Sunday, July 6, 2008

Brace yourselves.....

Today I am going to reminisce. You children have heard these stories forevermore, so I guess I am writing for the grands. I think maybe the oldest five read this. Two are temporarily in delayed adolescence, and four are too young. However, to proceed.

I was born in 1931 and Herbert Hoover was president. He was elected on a promise of 'a chicken in every pot'. Not. We were in the midst of an awful depression. Being a depression baby, I was raised on a ditty
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

And mama really meant this. We were definitely not a consumer society. I grew with FDR as president, and still think he was a great guy, though toward the end he was not always 'compos mentis'. We didn't see much of the WPA which he set up, they mostly built dams (Hoover Dam ring a bell?) and did large scale things. But, we had lots of CCC guys around, They built most of the
public campsites that exist today. These men were housed and fed and paid minimally. The pay went home to their families. These programs kept many, many people from starving. We also had had hobos who had our house marked and several times a week someone knocked on the back door asking for food for work. Mamma always worked them hard, then she filled a place so full I don't know why it didn't slide off. Then.....she added 4-5 slices of what we called 'light bread'. Really white bread and it was a status symbol to have it in the house. Nobody knew it has about as much food value as cardboard. It was new to us then and a real mark of modernity. I stood on the back porch and watched them eat.

As the depression wore on, we entered WWII. The war is what really pulled us out of the depression. This is when I learned to knit, much against my will. We also became 'army brats' moving from camp to camp as daddy was transfered. Then, from Manhattan Kansas, we came home as he was sent to England to help plan the Normandy invasion, in which he took part. A year or so of fighting and he was sent to Paris when it fell to the GI's and commanded two or three POW camps till he got home.

Being in a war was different in lots of ways, Rationing was one. The army rationed the things they had to have. So we did without very much sugar, butter and meat. They sent us huge 3 pound chunks of white margarine with a packet of red stuff which had to be mixed in to make it yellow. I suggested we eat it white as the mixing job was mine and I hated it. It still tasted like lard,even yellow. It was really nasty stuff. I didn't win that one. Also rationed were tires and gasoline, which meant you walked anywhere you went - or you could skate. Had to be careful about bicycle tires. Also--------shoes were rationed. You see, there were no plastic shoes or tennis shoes - they hadn't been invented yet. We all wore all leather shoes and the GI's needed leather. I remember having holes in my soles and cutting a new piece of cardboard every morning before school to fit in my shoe to cover the hole. We ran barefooted all summer - shoe rationing was really just an excuse. We liked it. I still have some rationing tickets somewhere. We had no penicillin and modern medicine was just starting. Our typewriters were all manual - and you had to bang them really hard and keep your rhythm or they messed up.

Every family dug up part of their backyard and grew their own vegetables, and then we canned them for winter. If you had fruit trees, well and good. Grandmamma used to send mamma a crate of guavas every year for her to make jelly. Our gardens were called "Victory Gardens'. Lots of hype and hoo hah for being patriotic.

I do remember howling loudly when I couldn't come to Tallahassee to my grandmamma's funeral. It was hard for me to understand how difficult it was for my parents to get seats on a train, daddy probably had to pull rank to get them. I doubt they could have secured one for me, but even if they had, there was no way we were going to miss school, unless we had bubonic plague or something. Education was revered. There was no gas or tires for the car.

Enough of this, except to say that before the war and during the war, we were not consumers in the sense we use now, we were really content. There was one department store in town, no malls, no service oriented businesses ( like nail places, etc. ) No keeping up with the Jomes because they were just getting by too. And while they may have had more money, they didn't have any more ration tickets. It was a great equalizer.

Aren't you glad I told you all of this? Thanks for listening.

Focus on peace, and maybe less consumerism? ok?


Mary Beth said...

Thanks for all this great information!

Nail can there BE so many nail places!? It boggles the mind!

DivaKitty said...

Hi, MaryBeth's Momma!
Thank you for the wonderful story. Your comments on consumerism reminded me of a book I just read called "Better Off" by Eric Brende. Aa an MIT graduate student, he & his wife live for 18 months in a community so non-technological that the Amish consider them backward. The idea was to establish just how *much* technology helps us and at what point it starts to hurt us. Very thought-provoking and also a fun read!

billscottranch said...

Mom you need to do more posts like this so we havea history for the kids. Especially stuff about MeMe and Big Daddy and you and Dad.

Valerie said...

This is great reading! You should write a book.
Course that would leave you less time to knit, so never mind.