Friday, February 13, 2009

What my parents told me about the Great Depression

I just came from reading A Homesteading Neophyte; she mentioned that there are tent cities going up around the country, just like the Hoovervilles of the 1920s and '30s.

She said some of us might know about Hoovervilles if we "had grandparents or parents that actually talked to us about the Great Depression".

This sent me down memory lane, because my mother loved to tell about the old days. She and Daddy married in 1932, and she had lots of stories about how poor they were.

My mom the summer before she married

But this morning it hit me that her stories were more about "the great drought" than the Great Depression. She talked about the gardens drying up, and the terrible heat during those summers. About making water gravy, and living on dry cornfield beans one winter. (Cornfield beans were simply pole beans that had been planted in the field so they could vine up the cornstalks for support.)

She told about having bedbugs in one of the houses they lived in, early in their marriage; Grandma would leave her purse outside when she visited, Mother said, because she didn't want to carry any bedbugs home.


In fact, both my parents said the Depression didn't affect them much, because they were so poor to begin with. Daddy worked as a hired hand on farms, and Mother worked as a "hired girl", cooking and cleaning and babysitting: in other words, doing anything that needed doing in the boss's household. She also got out in the fields and helped pick corn when her help was needed.

My parents never owned a house until the mid-1950's. They really had nothing to lose in the Depression.

I think Mother's favorite part of being the hired girl was cooking. Growing up, I often heard her refer to any group of hungry guests as "eating like threshers". This from her childhood when all neighboring farmers pitched in with the harvest, and it was the housewife's job to feed them all.

Mother loved to cook throughout most of her life. Sometimes she'd take a notion on Sundays to invite everybody at church to our house for a meal (it was a small congregation). If strangers were passing through our town and visited at church, they were invited home with us for dinner.

I sure wish I had some of Mother's fried chicken right now.


Anonymous said...

My mother grew up in the depression but I don't think it really affected them much. Her father was a teacher and they had a garden and chickens. So always fresh or canned veggies and a chicken on Sundays. Maybe the drought wasn't so bad up in western Canada. But it instilled life long thriftiness in her. She saved everything!

Helen said...

I was small in those depression years but I do remember they had stamps to use buying things like sugar, gas and things. Those things were what they called rationed things. When those were gone then you did without. I think I got my saving every little thing because it might be used one day comes from the stingyness our parents had to live through.Helen

Pamela said...

Your Mom was very pretty! And your Dad looks to be a very handsome young man in the pic. I love reading your stories about your family.
My Mom and Dad didn't have it so rough during the Depression. They both lived on their parents farms, so they had lots to eat. Mom said they did eat potatoes every day, though.
Thanks for sharing this.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I heard many of the tales of the great depression. My mom and dad had some really hard times, but they remained happy and lived to tell about it. Lifestyle changes happened but they adapted. They sure watched their money all the rest of their lives too.

Humble wife said...

Great post. I do not believe that our nation comprehends exactly how bad this will be for our nation.

Prior to the depression folks made due, as they did not have the government to rely upon. Now even at a speech by our new president people are begging.

My mother's favorite toy during the depression(btw) was a home made checker set that my grandfather made for his eight children. They lived in Toledo Ohio and unemployment there was nearly 70%.(according to my mother)

Celeste said...

My parents did not talk about it. My mother was a young teen and my father was a young adult supporting his family(his mother, sister and brother)as his father had died just a few years before. They only said that times were hard.

Ms Martyr said...

We watched a movie the other night on TCM about Woody Guthrie and the Great Depression. I think it was called Bound for Glory. I wasn't around then, but I think this was a pretty accurate depiction of what a lot of families went through. Piqued my curosity enough that I Googled dust storms afterwards.

It's me said...

I am sad I missed this post. It was wonderful. I'll have to go through my familie's old stuff and see what I can find. You just got me to thinkin'