Only a hermit living in an isolated cave can be unaware of the financial crisis which grips the world. These times are indeed frightening. But I find myself thinking comforting thoughts—the gist of which is this: what we are living through is NOT new in human history.
That’s right—there have been hard times before. And people have survived.
When our son was in grade school, one of his teachers gave the class an assignment—interview your grandparents. Ask them what it was like to live in the Great Depression. So, when he was with his grandparents, our son began asking questions. Grandpa, what was life like for you during the Depression. Same question to Grandma.
The curious thing is that is the only time I ever heard stories from my parents about the Depression years. I just never thought to ask.
My mother’s family probably fared a little better than my dad’s. My mother’s family were mostly farmers. I previously told my mother’s story here, but a few details serve now. My maternal grandfather owned a dairy farm. Of course, that was hard work, but it also meant there was food. They had their own garden, milk readily available, probably eggs too if they had chickens, which they must have. My mother did say that clothing was harder to get—so she and her sisters used the feed sacks, which were printed with floral designs, to make into dresses.
My dad’s family made the trek from Oklahoma to California, but not for the reasons immortalized in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. My dad’s family moved, so his father could teach at a college in southern California. It was a small church-related school, so my grandfather’s salary was not lavish. Part of his compensation was the fact that his children could attend the college. (When this provision was removed from his contract, it resulted in my grandfather losing his job—but that’s another story, told here.)
My dad has said that while the family always had food, there were times when only one item was served for dinner. If they had potatoes, well, that was what they had for dinner—potatoes. My dad and his brothers also worked—in their pre-teen and teen years, and contributed some of the money earned to the family finances.
My aunt, my father’s sister, recalls that a few years beyond the Great Depression, as World War II was gearing up, that they had a Victory garden. I don’t know if they called it that, but it was a large vegetable garden where much of the produce they ate was grown.
The Depression was not the only hard times that we have been through. World War II was surely an example of hard times, for many countries. Yet, with all the difficulties that people experienced during the war, people still married and had children. My parents married in 1942 and I was born two months before the end of the war in Europe.
Hard times—yes. We are in hard times—whether at the beginning, or in the middle, or even near the end, only time will reveal. As our family stories can instruct us, there are many things we can do to survive.
And we will survive hard times. We always have.