U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Economics
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Reply Start New Thread
 
Old 01-29-2009, 03:14 AM
 
Location: where you sip the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica
8,299 posts, read 12,900,971 times
Reputation: 8069

Advertisements

Depression-era wisdom: How they survived

The nation's deepening recession recalls the lessons of the Great Depression, which shaped the lives and financial philosophies of many local elders.
By Marc Ramirez
Seattle Times staff reporter


PREV 1 of 2 NEXT


SEATTLE TIMES ARCHIVE / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Itinerant people in the 1930s set up camps — called Hoovervilles, a reference to the Hoover administration's policies. This one was south of downtown Seattle.


COURTNEY BLETHEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Great Depression survivors Bill and Donna Cable, who live at Exeter House retirement center on First Hill, still keep bills manageable and use only one credit card. They passed those qualities to their children.



RelatedYouTube | Depression Breakfast
According to her Web site Greatdepressioncooking.com, Clara Cannucciari is a 93-year-old woman who experienced the Great Depression and remembers the recipes for meals that filled her stomach. Below is her recipe for a Sunday depression-era breakfast.


As a child, Bill Cable remembers his parents sweating over finances at the kitchen table, struggling through the years that would come to be known as the Great Depression.

"They thought they would be in debt the rest of their lives," the Seattle man said.

Such experiences taught Bill, 80, and wife Donna, 79, to save what they could, keep their bills manageable and live without credit-card temptation. "That's probably why we've survived and why we're all here," he said.

Through nearly 60 years of marriage, "we never bought anything unless we saved the money and paid for it," Donna said. "We were always afraid something would go wrong."

The Cables passed on the lessons they learned, and their children mostly have fared well. Faced with the current economic crisis, however, "they are feeling it, and they're scared," Donna said.

As the nation heads deeper into recession, the longest and possibly most severe since World War II, it's worth remembering that once upon a time, things were much worse. Those who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s emerged with experiences that would shape their lives and financial philosophies, providing lessons many passed on to their children and a lens through which they see today's situation.

"Even though I was young, I did see some things," Bill Cable said. "I think I'm kinda holding my breath, hoping it doesn't get any worse and drift into those situations when there were more people out of work and hungry."

Throughout the Puget Sound area, many elders harbor similar memories and sentiments. These days, some are still living in their own homes; others in retirement communities such as Northgate Plaza or First Hill's Exeter House, where the Cables now live.

Most were children when the market crashed in 1929, but they carry memories of hand-me-down clothes, shoes with cardboard-plugged holes, dresses and bloomers made from flour sacks as things worsened in the 1930s. "People got very creative," Bill Cable said.

"The sewing machines were always busy," Jean Young, 92, of West Seattle, remembers of those days on her family's Central Washington farmstead. "My mother was an excellent seamstress. Sometimes I wore the same dress all week. But it was a nice dress."

Lynn Cook, meanwhile, who lived in Seattle's Cascade neighborhood, recalls his grandmother making him sandwiches for lunch, two slices of bread with a relish — and nothing else.

"I still remember the taste of those things," said Cook, 88. And she made sure he always brought home the wax paper and paper bag so he could use them again the next day.

"In that boat together"

In 1933, one in every four Americans was unemployed. Banks were collapsing, wiping out people's savings.

"I remember being in church the Sunday after banks closed on Friday," said Elizabeth Garlichs, 85, who grew up in the tobacco town of Winston-Salem, N.C., before coming to Seattle and then Oysterville in Pacific County. "The minister said anything put in the offering plate would be appreciated. And when it came down our row, all it had was a pack of Camel cigarettes."

Camps of itinerant people — called Hoovervilles in the wake of the Hoover administration's failed policies — formed near cities. Hitchhikers streamed off highways and hobos spilled off the railroads, looking for food. "My dad always said, 'Never turn them down, because some day you may be in that situation,' " said Wedgwood's Dorothy Cox, 97, reared in Wyoming.
Every Sunday, Young's family would go to church and come back to find cars in the driveway with hungry people waiting to have dinner at their bountiful farmstead, while Seattle's Teru Okawa, whose parents ran a dry-cleaning business in the South Lake Union neighborhood, remembers her mom pressing clothes for free for people with job interviews.

"One man came to the door every Saturday night, and my dad would hand him money," recalled Canadian-born Margaret Questad, a longtime Wedgwood resident. "And when my dad died, that man came up and said, 'If it hadn't been for your dad, we would have starved.' "
"We were all in that boat together," Bill Cable said.

Resourceful parents
Looking back, they're in awe of parents who shepherded them through one of the worst financial periods in U.S. history without the aid of strict bank protections, food stamps, unemployment or other social benefits.

Sonja Harmon, who grew up in Michigan and spent much of her life on Whidbey Island, said her mother was willing to marry "basically anyone willing to support us" after her father died.

With banks failing, the 91-year-old recalls her stepfather, a shopkeeper, putting money from the register in a Mason jar at day's end, then crawling under the house to keep it safe.

Some traded services for goods. Garlichs' father, a printer, made market handbills in exchange for groceries. "My sister's college was partially paid for by printing," she said.

Others cashed in on other talents. "My father couldn't find a job," Cox said. "But he was a real good card player. So my mom gave him money, and he'd go to town and come back, and we'd have enough to eat."

And as Margaret Questad reared her six children, "I never got them half a dozen gifts," she said, scoffing at what she sees as today's extravagance.
"I got them one gift that they wanted. And underwear from Penney's — because that's what they needed, and that's when they got it."

Lessons that linger
Eventually, crops re-energized, and then there was President Franklin D. Roosevelt and an infusion of acronyms — the WPA (Work Projects Administration), CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) — meant to jump-start the economy.

"He was a like a savior who had come," said West Seattle's Hazel Elizondo, 86. With the war in Europe, and U.S. involvement, the economy became robust again.

Still, the lessons of the time lingered. After her husband returned from the war, Questad recalls his reaction when she made him potato soup. She hadn't known that at one point in the 1930s his family ate the dish for two consecutive weeks — breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"He said, 'Margaret, don't ever give me potato soup again.' "

Some emerged from that time with penny-pinching philosophies that they have passed down to their children.

"Save something," said former Queen Anne resident Clara Welch, 97, who was 18 when the market crashed. "Even if it's a small amount. I saw so many people with small children who didn't have food in the house."

"We're still here because that's who we are," said Victor Elizondo, Hazel's husband. "What you see is what you get. We don't try to put on airs or buy a new car every year or a 76-inch TV to put on the wall."

Others simply reminded their children that things can always go bad. "People haven't had to learn those lessons," Garlichs said.
"But they can."

Even now, the Cables have one credit card, which they applied for when Bill was traveling for work and wanted to keep work expenses separate from their personal finances.

But they have learned to make that pay dividends, too, earning airline miles with their purchases.

"Now we use the credit card for everything," Donna said. "Then we use the miles to go visit our children."

Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or mramirez@seattletimes.com




Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

 
Old 01-29-2009, 07:59 AM
 
Location: Houston, TX
17,031 posts, read 28,278,274 times
Reputation: 16222
My parents were children of the depression as well, and I recall hearing similar stories. On one hand I dont wish those times on folks, but on the other side we have become a consumer culture that need a harsh reminder that flat screen tvs, $100 jeans and $5 lattes are uneeded luxuries, not 'deserved staples'.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-29-2009, 08:39 AM
 
Location: Neither here nor there
14,810 posts, read 14,786,071 times
Reputation: 32961
I was born in the middle of the Depression. My father was working at the only job he could find--custodian at a building downtown. My mother was a SAHM. All things considered my parents did amazingly well. We lived in our own home that my dad and his father had built in the 1920's in a residential area of a good sized city in Texas. We had a cow for milk and chickens for meat and eggs. (Zoning laws have changed since then.) We had a garden, fruit and nut trees and berry bushes. We canned a lot of the produce. My mom made our clothes, mostly out of flour sacks, on a treadle machine. We burned coal or wood in a pot bellied stove for heat in the winter and closed off a couple of rooms until spring. We had an ice box and the ice man delivered ice. We had no car and we walked to the grocery store towing a child's wagon to haul the groceries back home. We rode the bus to town. We walked to school and to church. When someone would come around asking for food, my parents always gave them something. I occasionally saw men with wheel barrows going down the alleys in our neighborhood and taking discarded food from garbage cans. We also would hear of families living in the garages in back of houses in the area and my parents would take food and our out-grown clothing to them. All things considered, we survived quite well and while my parents felt the financial pinch, we kids had no idea that we were bad off in any way.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-29-2009, 07:53 PM
 
5,656 posts, read 18,000,550 times
Reputation: 4054
""We were always afraid something would go wrong."... I honestly hope with this downturn that many people who lived extravagantly off their credit cards or their mortgage home equity will learn to save. We were not as good as some are, but way better than many we know.
My grandparents never learned to ride a bike because they never owned one. She said homeless used to come by all the time and her mom always gave them some food if they did an odd job.
Your right, the kids don't really notice not having the fancy things, if they never had them.
Thank god we have welfare programs now so children won't go hungry. That is the saddest thing.
And yes, people grew their own food then. People need to get back to that with the price of produce! HGTV should put a little more "G" meaning garden as in "veggie or fruits" into the programming. Easy on "flip the house" programming.... in this economy.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 07:03 AM
 
Location: USA
27 posts, read 70,039 times
Reputation: 16
Great thread. Living in depression sure needs a lot of adjustments and changes. There are a lot of interesting stories on what people did and how they managed their needs and finances.

You can find some good financial planners and advisers here - http://www.respond.com/financial-planners/find.html. They can sure enough show the way in these difficult times.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 07:15 AM
 
16,434 posts, read 20,235,466 times
Reputation: 9566
The greatest difference between then and now is the character of the american people. We are self absorbed and insular now. A depression will be very, very painful for today's America.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 07:28 AM
 
706 posts, read 1,207,830 times
Reputation: 438
My pa is 91 and he always taught us that we needed to be prepared for every eventuality. And fortunately most of my family followed his guidance and stayed financially pretty frugal. I learned a lot from him and am thankful everyday. He also told me that as poor as they were, they never turned away a stranger looking for food if they had some. People just looked out for each other as best they could.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 01:37 PM
 
Location: Cushing OK
14,545 posts, read 18,989,274 times
Reputation: 16886
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyP View Post
My pa is 91 and he always taught us that we needed to be prepared for every eventuality. And fortunately most of my family followed his guidance and stayed financially pretty frugal. I learned a lot from him and am thankful everyday. He also told me that as poor as they were, they never turned away a stranger looking for food if they had some. People just looked out for each other as best they could.
My grandmother and mom did that too. They were in California but always had food ready to serve when the dust bown refugees came by and no body was ever turned away. When I was a kid I thought it was a wonderful thing but didn't really understand it. Now that I've had a few really rough patches in my life I understand.

The self-asbsobed and clueless will get an education in what's real. Which is not a bad idea.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 02:09 PM
 
718 posts, read 2,186,039 times
Reputation: 363
They survived because they are the real men and women of the last 100 years. Despite the lack of resources, people during the depression toughed it out. They had heart and soul. They were inspired by achieving a better life for themselves in America. Talk to people from the depression, although the times were tough they often look back in appreciation because it was a time of working together and appreciating the bare essentials. They were the true creative types as they were dealt a rotten lemon and turned it into fresh lemonade.

Today's soulless, lazy generation could NEVER survive the Great Depression. Too uninspired, too selfish. They would curl up into a ball or commit suicide before they quit their banker job to be a sanitation worker or janitor.

Technology and other material things aside, and also race relations aside, America in the 1930s was a much more advanced place than it is now. America 2009 is a bunch of technology capable people who have the pulse of a robot.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 01-30-2009, 02:41 PM
 
56 posts, read 104,905 times
Reputation: 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by DITC View Post
They survived because they are the real men and women of the last 100 years. Despite the lack of resources, people during the depression toughed it out. They had heart and soul. They were inspired by achieving a better life for themselves in America. Talk to people from the depression, although the times were tough they often look back in appreciation because it was a time of working together and appreciating the bare essentials. They were the true creative types as they were dealt a rotten lemon and turned it into fresh lemonade.

Today's soulless, lazy generation could NEVER survive the Great Depression. Too uninspired, too selfish. They would curl up into a ball or commit suicide before they quit their banker job to be a sanitation worker or janitor.

Technology and other material things aside, and also race relations aside, America in the 1930s was a much more advanced place than it is now. America 2009 is a bunch of technology capable people who have the pulse of a robot.
True.

It will get worse. People in 2020s will probraly revolt aganist this with a cultural revolution like the jazz age(NOT RAP).

The 1930s was more advanced...that seesms to me, a very interesting statement that I have never interprepted in that way before.

It is true. My generation would collaspe immediately after one year of 25% unemployment.

We are coddled brats.
Rate this post positively Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.


Reply
Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Message:


Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Economics
Similar Threads

All times are GMT -6.

© 2005-2021, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Contact Us - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 - Top