The Great Depression – The Road To Rock Bottom

great-depression-factsI spent many hours concurrently horrified and fascinated watching the many archives of Great Depression videos on youtube. The more I watched, the more I saw amazing similarities between our government Then and our government Now.

The other thing that struck me is, America is nowhere near as dire as America was back them. At least not yet. But it could happen–especially if we repeat past behaviors.

I’ve decided to do some posts on this era. I promise not to do too many of them too close together, as they are most definitely depressing and oten infuriating to watch. What I hope to achieve here is to have you all watch these videos and think about what’s different today about People and Government and what’s eerily similar, so we can discuss.

GreatDepressionLange-MigrantMother02Many of us have or had parents and grandparents who survived this American tragedy, and they did it with dignity, hope, resolve and perseverence. And with amazing good humor as well. While their stories always rivited me,  I never really understood how they did it, leading me to believe they were most definitely stronger and better people than I could ever be.

These were people whose families saved dimes in banks for years, only to find their money gone. They were people like you and me, there were great jobs that were suddenly lost,  leading them to eventually working at anything to survive, until even the most basic of piece of temporary work dried up as well. These were families,  home owners, business owners, hard working responsible people, children — and they lost it all through no fault of their own.  Our relatives of the Great Depression endured  as children and as parents, and most of them rebuilt their lives, many of them successfully, after a time when their very survival had been severely tested. Personally, I am not so sure I inherited their grit!

Get some coffee. You are about to be glued to your screen and experience a myriad of emotions, including, but not limited to sadness, tears and anger. Remember the times you kind of rolled your eyes when your parents or grandparents told you about how they put sugar on a piece of stale bread as a treat? Perhaps you might want to rethink your reaction after you see this–and then, just maybe, we should all thank our lucky stars that our hard times aren’t like this, which threw me straight out of my Whine mode after seeing it:


58 Responses

  1. Now we did chat on twitter about this didn’t we? I’ll wait a little later and throw some stories out.

  2. My grandparents and their peers never got over the fear of losing it all. Grandma used to save the plastic bread bags and reuse them. She’d sew for hours to repair anything worn out to keep it in use and when it was a total rag it was reused till it was a scrap. She made quilt covers out of patchwork. I can remember her buying me a new jump rope and she used the old one to tie things up in her garden. Nothing was tossed out around her. The kitchen scraps went into the dog dish or into the garden compost. Grandpa died 20 years before she did but she was so careful with their savings that she never needed to worry about paying the bills and staying warm. One year she realized she was doing well in the stock market and her house was paid off and she wasn’t going to live much longer so she took my mother and myself all over europe to visit our relatives over there. She finally enjoyed a little bit of her lifetime of hard work and daily scrimping and saving.

    The depression was a part of her and she never quite shook it off.

  3. I watched part two, the last 7 minutes of 60 min just now when I came in from work, and it was good to hear her say she was on the road to full recovery and the eye issues would be temporary. The Gates quote bo repeated about somebody somewhere in the gov’t is screwing up right now, is true. With the scope of our vast federal gov’t there is always some uh-oh moment coming up. Compound that with state and local and, well, the odds are not good.

    Their staff took it harder than they did. Their spouses were having a hard time accepting them together. That is not surprising. What is surprising, still, is that she forgave him and got over it. I know I am not over it and I still have a PUMA attitude.

    Rest Hillary Rest! 3 days left to go. Congrats on a job well done.

  4. My grandparents and their peers never got over the fear of losing it all. Grandma used to save the plastic bread bags and reuse them.

    For real! When my grandmother passed, we found all kinds of things. Dozens of cans of canned tomatoes as if she was going to build a bunker! Lots and lots of string–the red and white kind from the bakery.

    My grandfather said that when they were kids, they would throw rocks at the guy delivering the coal. He would stop and throw coal back at them. They did this to get the coal he threw back!

    Looking forward to watching the video later.

  5. Ah I just found out my mother’s lifelong best friend passed on. Glad I had lunch with her not that long ago. One of the people who had stories from her childhood too. the world was a better place with her in it.

    Sophie they not only saved the wrappers, they advanced to saving the ties long after the depression., as in for Life. No matter how well they did, they never forgot and they passed these habits onto their families. My mother died not being able to toss out a decent container. I can toss things but not without a tinge of guilt. lol.

  6. My mother grew up dirt poor and I saw it daily because she kept everything and I mean it. When we were growing up it was kind of embarrassing really but as I listened to stories from her mother and 12 siblings I grew to understand why she was like that. It was fear of it happening again. A store bought butter bowl never got tossed out it was used to house leftovers in the fridge or to put so many things in around the house. She sewed and was very good at it. I always had hand made dresses for church and school. We got two pairs of shoes and she would tell us it was frugal but she did it because she never got new shoes. We had a dress pair and play pair. We changed our clothes after church or school and put on play clothes. My good clothes were hung up and worn again because to wash them meant they wore out and soap did not grow on trees. I wish now I had a dime for every time I heard something did not grow on trees. When mom died a couple of years back it was hell cleaning out her place. I can not describe the garage other then something you might see on hoarders. The house was bad but not that bad because daughter and I started dumping things years before as did my older brother. I am betting I tossed well into the thousand range of used candles alone.

  7. I myself fear a depression seriously I do and maybe I am a tad bit nuts but I stock pile food and do have a bunch of blankets and towels that I ought to maybe give to someone that could use them but instead they are down in the basement bedroom closet in plastic. I have a 25′ by 30′ room that I have shelves on with tons of food stock piled. Candles, cotton balls swabs etc. If by chance it does happen I figure I am well set for 6 months.

  8. I wish now I had a dime for every time I heard something did not grow on trees.

    ROFL!!! Me too. (Or, “Our last name isn’t Rockefeller.”)

    My mother save some things, but nothing like her mother. I save way more things. You never know when you can repurpose it! There are lots of sites like Life Hacking that have great ideas for things you can do with stuff you were going to throw out.

    I personally have hundreds of wine bottle corks waiting to become trivets and bulletin boards and wine bottles waiting for me to make my own wine.

  9. Being raised dirt poor and alone in this world I am very saving I do a lot of those things. 🙂

  10. Waste not want not. 🙂

  11. I remember sitting at the table one night and saying casually, this meat seems tough. My father looked at me and said, “It would be tougher if you didn’t have it”.

  12. Yeah you are a tad bit nuts, Utah, but we love ya anyways.

    Seriously, though, everyone should have a pantry stocked ahead, not even just because you are crazy but in the event of, say, you are snowed in for a week (it’s happened!) or you lose your job and are tight on money (it happens all to often these days!). I admittedly have a rotated stocked freezer with meats and frozen veggies, and I do stock extra things like rice and canned goods. And pet food. I am always ahead that way. Not six months worth, but enough to feel secure. I also rotate extra jugs of spring water, you never know when a water main can break (it’s happened!). I think it’s good sense, providing you have the room, which some pople don’t. A 25 x30 room is being Utah Nuts. lol.

  13. My mother said when she was a child they would get one jelly donut and cut it in five pieces for the five sisters. If you got some of the jam it was a good day.

  14. My father looked at me and said, “It would be tougher if you didn’t have it”.

    Great line!

    They don’t say things like that to kids today. They seem to feel the need to meet their kids’ expectations that they should have everything all of their friends have and then some. I know some people struggling who made sure their kids got an XBox for Christmas. I can appreciate not wanting your kids to be left out or taunted (and not wanting to feel the embarrassment of not measuring up to your social group) but it shows that the kids are running the show–and not well at that.

  15. My mother hated to waste food to a fault and I’m that way too. I remember being a kid and refusing to eat chili. You know how kids are with beans. Anyways, whenever we had chili, she would fry some eggs sunnyside up for me and I was happy. One night, I didn’t eat my eggs and she looked at me and said, we can do two things. You can sit there till you eat the eggs or you could sign a paper that says next time we have chili, you will try it. Well, what the hell, I was a kid, if it meant I could get out of something I didn’t want to do, I would sign anything. So I signed the pledge. Then………..she whipped out her notary public stamp and notorized my signature, reminding me that this was a legally binding signature now.

    So…….next time we had chili, she put a bowl of chili in front of me. I grimmaced and snorted and did the fake gag. And she reminded me of the paper I signed that was notarized, and slid it next to my plate and mentioned the importance of keeping commitments. This was serious. So with all the typical drama a kid with beans in front of her could muster, I put a little in my mouth and made faces. Thing is, I liked the taste and of course, I couldn’t admit that. So I ate the chili and mom said nothing, they just carried on with the regular table talk, while I shoveled the chili into my mouth, pretending I hated it. Next time it was served I took my bowl and nobody said a word about it, as if it never happened. No rubbing my nose in it, no nothing.

  16. One of these days, remind me to tell you all how my parents taught me how the marketplace works. Better than a college course!

  17. Karen, what an awesome grandmother you had!

    Hahah on the coal, Sophie. Very resourceful.

    I was watching another one of these videos when picking this one out, and one guy told the story of how he was ten years old and miners paid him a dime to run down the shaft and light the blasting cap and run out of the hole before the explosion. He did this religiously until his father found out and beat the crap out of him for risking his life.

    A good reminder of why we have child labor laws to take seriously. Hear that, Walmart, you bastards?

  18. One smart Lady Upps 🙂 A lot like my Grandma . 🙂

  19. Being raised dirt poor and alone in this world I am very saving I do a lot of those things

    ..and you do appear to be living proof that struggle can build character.

  20. Say what you will about Utah, but she is spot-on! These are foods the raised in her own garden, that she “processed” in her own manner, and can enjoy though the dark days of winter. God help those with Del Monte and Libby’s. They could have GMOs inside or a dose of pesticides that passes your personal threshold. They have preservatives and colorings inside that you cannot pronounce. The food is anonymous! (Not to mention that Utahwoman could indeed be snowbound for weeks on end!)

  21. Hush up, Sophie, you’ll get her going!

  22. foxy, I am NOT your grandma. you are much older than me. Because I say so. Heh.

  23. My grandmother also had a drawer with a bazillion accordion-fold rain hats!

  24. HAHAHA rain hats.

  25. Uppity Woman, on January 28, 2013 at 11:19 AM said:

    foxy, I am NOT your grandma. you are much older than me. Because I say so. Heh.

    I meant your Mother Darlin. Not you. 😆
    We all know you are still young and beautiful one might even say a tad Uppity. 😆

  26. I am a character alright. 😆

  27. SophieCT, on January 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM said:

    My grandmother also had a drawer with a bazillion accordion-fold rain hats!
    I have a box full of buttons. 🙂

  28. Upps you could be my Granddaughter. 🙂

  29. No, but is critical that we legalize 11 million people who are not where they should be because we owe them so much. Barf. That is what makes a third world nation, no respect for the law, If enough people break the law, then it is null and void. I am sorry that there are social problems in other parts of the world, but that does not mean the American middle class foot the bill for the slave labor American companies want. My husband came here legally, my sister-in-law came here legally, my cousins’ spouses came here legally. I guess that makes us fools.

  30. Oh good, foxy. Whew! My mother was simply a priceless woman. You have no idea. And I got my Uppity from her.

    Don’t knock those buttons! If they are in sets they do well on ebay.

    My mother always cut the buttons off of clothing that was being discarded too!

  31. My what a wonderfully nostalgic, entertaining and informative thread this has turned out to be.

  32. My grandmother did the button thing. I have a box of buttons, but not from clothes I threw out. These came in a little “drug baggie” with clothes I bought. I likely don’t have many of these clothing articles anymore, but I do have the replacement buttons!

  33. Yeah the Extra buttons. We all collect them. Then we forget where they go. So we keep them. Long after the clothing is gone. Forever. For our descendents to talk about on a blog one day.

  34. Before I go brave the cold and ice pellets, I was wondering……….

    if anyone noticed in that docu video …..the similarities in government attitudes to today, and any differences. Because is sure did.

  35. Uppity: I watched the whole documentary on the Great Depression a couple of times this past year – along with the documentary series on the Dust Bowl Era of the 1930s – that immediately followed the Great Depression.

    The Dust Bowl Era paralleled the Great Depression (beginning in 1931)- and didn’t end, itself, until 1939 – lasting a whole decade and only compounding the effects of the Great Depression.

    They finally figured out that the new mechanized “plow-based” farming techniques of millions of acres of high-plains, drought-resistant grasslands was the culprit behind what people thought was beginning of the end of the world:

    With the help of mechanized farming, farmers produced record crops during the 1931 season. However, overproduction of wheat coupled with the Great Depression led to severely reduce­d market prices. The wheat market was flooded, and people were too poor to buy. Farmers were unable to earn back their production costs and expanded their fields in an effort to turn a profit — they covered the prairie with wheat in place of the natural drought-resistant grasses and left any unused fields bare.

    But plow-based farming in this re­gion cultivated an unexpected yield: the loss of fertile topsoil that literally blew away in the winds, leaving the land vulnerable to drought and inhospitable for growing crops. In a brutal twist of fate, the rains stopped. By 1932, 14 dust storms, known as black blizzards were reported, and in just one year, the number increased to nearly 40.

    Millions of people fled the region. The government enacted aid programs to help, but it wasn’t until 1939 when the rain returned that relief came.

    “The great migration” of millions to California looking for work had either lost their homes and farms to foreclosure or abandoned them because they were literally starving and suffering malnutrition and/or getting sick – with over 7000 dying – from what became known as “dust pneumonia.”

    Ken Burns’ documentary: the Dust Bowl is epic – and tells the story of that whole era of endurance – of the unimaginable hardships and of the human spirit.

    I’m posting the following because the TWO events go hand in hand and you may want to use some of the Dust Bowl info for some of the posts you are planning for us.

    Thank you for this – I was deeply moved, again, while reading your post and personal stories of the readers I feel like I sort of “know” today.

  36. I recently bought the book that accompanies the Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Dust Bowl.” That has been of interest to me because my family is California-based since the Gold Rush days and I grew up hearing stories about “Oakies” and “Arkies” invading CA. They were not welcome there. What a tradgedy and I’m glad to see Burns’ shine some light on it now.

    Can’t wait to watch the other video on the Depression when I have time this evening. One of my favorite places in DC is the FDR monument. Part of the monument deals with breadlines. We have troubles now, but not like that.

  37. Here’s an article I found a few weeks ago showing the history of the US debt in one chart from 1790 to 2011. While we need to get control of our debt, we’ve been in worse shaped, according to this chart. The Depression and WWII were the worst times.

  38. On a personal note – like so many families during the depression and dust bowl era who had no choice but to send their children to live with relatives or place them in homes – my great grandfather died from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1917.

    My great-grandmother not only lost their farm – but had to place my grandmother and her five, younger siblings (the youngest was two) in an orphanage.

    I could tell you some stories about my grandmother – but, I’ll just summarize it to this one: She left the orphanage when she was sixteen years old and went back less than a year later and retrieved her younger siblings – raised them well – and was one hell of survivor through the depression – carrying sacks of grapefruit and the likes (at 4′ 10″) to sell in her fruit stand – saving 1/2 of every cent in profit she made….

    Years later, (although my grandfather – an immigrant from New York – was a very successful electrician) Aggie was well-known for being frugal (“having 1/2 of the first nickel she ever made”) in her lovely, pristine neighborhood…

    – for digging through people’s nicely stacked paper grocery bags of “trash” – and “recycling” everything from men’ trousers and shirts – turning them into her own style of “Capris” – to newspapers and other items she could re-sell and laugh all the way to the bank.

    – and, for always looking out for her neighbors, especially the older ones – being the first one to the door with food, running errands, etc., if someone was ill or in need.

    My grandfather? A prince of a man, who worshiped the ground she walked on and proudly let everyone know that SHE ran the show and wore the pants in the house – literally. lol.

  39. Why NOt, you’re a bit ahead of me. I will be doing more of these videos, in small doses, though.

  40. Why Not, I loved your story but…

    my grandfather – an immigrant from New York

    Is NY a foreign country now?! 😉

  41. We’re having some wicked winter weather here, sounds like sophie is too. I had to go run an errand and got riddled with ice pellets from the sky. It’s concurrently snowing, and not very cold, (20 degrees, which isn’t all that cold to us!) thus the ice pellets. The roads are Bumper Car quality and there are accidents everywhere. I had a few more errands, but opted to get my ass back home before my luck ran out. Tonight this will all freeze in sheets and I pity the persons on the road early tomorrow morning.

  42. Is NY a foreign country now?!

    To some states it is!

  43. And I just find Hugo in spam. Bill is in a bad mood.

  44. Hugo I will be putting up the Depression video on FDR next.

    Maybe I will do it tomorrow, even though I promised a break between them. I hope you folks won’t mind.

  45. OT but a most interesting piece of trivia. Do you know how Harrison Ford became an actor? He was a carpenter and landed a job making cabinets for a small time producer names George Lucas. Lucas took a liking to him and gave him a bit part in American Graffiti. The rest is history.

  46. Pray the power holds. That ice on the lines is the pits. 😯

  47. LOL! His family immigrated TO New York – then they all “immigrated” to CAJUN COUNTRY. lol.

  48. Oh. Sorry about that, Uppity. I guess I rushed it because I kind of cried through the whole thing last year ALONE and now reading it again with your take… and hearing other personal stories on here… is really cool… so much better.

    (I’ll quit with the …. “Teacher Teacher! Look what I can do!!!” lol.)

  49. I was a baby during the depression and remember being told as I grew up to “Use it up, wear it out. Make it do or do without.”

    No for an OT to raise the mood. Wish I had one of these —

  50. Ok. I’m changing my mind and going out on the limb with a solid prediction.

    Barring no further health issues, she’s going for it in 2016.

  51. “Do I have to mow the yard today after school?! I’ll have homework!”

    “I remember when we had to go out into the fields and pick cotton, after walking 5 miles to and from school, every afternoon – and then do our homework, too. If I could hold a pencil and do my homework after picking cotton, you can talk on the phone and act like you’re doing yours, after mowing the yard.”

  52. LOL Why Not. Now empty the wastebaskets and clean the blackboards. And don’t forget to clap the erasers and breathe in all that nice chalk.

  53. Thanks, Uppity. Can’t wait to see that video too. In fact, I think all people with jobs need to re-visit what the Depression looked like. I live in an arch-conservative pocket in a very liberal state. My local people cry big tears about the state of our economy, but any day of the week, we’re all out riding in our monster SUVs on our way to get all liquored up or get a fatter ass at one of a number of new restaurants. And I keep asking, “What are we whining about?”

  54. Exactly Hugo. That’s how I felt when I saw these videos. I was like what’s my problem? And I see people behaving like the sky is falling and their stomachs are full, they have a roof and have a job and health insurance and pretty much things that the people in a real depression can only PRAY for. So i am adjusting my attitude, not only because I should ashamed of myself but because it’s just not healthy to fester over what you don’t have when you have so much more than you think you do.

  55. Our standard of living is a big factor too. We all think the essential include a smart phone with a big data package, cable tv with DVR; a good HVAC system, and bodacious sneakers. Pretty high standard and nothing like the real essentials–bread, coal, walking shoes. Admittedly. there are Americans who need help, but most of us are just spoiled.

  56. New post up on how the crash happened and how you will recognize that some things just haven’t changed.

  57. Caused by the bankers and darlings of Wall Street then as now. I think we need to re-evaluate the meaning of the phrase “the smartest people in the room.”

    Government just as stupid then as now. Imagine giving seeds to people when they just lost their livelihood to drought!

    I am appalled at how MacArthur treated the “occupiers.” A little foreshadowing of his career of defying Presidents. I am also appalled that men in the military fired upon veterans.

    Not everyone in our depression has a full stomach, a roof over their heads, and health insurance. And half the country begrudges those who do get that “on their dime.” Despite the few that abuse the system, most people getting assistance would rather be working.

  58. I watched the vid last night. All I could think about is what happened then and what the potential is now. Very scary. Great pic on that vid because some do not know that history at all.

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