Lessons from the Great Depression

March 26th, 2009    Author: Staff Report    Filed Under: Opinion

In many ways our modern conveniences have made life easier, but sometimes I yearn for the “olden days.” With our nation in economic crisis and every family in America looking at ways to cut back on monthly expenses, we can take a look back and learn a few lessons from our ancestors.

My parents were children during the “Great Depression” and they often told stories of how their families endured the hardships of that era. My father was born two years before the crash of ’29 and he grew up on a farm. They had a huge garden with plenty of fresh food and raised cows and chickens. He said he never remembered being hungry. My mother was a city girl born in 1929. Her father lost his job at a factory and she said the only income the family had was the money her brothers made on their paper routes. I remember her telling me that the bank that held the mortgage on her parents’ home just asked them to send whatever they could. They didn’t foreclose on folks back then but instead chose to just wait it out.

Since most folks back then didn’t own much or have the money to buy much, they mostly made do with what they had. They would build things out of scrap wood, sew clothing from feed sacks or recycle thread bare clothing, using buttons and every part of the cloth that was still reusable. They stretched what little food they had to make it feed their family and nothing was ever wasted. Do you think we could learn something from their methods?

I received an e-mail from my sister, Rosie, a few months back entitled “The History of Aprons.” There is so much wisdom in this little story that I want to share it with everyone.

The principle use of grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few dresses and it was easier to wash aprons than dresses. An apron used less material and along with that, it served as a pot holder for removing hot pans from the oven.

An apron was good for drying children’s tears and on occasion it was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow after bending over a hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables and after the peas or green beans had been shelled and snapped, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields for dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that “old-time apron” that served so many purposes.

My grandma always wore a homemade apron, she lived out her days in the house that they kept through the “Great Depression.” She lived a simple lifestyle, went to church every Sunday and thanked God for every blessing she had.

Times have changed since the “Great Depression” and I don’t think our generation faces all of the same challenges of that generation, but we do face similar challenges. We are all trying to make our food stretch, we are more aware of not wasting anything including water and fuel, we have been cutting back on purchasing new clothing or unnecessary items and we need to learn to make do with what we have.

Maybe it’s time to slow down and live more simple lives. Maybe we need to teach our children and grandchildren how to grow a vegetable garden and sew a straight seam. We can use this economic downturn to our advantage and view it as a time to get back to the basics of life.

Since I’m a grandma, I think I’ll find a pattern for an apron, dust off my sewing machine and create some memories for my own grandchildren.

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