Can something good come from tragedy? The voices of the Great Depression say that it can. The generation that went through the Depression were so impacted by what they went though, many use the same ideals and principles today. During this time, the struggle to survive was great, but they knew if they banded together, they would get through that dark point in history.
Currently, many of the world’s leading economic trend experts are predicting an impending collapse much like the one that occurred in the 1929. In Gerald Celente’s words, “Like Nothing We’ve Ever Seen In Our Lifetime.” Some say this is due to an over consuming population, botched up credit systems, government big shots spending way beyond their means, the real estate market foul ups, over consumption of fossil fuels, etc, etc.
Living In the Depression
The values and principles of the Great Depression seem so foreign these days. The principles of an honest days work, a man’s handshake was a contractual agreement, religion, thriftiness, education and charity are the values that we pride this generation on. Yet this great generation’s natural survival skills and ability to make something last and then reuse it for another purpose is what we pride them on the most.
As a child I often heard stories of my what my grandparents and great-parents went through. And honestly, in the end they were extremely proud yet humble people that knew that family was the only true means of survival. In all honesty, that is what I pride them on the most.
Everyday items around the house were saved (wheels, scrap wood, old containers, etc) so they could be recycled and used for another purpose. For example, my grandmother (who was 4 when the Depression began), will not throw away a used container. Be it a margarine container, tin cookie container, or cool whip container. She just won’t do it. Why? Because she was taught to hold on to things because they may be useful in the future. My great-grandmother saved torn or used clothing and made quilts out of them for her children. Nothing was thrown away unless it could not be salvaged.
In an article regarding the frugality during the Depression, there were even more suggestions of what the people did to get by:
- Socks were mended and when finally too worn to wear, were used as mops.
- Pantyhose were never thrown away, but rather holes were stopped with clear nail polish or mended with thread.
- If a piece of thread or string came loose on a piece of clothing, the thread was cut off and added to the “string ball” that was used to mend clothing.
- Holiday celebrations were celebrated in spirit but no decorations or presents were to be had. It was considered a gift if you received an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning.
- If presents were given, wrapping paper was neatly folded and reused for another time.
Make Do, or Do Without
There simply was no extra money to get new things. Children knew not to ask for something unless it was imperative. In a previous Ready Nutrition article, I discussed how as a child, my grandmother wore shoes made from tires that her father made. They did not fit, but she did not complain as she was thankful just for having those. The Make Do, or Do Without is a popular statement that came from this time period.
Gardens for Survival
During the time of the Great Depression a large majority of the population still grew their own food. This may be due to the fact that at that time in history, the United States was still primarily agrarian. This is not so much the case now. The Great Depression was also a time of droughts and insect infestations. The people clung to hope and knew that even though the crops failed, they still had seeds to grow when the rains would return.
In this day and age if we had a Depression, much like the one that struck after 1929, the effects on this generation may be worse if not catastrophic due to the lack of food, increased population and lack of agricultural knowledge and skills. If a person does not have seeds to grow their own food, the odds of survival are not in their favor.
Children during the Great Depression helped their families raise the livestock and assisted around the farm. When the children were old enough, they got part time jobs to help make money for the family. Very rarely did they keep the money for themselves.
In an article in the Washington Times, the author, Armstrong Williams suggests that the young adults today do not understand, “the perspective of one that has not gone through extremely difficult times, as was experienced in the Great Depression, and don’t fully understand what it is like to live in want, and be forced to practice fiscal prudence and dedication that is needed to rise out of a national quagmire.”
Trades and Barters
Trades and deal making were often struck to replace paying someone with money. For example, if a person needed medical attention but had no money, perhaps the doctor made a deal that the patient would help him repair his car. Bartering and trading became very popular during this time. Though the Great Depression was hardest on the lower class, some middle class families were able to keep their homes and tried to make ends meet by boarding other families in their home. The families during this time did whatever was necessary to make it through.
The Voices of the Great Depression Have Some Advice For Us
Many from the Depression generation see the familiarity of the current economic patterns occurring. They see the clues from the past and notice the mistakes that the younger generations are making. Some of the younger generations also are aware of what is going on and are bracing themselves for a complete dishevelment of the life they formerly operated in. They see that a collapse is imminent and are preparing for it. In the article, Life during the Great Depression – Lessons Learned, the voices of the Great Depression plead with this younger generation to open their eyes to history repeating itself and to see that the economy is not what it once was. They advise:
- Credit mentality instead of paying cash. “Don’t spend money that you do not already have in your pockets.”
- Rich grew richer at the expense of others. “Don’t pay someone else to provide something that you can learn to do or to make yourself.”
- Abandonment of traditional values and frugality. “Never buy anything you can use – only what you can’t live without.”
- Self-Indulgence and self-gratification by immediate acquisition of possessions. “Dont buy anything until you have twice the purchase amount.”
- High Expectaions by gambling in the stock market. “It doesn’t matter how much money you can make, but how much money you can save!”
Perhaps, good things can come from tragic circumstances. But repeating a tragic chapter in history is foolish on our parts. The generation who went through the pains of the Depression want to their voices heard. The least we could do is to listen to them and cling to every piece of advice they have to offer. It seems as if history may repeat itself and now it is up to this generation to band together to get through our turbulent time. This article is in remembrance of those who have already been through their Great Depression and dedicated to those of us who are about to go through ours.