutes for the real thing when you just had to do without.
your blog is very lovely. .EmmyLine.

Camille said...

What a great and timely post! We really are so blessed...it reminds me of the hymn..."Count your blessings, name them one by one!"

Beth said...

Great post. I love Clara's YouTube videos.

Stacey said...

Excellent post. I look at those from our history as our heros because they truly are. They endured so much and made the way for us. And many times we do not appreciate their hard ways in the easy lives we have today. Thank you for the reminder to be thankful for them.

I loved Clara!! Thank you for sharing.

Lyn said...

Manuela, thank you for sharing my post. I'm touched by the stories here of those who have been through so much more before us.

Certainly there are many who are struggling in this economy and I would not lessen that. In comparison though, I think we simply cannot even relate to the differences.

I do think that there are clear divisions between being broke and being poor. Some today feel they are poor if they can't afford cable t.v. or internet. I don't know of anyone today who needs to eat lard sandwiches (which definitely was commonplace during the Depression as Kathleen mentioned).

Nadine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nadine said...

Thank you for post. In our homeschooling we are about to learn about The Great Depression. Glancing through some of the books from the library on this time period, I begun to realize that even though things are so tight for us right now, we are indeed very blessed!
Thank you also for the links!

Blessings!
~Nadine

The Thrifty Countrywoman said...

What an amazing post! I especially like what you said about feeling sorry for yourself or feeling blessed. I think that is the key to thriftiness.

Jane

Old Centennial Farmhouse said...

Sooo true. We have NO CLUE what they went through, and I do believe that we should be upset that those in power would even dare to compare this downturn to that complete depression. We aren't there....yet. I do believe that if our country will be there soon, however because spending is not being stopped...and we are being lied to when we are told that the answer to our problems is to spend more! People eventually will learn to make do...we are so wasteful now!
Thanks for a wonderful guest post and I for the video of the dear grandma teaching us younger moms how to prepare a delicious, frugal treat!
XOXO
Joni

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

This is a good post! And very true as well! My mom and dad were born in 1936/1938 respectively, and so we grew up with parents who DID have memories about what it was like to have almost nothing. It didn't really get better until after the war had ended. We loved to hear their stories, though, and you are absolutely right when you say we are no where close to living how they did! The things my grandparents went through and survived are amazing but also inspiring to me. Loved this post! :)

Sandra said...

Wow great post! It would be so hard to live during the depression. I have heard stories where an old man said he was just grateful for a bar of soap that smelled good or a slice of bread to eat with meager meals. We do have a lot to be thankful for and I think it is important to prepare for rain before the flood comes. Funny thing, I just posted my homemade laundry soap recipe and scrap bucket on my blog. Stop by sometime.

Sandra

DarcyLee said...

My grandparents grew up during the depression and remembered it very well. My grandma told me there were never any birthday parties or birthday cakes for any of the kids, ever. Many times it was only potatoes for dinner. And taking a bath meant sharing the water in a tub in front of the fireplace. My grandpa quit school because he didn't have anything decent to wear. And later when my grandparents married, they never bought anything on credit. This kind of living is so foreign to us now. Great post!

Julie Harward said...

Thats for sure..I had to laugh today when I heard a commercial with a lady saying that she'd have to buy cheaper candy for the trick-or-treaters this year. I thought..just think of the people in the world who don't even have FOOD! Gee whiz...WE ARE SO BLESSED!!!

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of it boils down to contentment. My relatives seemed to feel they were already so blessed they wanted to give back as they were given. They had little actually but never thought like that. My grandparents and parents had the same furniture {and a lot of it was handme downs from other relatives} all the days of their lives. Their clothes closets were tiny and there was still plenty of room for more clothes if they ever bought any. The thing is I never heard any of my quite extended family feeling sorry for themselfs. None tried to keep up with the Joness. Neither did I hear them talk about others. This was not just how my family acted...this was the world I grew up around. The lived their life and felt it their duty and love to help others and be neighborly. If they were having a meal and company dropped in unexpecedly they sat the family down to eat with them. The family prayer said out loud before the meal would end with the letters FHB being said. This was a signal and secret held within the family. This ment Family Hold Back. Meaning kids and all family eat only a little so the company can have enough. Later the little ones would be given a scrap of something if they could from the pantry. I never heard them complain about having little money or little else. They just gave thanks for being blessed to live in a free country and have work and a church to attend. They felt rich and said so. They had real neighbors. They were real neighbors too. They knew now to pinch a penny with the best of them but were always generious where it counted. ..With their love, hard work,creativity, loyality, faith etc. They believed fancy or new clothes was not that important. What was important in clothes was that it was clean ironed and mended and worn approprately. That you had and used manners and used them in love. That you did the best you could and had a good work ethic. You loved and would not think of bring a disgrace to your country, family, church, home, schools and so on. Now everyone is out for themselfs. At the most they stick with their family but don't think of their neighbors or community. How many times do you hear people honoring their employers now a days?? That is the essence that I can think of right now... I wish things had never changed from those days. I thought they never would. Jody

arkie said...

Great Post! My grandparents lived during the depression. I learned so much from them.

Lyn said...

Jody, thanks for your sharing. I feel the same and wish that people today were more caring and giving like they were then.

I'm humbled by everyone's story shared on my post. It really makes me feel more grateful - more so than I thought I already was.

chinaorbust2004 said...

I've just returned from Ethiopia and if you've never had the opportunity to travel outside the US to a third world country I encourage you to do so. Our poor are rich by their standards. Very humbling...

Lyn said...

Chinaorbust2004, I can only imagine what your eyes have seen. I am sure that was a gift that will give you such perspective for the rest of your life. Traveling is not something we can afford, but I admire those who go to other countries to help those in need.

When I think of my own blessings, I am mindful of the truly poor. Their lack of basic needs in life fuels me to be a good steward of what I do have. If we all gave a little, it would add up to a lot.

Debbie J said...

I totally agree with everyone's comments and especially with Lyn's post. We are very spoiled and even though things are bad right now, its nothing compared to the great depression times. Have you ever noticed how many older people are much more frugal than the younger generations? They save everything and store food, etc. They haven't forgotten what it was like. We should learn a lesson from them and always remember what can happen and be prepared for it.

Storybook Woods said...

Very good post ad reminder. I know I am too pampered xoxo Clarice

Svedi Pie said...

This is such a great post. I'm definitely going to pick up that book. Learning from those who went through such hard, hard times is so important - too bad we often ignore it.

Thanks for posting this!!

Rhondi said...

What a great post full of wisdom and common sense. I am looking forward to reading what your friend Lyn writes in her own blog.

Lady Katherine said...

I so much enjoyed seeing Clara making the baked apples. I think I seen her before making biscuits. Hubby was trying to learn how, my instructions were not good enough so he searched the web. He has now given up on his homemade biscuits. lol Depression days were bad. My Dad tells stories of it. We have listen very well as we have made our life almost self sufficient. I would miss my air conditioner! But I do remember days with out it just window fans, and no air at school. We heat with wood, which is from trees we had fall. This winter as I come home from surgery. I do plan on ordering some propane. Sorry Hubby, I just got to this year. lol Sh do not tell him.