Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Antarctica. Charles Schultz.
One can only imagine how difficult times were during the Great Depression because most of us didn't experience it first-hand, but in some ways we did, because it left a mark on our parents and grandparents. When I think about it I realize it influenced their lives and ours in turn.
I know I always turn to my grandmother when I am thinking about stories, but in her I saw the effect of some of that extreme poverty.
She never bought anything unless she had the money to pay for it. She paid bills immediately and she saved for a rainy day. She didn't buy things she could do without. That is not to say she led a frugal life. She just knew the value of thinking ahead and doing without. It may have been second nature to her because she had already gone through some of those same problems coming from Denmark as a child. We could say maybe she didn't realize any difference, but that wasn't true. There were stories she told of other people’s wealth or possessions, but there was never any envy — just the fact that she could live without them. I remember in particular her talking about being invited to a birthday party as a school-age child at the biggest and fanciest house in town. It was like Cinderella at the ball. The house was so impressive to her. The house was well over 125 years old and still stands, and to me is still impressive despite its age.
When the liquor store in Geneva was built, my parents bought the house that stood on the piece of property that the city planned to build the new liquor store on. They had the house moved to its present location, just west of the park. It is part of the family today. But I am getting away from my original thinking.
There was no electricity in my grandparents’ farm home until my grandmother felt they could pay for it. The same was true of the refrigerator and the stove. She used the old cook stove. She never had a microwave or air conditioner, in fact, not even a fan. She did allow us to give her an electric frying pan and she was not a miser. She led a good life. She just had been brought up to know that though money isn't everything, without it is not easy.
The Great Depression of 1929 and the ‘30s taught thrift and conservation. Rural families traditionally had stronger family, marriage, and relationships, possibly because they worked together and their marriages survived hard times better. It was not hard to understand that people had become afraid of the future. To our elders it meant taking no chances. Paying one’s debts, putting some aside, and be prepared was their way of life. The fear is always there having lived it. It not only made it a permanent part of our lives, but many of its effects were handed down to our generation.
Children learned that waste was taboo. Respecting one’s resources was the rule. Wise parents instilled their virtues in their children as a way of life. Weather played a devastating part. A killing frost back on August 19th, 1929 destroyed the crops and gardens. The early ‘30s were hot and dry. The fields and hay burned brown. By 1932, wheat sold for 35 cents per bushel with field harvest at 4 bushels an acre. Fat beef sold for 2 1/2 cents a pound, lean for 1 cent a pound. Eggs dropped to 3 cents a dozen and stamps went from 2 to 3 cents.
The CCC, Civil Conservation Corps, took young men off the streets and gave them meaningful work conserving our natural resources. The CWA put 400 million men to work on highways and dams. Public works by the WPA can still be viewed by the monogram. My mother can remember the old high school in Albert Lea had a moniker that proclaimed it was built by the WPA and the date. It was in the east end of the entrance to the main auditorium. Such evidence is also stamped on other public buildings, bridges, and dams like the dam on the south side of St. Olaf Lake.
School text books had to be conserved and reused. Businesses cut work hours to the bone. It was often said that the big depression was won in the ladies kitchen because of their ingenuity in using wisely what little was to be had. Heating fuel was a constant worry. Trees were cut and again ingenuity made broken down cars into valuable trailers to haul the wood in alloted amounts. There was also bartering with items one needed for something another didn't have.
Scams and stealing was rampant. House parties were in vogue, games like croquet were played with rocks, and sticks were made into stilts. Popcorn was a special treat.
Families were committed and men were made from boys. "Dumpster diving" provided creative materials and children grew up fast learning to sew, cook and clean, darn socks and pick up coal from the ground. They hunted pigeon, rabbit and squirrel. It was not unusual to walk 5 miles further if it saved a family or two. Many children and adults that had money in banks that was never returned were left with a lifelong distrust of saving institutions.
Toothbrushes were a luxury and baking soda or salt was used as a dentifrice.
Veterans who returned from the war faced a country robbed of everything a land should have. They needed time to adjust and there was work to be done, but for many it was too much and their spirits and bodies lost hope.
For those who made it, the strength and character they developed became their most valuable resource. The vegetable garden provided any number of old and new ideas. Did the Depression save us from heart disease? Could we use the same ingenuity today to solve some of the economic-problems we are facing?
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Birthdays and anniversaries:
• Thursday, April 21st: Helen Pierce, Michael Foster, Veronica Graif, Adrian Kilian, Marilyn Reistad, Elmer Vanden Heuvel
• Friday, April 22nd: Noah Lowell Swearingen, his 8th; Rollie Johnson, David Purdy, Gregory Swearingen, Stacy Thostenson Harold, James Van Riper, Marilyne Dodge, Mike & Sarah Collins, Rodger & Sue Hill
• Saturday, April 23rd: Jayne Miller, Buffy Bergland, Alan Edwardson, Jackie Johnson Miller
• Sunday, April 24th: Madison Kae Wagner, Marnie Ray Wagner, Dak Sorenson, Gladys Burr, Marilyn Cuden, Audrey Paulson, Lowell Wichmann, Scott Brandt, Kara Vangen
• Monday, April 25th: Ed Deml, Nicole Langlie La Tourneau, Nicole Nielson, Evie Toft, Christine Davidson, Jeff Kunkel, Janice Morreim, Stan Reichl
• Tuesday, April 26th: Jim Arends, Lester Casterton, Teresa Deml Sisler, Beverly Harpel, Jean Larson, Pat Motl, Ashley Bangert, Mary Peterson, Pat Pichner, Steve & Judy Christensen, Bob & Gerry Flim, Allan & Darline Jensen
• Wednesday, April 27th: Brian Schember, Norma Robertson, Heidi & Christopher Olson
• Thursday, April 28th: Martin Rossing, Rodney Peterson, Mildred Flugum, Jamie Cameron, Jean & Chuck Groth
• Friday, April 29th: Derek Anthony Kubicek, his 5th; Jane Brocker, Roberta Dettman, Angie Hall, Mitchell Jensen, Pat & Linda Goodnature, Jennifer & Steve Schultz
May your special day be filled with warm wishes and fond memories.