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August 17, 2012

Ohio's Stories from the Great Depression

No time to blog today - I'm totally sucked into this amazing website. Have you seen Ohio's Department of Aging Great Depression Story Project?

They asked folks who lived thru the Depression to send in their memories - how they lived, what happened, and thoughts about lessons learned. I just love it. You know how I go on and on about the Old Timers and this is why - so much institutional knowledge. Its just fabulous.

Our grandparents all lived thru the Depression - some country and some city. I've mentioned before that our Grandma Marybelle lived on a farm and they made extra money selling chicken dinners for $0.25. They took the cream from their cows into town to sell for money to buy the things they couldn't grow themselves. One day Grandma and her brother were monkeying around - and spilled the cream. They had no money that week for extra groceries. And there was crying over that spilled cream for sure.

My grandparents owned a little country store. During the hardest times they sold folks groceries on credit. Of course not many people could pay it back. They kept the register books with the record of credit.  Years later when the books were rediscovered my aunts and uncles all got together and burned all the credit records as a celebration of how many people had been helped. I still remember older people coming into the store saying how grateful they were that Grandpa helped them.

I wish I knew more about how our grandparents lived then - ever detail seems precious now. That's why I'm enjoying reading these stories so much.

A couple things that stand out as I'm reading these memories. First, folks didn't really know how poor they were - there was no one around (like TV or magazines) to tell them how bad they had it. Mostly they were glad they were all together and had food to eat - especially folks on the farm. Next, the folks that did OK had big gardens and everyone canned everything they could get their hands on. Next time you are driving around ask yourself what would happen if everyone had a big garden in their yard instead of a bunch of useless grass.

Also, it seems that many folks were grateful for how they learned to make do and how they learned to get by. Many of the story tellers mentioned that they wouldn't have changed what happened and how it strengthened them.

I understand this completely. I see it whenever I go to buy more canning jars. Almost always and older lady comes up to me, puts her hand on my arm, and says in a hushed tone, "Do you do your own canning, honey?"

"Yes, ma'am I do. We raise a big garden, chickens and hogs and I put up the harvest." I reply.

"Good for you, dear." She'll say with pride in her eyes, patting my arm. "Folks today couldn't make it in hard times like we had. They don't know what it means to work hard. So it's nice to see someone with some sense."

I love it when this happens. And it happens a lot.

If you are lucky enough to know folks who lived during the Depression make time to ask them what happened and how they made do - they will probably have some great stories. But if not, spend some time reading what these folks have to say about it. Good lessons for us all. 

Happy Friday everyone!