|Jun 23 2012|
"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...Who, Fish?!"
Part I of II
( Part II to follow, tomorrow )
To my very, dearest, and most precious friends, and ever patient, and loyal readers,
My late father was an avid, outdoor sportsman for much of his life, until age, and illness forced him to stop; during the ‘Great Depression', both he and a brother would go out into the woods, shooting wild turkeys, birds, and squirrels, and rabbits, all of which were dutifully brought home to his mother to find a necessary place in the family cooking pot.
And, for all of you who view such activities as somehow, ‘anti-animal rights', please for a moment, if you can to recall, that these were very hard times, indeed; and ANY extra food that could be procured helped save the family from starving.
And in today's lousy economy, where bills and income, and foreclosures and mounting debt, many of the things my grandparents did, would-if applied today-would go a long way towards our present survival, and return to monetary responsibility.
And while-for a moment-this is completely off the rails of what I intended-as subject-to speak to you about, I will gladly share some of their survival mechanisms that helped them not only through the ‘Great Depression', but beyond, into the war years. And we would be, I believe-as representatives of a diminishing ‘Middle Class'--better off and, in consequence, better able to survive these black days that seem to stretch endlessly in front of us.
1) My grandparents converted their entire back yard into a vegetable garden; as each child in the family became old-enough to do so, they were assigned tasks of watering, weeding, and harvesting the vegetables as they ripened.
2) Since my father was the eldest son, quite often, he labored alongside my grandfather, and, whatever money they earned that day was given to my grandmother to run the house.
3) The ‘family car' stayed parked in the garage, as everybody walked to work, or hitched rides on trucks; the only time the family car was used, was to take the family to church on Sunday. And, on rare occasions when there might have been a little extra money in the house, sometimes after church, my grandfather would take the family out of town to a particular, Amish-run restaurant for lunch.
4) Baths were taken once a week on Saturday night in an old, aluminum tub, large-enough to sit in; their supply of hot water came from the side-mounted reservoir on their wood-burning cook stove. Each child, by age was thus bathed, so if you were ‘first', you got a tub of hot, soapy water, which-of course-became increasingly cold and dirty, even with the sometimes addition of hot water from the cook stove. So...child #6, to be bathed, got a regular, rotten deal, as you can well-imagine.
5) My grandparent's house was like a revolving door for many of my grandmother's relatives. So, the household was composed of six children, two adults, and my grandmother's mother (a woman of indeterminate age called Susie), for whom was kept a giant bottle of whiskey, that she referred to as her ‘medicine' in a cabinet, in the living room, and who got from my grandfather one, giant spoonful a night, which always made Susie ‘feel' so much better!
There also was my grandmother's brother, Uncle Harry, who, despite having NO teeth, nevertheless would get into the family apple barrel in the basement, and eat apples, practically core and stem, and all, and who would-at times-make my grandfather most unhappy. My dear grandfather, who would not mince a single word, would yell, "Harold...stay the goddamned hell out of the apples!" Just how effective this dictum was is unknown, but my grandfather was a huge, bear of a man who took shit from absolutely no one, a trait, I think, my own father fully inherited.
At one time, my mother's Aunt stayed with them; her talent was (for any of you old enough to remember it!) to play the piano at a local theater, in hopes of adding emotive qualities to the silent films that were playing.
6) Everybody did whatever they could to live and ‘make due'. An elderly woman who lived down the street made candy, to sell to the kids. My grandmother at one time, took in washing, and fine embroidery work, for the still-rich people in town. And (since among other things, my grandfather was a butcher), anytime that someone had a pig, or a cow that needed to be slaughtered, my grandfather would do it, in exchange for a portion of the meat.
7) My grandmother canned enough vegetables to last the Winter, whose jars were lined up in the basement. Can you possibly imagine just how hot that wood burning stove made the kitchen through the summer?
8) Meanwhile, my grandfather brewed his own beer, and made dandelion wine from the press that the kids periodically added to.
9) Their refrigerator was a giant, zinc-lined box, in which perishable foods were kept cold by the ice the town's iceman, delivered from a horse-drawn wagon; as the kids gathered around him, he would shave off little pieces of ice for them...a special treat in summertime.
10) My dear grandmother, and her mother made ‘hand-me-down' clothes for the girls, and ‘darned socks' until each sock looked like a little mass of train-track marks.
11) Nothing...and I mean nothing was ever thrown away. When, in due time, clothes were unrepairable, they became cleaning rags. And when THESE wore out, they were given to an old man with a pushcart, who collected rags in exchange for sharpening knives and scissors.
12) Shoes were always an expensive commodity; if a hole was discovered in the sole of the shoes, they were packed down, and covered with cardboard, until, also ‘hand-me-down' shoes could be purchased.
13) Everyone struggled during a Depression that lasted from before 1929, until-really-after WWII was declared. So, having ‘done without' for so many years, ‘rationing' was easy enough to do.
14) In addition, my grandfather worked as a chauffeur for a rich banker that lived in ‘mansion Ville'; it was my grandfather's task to take the banker's family out to the country to go to a pricey, weekend lunch. As part payment, the banker let my grandfather take my dad along with them, and also treated them to lunch (of course, sitting far away from the banker and his family)!
In those, far-ago days, their lunches paid for them, I shall never forget my dad telling me that his father would learn over, and whisper to him, "No matter whether you may like the lunch or not...to always eat the meat, Bud, "always eat the meat." I now suspect that it was an admonition, to ‘eat the meat' for its protein value.
And, while no one had anything, so that the added protein value of a paid-for lunch was of mentionable importance, it is also an object lesson, sometimes, of who lives in such times, and who doesn't, for ironically, during the heigth of the Depression, when banks were being closed, that it was this very same banker who later leapt from an upper office window to his death.
By now, my most dear, and precious friends, I have-by now-gone so far astray of my original topic, so that I shall have to divide it up into parts I and II, is is-nevertheless-a character study into the minds of both my dad AND mom, that I thought that it needing explaining.
It was-of course-a lengthy period of time in which, perhaps 98% of the general populace was desperately poor...but, that they somehow survived. My grandfather turned his backyard into a vegetable garden; the neighbors, next door, kept pigs in a sty at the end of their backyard (and, what a sweet, mid-summer smell drifted over to my grandfather's house!).
I guess the important points elucidated here, particularly in present times that monetarily are not much different from theirs, is that they took certain, common sense measures, and so, as bad as the ‘Great Depression' got, kept their families together. They always had shelter, and enough to eat.
Now granted, times change. People and places change. Situations change.
But if only we could adopt their persevering mindset, we would go further to remedy our own, current bleak situations.
While I am not in any way suggesting that everyone take baths from a single tub on Saturday nights, we could-if forced to-probably use our cars less. And while too much of America is presently in such dire straits, keeping the family safe, under shelter, and well-fed, may prove less hard to do.
For, although everyone that still makes up what is left of the so-called ‘Middle-Class' today is broke, with many health issues, and unsecured debt up to the eyebrows, still...everyone has a talent. Some can sew. Some can paint (as in houses); some can even rotate baby-sitting, or mowing lawns. I'd very much like to see the ‘barter system' come back with a will, with say, electric, or plumbing work, done in exchange for like labor, or services, or even food. Start an ‘open pantry' on a table in your living room. And should I, for example, need a pound of coffee, I could trade it for the pound of sugar, and pound of butter I DO have.
If done among neighbors, it would save on having to drive to the grocery store, waste gas and time, when maybe you just happen to have an extra pound of coffee.
For those who like to hunt and/or fish, I'm sure there would be a regular, sustainable market in trading them for other food or services. We already have a model for success, if we only but look to our history.
And while it is so easy to bitch, moan, and complain, and to especially apportion blame to others: bankers, lawyers, government, and failed, corporate America, and certainly they have done more than their share of economic and social damage to the Country, please keep in mind that they were not alone in this present, deplorable state we find ourselves in.
It took millions of our fellow Americans, each armed with a teaspoon, to help dig the enormous grave we now find ourselves in.
How many times, were mortgages granted to those who could never pay them? How much student loan was applied for, with NO intention of ever paying it back? I even ask you to kindly look within your own wallets. How much unsecured debt do you have, that even trying to pay the minimum each month is a ‘roll-of-the-dice' nightmare?
A television is fine. But, seriously, did you really NEED that 72-inch, plasma set?
Owning a cell telephone is-today-a necessity, in case of emergency. But did you need that $400.00 smart phone, with so many apps you'll never use? And a cell-phone plan that costs a couple of hundreds a month? Please try to convince me that ‘texting' is even necessary, particularly when each text may cost you something?
Since I am disabled, I applied for, and got a re-conditioned cell telephone that is free, and gives me 250 roll-over minutes a month. It is a ‘no-frills' model. And yet, one can select the background, and from TEN ring tones; I just want my telephone to sound like a telephone...that's all.
And, to be honest, I-too-am part of the dilemma, as I live (?) on SSDI, a predetermined amount each month, yet, when I got a pre-approved credit card with 0% a.p.r. the first year, after I had wisely transferred to if all of my outstanding store card's balances, went on to almost max-out the card, until now, I have to throw to it every spare dime I can get my hands on. To even envision my ever completely balancing out this credit card, will require an austerity program almost beyond what I and Daisy can 'austerely' live on.
And, STILL, there are ‘things' that I want.
Oh my dear, and sweetest friends, and ever patient, loyal readers, I have so jumped ship on my original topic, which-initially-was hoped by me to be humorous, that I fear I shall have to ‘divvy' up this diary entry into two parts.
I will keep the original title, as that was what the entry was supposed to be about...not another semi-rant. It must-in part-be due to how completely horrible I still feel, if I may presume to use that as an excuse. And, while ‘pay day' is still some twelve days away, I find that I have just $47.86 in my checking account, whose balance I check by telephone at least twice a day.
And all the while, I both pray, and cross my fingers that all the checks I have written have been processed through the account; still, $47.86 leaves me with no money to purchase any food that I might need, or ‘surprise bills' that may still come through to be paid. It becomes the dread of becoming, ‘Overdrawn', and the fees that accompany it.
And so, dear friends, please let me close for now, especially since its ‘medication time' again.
Please, please, please always know how very much I love you.
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