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Thread: How the Oldtimers Survived the Great Depression and Why We May Not Measure Up

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    GuncoHolic Black Blade's Avatar
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    Default How the Oldtimers Survived the Great Depression and Why We May Not Measure Up

    How the Oldtimers Survived the Great Depression and Why We May Not Measure Up

    Anyone who grew up with relatives who survived the Great Depression and World War II probably have the stories that were passed down from those eras engraved into their subconscious. I know that whenever I go to purchase something expensive and not truly necessary, my grandmother's voice saying "do you really need that?" immediately comes to mind. If I open my wallet and find only a few dollars, my grandfather's warning to never leave the house without cold, hard cash also flashes through my memory. Now that we could quite possibly be heading for another depression, the lessons from family old timers about how they survived are quite telling, and, at the same time, it makes me look at society today and pick out many ways that we may not survive such a period as successfully as they did. Here's why:

    *Many people lived on farms during the Depression which softened the blow as far as food was concerned. They could pretty much grow the food they needed and not have to go to a grocery store for every single morsel to feed their families. How many people do you know today that can grow most of their own food including fruits, vegetables, eggs, chickens, milk, pigs, cows, etc? The only things that I remember they made a big deal of, and conserved like it was gold, was coffee and chocolate. There was no such thing as picky kids or food that went to waste.

    *The skills to acquire food were part of the fabric of life. Berry picking in the summer, foraging for nuts in the fall, growing food, processing food (ie: smoking meats, canning vegetables and fruit, making cheese), fishing, and hunting were skills that every kid learned from his parents and grandparents. How many people these days could take a live chicken and make it into a fried chicken? How many kids have no idea how something as simple as butter is made?

    *Skills in general were used to do a lot of work with very little material goods. Clothes were washed by hand, fertilizer was made at home (thanks to the cows) and not purchased, and home shops (wood, welding, etc) were quite common and thoroughly used. Many people today would have no idea how to wash a load of clothes by hand or dry them without the dryer telling them what setting it needed to use.

    *They didn't have credit back then. Granted some people received credit for various purchases (house, car, farm machinery, etc) but it was a BIG deal. You didn't sign a paper and wait for a shiny card to arrive in the mail. The banker had to know you, your parents, your grandparents, and practically receive the title to your first born before you would be given credit to purchase what you needed. With credit so easy to receive today, much of the population is up to their eyeballs in debt, setting up themselves and their lenders for bankruptcy at the slightest financial glitch.

    *They didn't have the bills that we have today. My bills include: gas, electricity, water, garbage, sewer, cell phone, home phone, cable TV, and DSL internet (not to mention the housekeeper, yard guy, car wash, and all of those other "have to have" services that we take for granted). My grandparents paid for electricity and didn't have a phone or TV until way after their kids were born. They filled up the propane tank when they could afford it but mainly used the wood stove for heat and cooking, water was from a hand-dug well, garbage was processed on their land (burned, recycled, composted), sewer was a septic tank (with an outhouse for backup), and there were no cell phones, DSL, or cable. Grandma was the housekeeper, grandpa was the yard guy, and the kids were the car washers.

    *They didn't go shopping or out to eat. I can count on one hand how many times my grandparents went out for dinner. They always ate at home and if they would be away from home at meal time, they packed up their food and took it with them. They also rarely went shopping unless it was for a necessity. It probably helped that they were in farm country and the number of stores and restaurants available could also be counted on one hand. These days if you don't go out to eat or shop regularly you are in the distinct minority. I know people today who would be hard pressed to go an entire week, possibly an entire day, without eating at a restaurant or purchasing a latte.

    *They didn't spend their money unless it was absolutely necessary. A yard of fabric would be made into a dress, grandma would add ruffles to keep the dress wearable as the owner grew, the dress would then be passed down to the next sister and the next, when it grew threadbare in places it would then be cut up into quilt squares or used for rags or doll clothes. How many clothing items have you bought that either are still hanging in the closet with the tags on or, worse, were worn once and since you didn't like it, tossed it into the Goodwill bag? Next time you go shopping, consider whether the items in your basket are absolute necessities or just stuff you want.

    *Life revolved around social connections. If more work was needed than one man could do, friends and neighbors would show up and help, knowing they could expect the same help in return. Families were closer and friendships were lifelong. How many people do you know would welcome grandma into their house to live with them for her final years? It's no secret that nursing homes and retirement communities are such big business. How many parents would know how to deal with their kids if the electricity was out for an extended period of time? Many parents rely on the TV, internet, texting, and video games to keep their kids quiet, socialized, and entertained.

    *They made money at anything possible. If they needed money, they didn't turn to credit, they turned to work; they had the skills and ingenuity that could be used to immediately make money. Among the jobs that my grandparents told stories about: they had farm stands and U Pick farms, grandpa was a welder who worked at Hanford and on various bridges in Portland, grandma worked in knitting mills and sewing factories as money was needed, they ran a dance hall on the weekends (grandma took the tickets and grandpa played in the band), grandpa raised and bred horses, and they both hunted/fished/trapped animals for food and to trade or sell to others.

    The moral of the story is that although we are so "advanced" technologically, economically, and socially compared to decades past, it is imperative that we all develop the basic skills necessary to survive should all of the technology, economic infrastructure, and social structure that we have come to rely on suddenly disappear.

    http://codenameinsight.bl...ed-great-depression.html
    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America , you get a front row seat. - George Carlin


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    Gunco Veteran stalker1's Avatar
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    BB you described my depression era parents to a t.thank you.

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    Gunco Veteran stalker1's Avatar
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    Oh and never drive further than you are willing to walk back from.

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    aka: SDK1968 dutigaf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stalker1 View Post
    BB you described my depression era parents to a t.thank you.
    YEP exactly. my grandparents married in '28.... they raised me for the "important years" of my life.. taught me everything i need to know for hard times.

    my family will survive & actually we could prosper. maybe not "money wise".. but bullets/skills are gold in those times.
    say what you mean & mean what you say


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    GuncoHolic Sprat's Avatar
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    yep pretty much like my dads folks

    pop used to fish (fresh & saltwater)and hunt (waterfowl,large and small game) everyday & gather (clams, mussels, & wild vegetables) they had buddies and extended family on inland farms, they would trade/barter foodstuffs, potatoes, corn, greens,onions etc my grandmother canned

    when I was in my early teens pop would take me to those fishing spots and regal the stories of family survival until he found work as a beer salesman in 1936, he never recovered financially
    Sprat and sprat1 are one and the same.

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    Gunco Addicted for life j427x's Avatar
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    the up coming economic crash i suspect it will be far WORSE than the great depression and here is why --


    problem # 1 --during the depression money still had value even though it was very scarce. in the up coming deflation/depression money will be scarce and hardly have any value anyway.

    problem #2 people starved in the great depression. the population in the US was less than half of today.

    problem #3 the economic, social and political system has been undermined, leaving great masses of people that are not going to be able to cope with even the slightest hardship.

    problem # 4 infrastructure collapse -- what is going to happen when everything becomes a crime and the jails are overflowing? the government cant possibly feed all those in prison? ----

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    NoWorkCamp4Me railbuggy's Avatar
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    My late Grandfather was born in 1904 and passed in 1998 at 94 years old. When I was around 8, I asked him why he keep can goods and bags of grain stored in his basement. He told me about the great depression thru WW2, and how even if you had money some things were hard to find. I remember his hobby was gardening flowers and vegetables back in the 60s and 70s and most of his backyard was his garden. They moved to the suburbs in 1977 while I was a active Marine. He was older and school kid would cut thru his new yard so he had to watch what he put in the ground.I would help him drink his homemade wine and eat his fresh vegetables.
    SOON-We already lost the war. You are the resistance.

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    GuncoHolic twa2471's Avatar
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    My Grand Paw grew up throughout the depression and did quite well working as the road commissioner in our town for many years, but he still raised hogs, a cow,chickens, smoked pork and fish and had a garden just to make ends meet during those lean times. With lots of store's on hand, I remember rows of canned goods, smoked hams, pickles, ect in the back room in the cellar when I was little. I still keep a decent larder on hand myself due to there influences and we'd all be wise to do the same, the way things are now. IMO, were already in another depression actually, we just have several social programs that take care of people so it just doesn't appear quite so bad, but if not for those programs,,,were there again right now IMO

    I recall stories from my 3rd Great Grandma when I was just a little kid ,about how her Grandpa and his Grandpa, lived along a local river and they lived in a home made cabin and his Grandpa before that had lived there before them in a elm bark long house, with generation's before that living in the same area for many generations. They depended totally on hunting, fishing ,farming, trading with the settlers and foraging for food,now that's survival skills at there best. Not dependent on anyone but themselves. I've kinda taught being frugal to my kids but I know for sure they wouldn't have the skills or wherewithal to fend for themselves should the need arise. At least not to the point of being self sufficient as our ancestors were.

    Best I can trace my family back, by oral stories, is to around mid to late 1600's at that same location and archaeological excavations I've done myself and in conjunction with the State Archeologist have confirmed that some of these stories are true and we go back much further. I've found the actual long house and cabin site my family inhabited for Lord Knows how many generations, but stuff found there confirms that, that particular site goes back to at least the mid 1600's era in modern times, with artifacts dating back as far back as the early archaic period, over 6K years ago,,,,

    who knows,, still could have been some of my distant relatives for all I know. That was before recorded history in this country.

    Being frugal go's way back further than just the depression and many of , all of our ancestors, have faced challenges. Just see what you can find in your own families history and look at the times they lived in and you'd be surprised just how frugal and clever all of them were in the past too. You might just be surprised what you'll find out about your own families history and what they went through.

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    Gunco Veteran stalker1's Avatar
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    My granddad had a garage when everything crashed. With eleven kids sharecropping was the only recourse to survive. Oddly enough as hard as it was my dad and his brothers and sisters have good memories of growing up. Granddad didn't make it to fifty.

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    White Cracker 4thIDvet's Avatar
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    Great article BB hit the nail on the head.. Our upcoming "Depression" which has allready begun, will be a hell storm compared to that one of which you speak..
    Like j4 says, people will not tolerate the hardships that are coming, bullets will fly.. They will not stand in line for no bowl of soup and a piece of bread.. "Gibs Me Dat."
    Ironically their was credit back then and it was one of the major causes of the "Great Depression." But as mentioned, it was for the picked chosen few.. The wealthy or those who thought they were wealthy, were buying stocks "Gambling" with high margins.. Some as high as 50% +.
    When the banks "Called" the margins, they went too the roofs and leaped, overnight they were broke.. I would give everything I own in the world, to see George Sorryos leap from a tall building. Splaaaaaaash..
    Great post. People who had the least and lived off the land, hell they did not even know their was a Depression..
    I am getting old and just watching. But it is coming. God be with you younger folks, keep yer powder dry..
    "Man needs but two things to survive alone in the woods. A blow up female doll and his trusty old AK-47" - Thomas Jefferson 1781


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