HOW DID PEOPLE SURVIVE THE GREAT DEPRESSION???
Despite the varieties of problems finding "good stuff" at the GLP forum site ( see thread here ) I still go there sometimes to find the odd gem or two. One gets better over time at ignoring the nonsense stuff and although there's a high percents of "juveniles" there are also some good serious people too. Occasionally there's a whole interesting thread, like the one below, that remains largely unmolested by the "cleverness contests" and one-liners. Sometimes the tedium of sifting pays off, so I still consider it a worthwhile site.
What follows is a selection of comments under the heading "How did people survive the Great Depression?" which I thought would be of interest to readers here. Feel free to send in you own additions and I will add them here. My parents grew up in the Depression days so I heard a lot about it when growing up.
The top of the actual thread is here (over there):
HOW DID PEOPLE SURVIVE THE GREAT DEPRESSION???
ANY IDEAS HOW PEOPLE DID IT ? WHERE DID THEY LIVE WHAT DID THEY EAT???HOW THEY MADE IT?
Re: HOW DID PEOPLE SURVIVE THE GREAT DEPRESSION???
I've wondered that also. I guess there were some jobs.
My grandfather worked on the railroad and people would come by their house asking if they could work for a meal. My grand parents never turned anyone away. They had them do small jobs around the house and then my grandparents would sit down with them and give them a good meal.
Back then people had integrity and family values. Nowadays I am not so sure. Me thinks it will get ugly. People want to take from each other and not band together and help each other. That is the whole problem. No unity.
In the 30s more than 60% of the people in America lived on small family farms. My Mother said that they really didn't see much change during those years. Life was always hard but they had what they needed. I,d suggest that as many of you as possible try to figure out how you can get together with others to do community gardening.
My grandparents said that families moved in with each other, with grandparents, parents and adult children and their children living in same house as room permitted. They lived in a city but the cities weren't all asphalt & cement then. And there was bare land between many of the cities with small farms to barter or buy things from.
They had a large depression garden and they kept a few chickens and rabbits, etc. There were short-term jobs (like for a day or two) and usually at least one adult from the household would be able to get some cash ahead every week or two.
The older adults owned the house so no house payment which was not uncommon then. Expenses were different - no big house payments, insurance payments, car payments, credit cards, etc.
Nowadays it would be harder to survive - at least for those in the cities. Plus families don't seem to be as close now as they were then.
In the 30s lding all the we had a bit of freedom,That is we associated with who we pleased and was not a war[r]ing nation.
We were poor from the bank keeping money out of circulation In South Texas we lived off the land,We grew a garden and ate the things off the fields we could not sell as people just had no money.We had oranges and fish from the river,Poke salad grew along the canel banks and there were frogs who's legs we could eat.Chickens were kept in a coop.Friers we ate on Sundays.with dumplings .Three layed cakes were made with chocolate frostings,Home made ice cream from a hand turned crank. as we had no electricty,bringing ice in a block from town with ice cream salt to make it colder
Toilet paper was a sears catalog We played cards and chinese checkers,Told ghost stories and sang songs,Played games in the yard after dark,studied our school lessons with a kerosene lamp.and cooked with one,
My Grandmother and me walked to the neighbors on Saturdays to hear the Grand old opera,as [th]ey were the only ones with a radio, Truck drivers were the heros of the day, and pretty girl dressed as they did. I wanted to become an airplane pilot as they made $200 a month We listened to Roosevelt's lies and he got us into the war by putting an embargo on Japan after they signed the Tri Lateral treaty with Italy and Germany, which saved Communism
My grandma mentioned some things she saw and went through during the great depression.
They lived near the river and every day the banks were crowded with people fishing. It was crowded day and night, both winter and summer. People would walk for miles up and down the banks looking for the schools of fish that got harder and harder to find.
Deer disappeared. The farmers and hobos shot them clean out by the second year of the depression.
At night, all the farmers fields filled with people stealing what little crop was left after the harvest.
They focused on survival instead of self-gratification. Also, back then, there was a MUCH larger percent of people who were living on self-sustaining farms.
They lived with many people in the same house, and usually the house was bought and paid for. Not a lot of people even considered owning a car...it wasn't until after WWII that people started buying cars en masse. Expenses were a lot less.
People used hand-me-down clothes. I remember my Grandma was very good at re-making clothes...she would take an old coat and turn it into a child's coat, or remake one child's old dress into a completely different dress. I still have her old Singer sewing machine :)
Food was stretched by making soup out of it. Lots of potatoes, little meat. They baked from scratch.
I was born in 1948, but I still remember how frugal my Grandma was, and my parents too. My parents are still frugal...not like we baby boomers who grew up in the throw-away society.
They were better people then...most were skilled in many practical fields unlike the overspecialized cubicle rats of today...even those in the cities knew how to garden and many gardens sprang up in vacant lots...compare them to the metrosexuals today and thats the reason things will get out of hand...the first day the welfare checks bounce in the hood will show what kind of people a nanny state produces...good luck to all...
Back then most of America was still rural. Still a lot of people who grew their own food.
Those in cities usually ended up with the women folk moving back in with the parents (who actually did own their own homes not having banks own them and endless years of payments) or the family would all rent a very small place.
The Menfolk became hobos - sort of like the homeless of today - except these where honest men who were looking to earn an honest dime - they would go from town to town looking for work, either by train or by foot.
Women would do piece work, aka take in laundry, become house cleaners and of course took care of the youngun's and what not.
Middle class was much smaller - you had working poor and rich. The rich were the hardest hit. The poor barely noticed and those who were in the middle class quickly became working poor.
My family was already poor when the depression hit. They didn't have electricity or running water. They grew their own food. Water was carried from the creek or well. They cooked on wood cook stoves. They raised their own pigs and chickens, and had a mule for transportation. So they were already used to living that way and it didn't effect them as much as it did those living in the city.
Like the song "Song of the South" by Alabama, "Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn't tell."
Interesting, my Dad talked about lard and bacon grease sandwiches. My Grandfather told me that he was unable to generate enough money living in the city to feed and clothe and house his family. He moved to a farm so they had their own home raised meat and milk from their livestock along with a huge garden for vegetables. Even when I was a child we still spent half our summer putting up vegetables and other produce we raised for the winter. We always had a freezer filled with beef and pork. Now I live on the farm and have a garden for fresh vegetables, but do no canning or freezeing of anything for the winter. I am a crop farmer and halve no livestock either. Unfortunately I live like city folk and go to the store for most of my supplies. Looks like I better get some of my grandparents and parents old recipe books out and learn how to can and freeze supplies for the winter. Maybe I should buy some livestock too, eh!
hordes of hobos roamed the country looking for work and food. This time there will be Revolution
Having come a country with real issues, violence and poverty, I have to say that US folks are so soft and unused to the idea of 'having to fend for themselves' - that I'd guess any real glitch in the 'normal reality' will cause widespread panic and chaos.
When there's abruptly no food in the stores, and/or no money (because the banks have closed down the credit cards/debit cards) and no fuel to go riding around for any reason..
this society will grind to a halt..
You really think the immensely overfed people you see everywhere (66% of the population) - are going to be able to get a backpack and go walking for the required 10 or 50 miles, in search of food?
Folks will sit and starve, and eventually, I'd imagine, waddle down to where ever the patrolling loudspeakers ontop of the police cars, tell them to go to..
US people are soft, and unused to hard living, or violence, or self sufficiency.
The folks during the great Depression, were of stronger stuff than the current population.
My grandmother grew up on a farm during the depression. They grew their food and bums would stop by and work for food. They were never allowed in the house, but they slept in the barn. They were a fortunate family because they had apples, pears, corn, wheat, soy beans, and cattle.
My grandfather on the other hand, they'd usually eat wild berries. His father was a smuggler during prohibition in the USA. His father operated the St. Clair River smuggling operation to Marine City, Michigan from Courtright, Ontario. Their family earned cash that way.
I own land and have gun can hunt, We built our house ourselves and paid for it as we built it. We learned from our parents. My father processed all our beef pork and chicken himself and cured it himself . I learned food preservation. And the most important thing we are not afraid to get dirty, blisters or work till we drop. Sadly today a large number of people rely on stores to get what they need. If they cant buy it they dont have a clue.
Canada was one of the worst hit countries during the depression. People couldn't afford gas for their Model-T's so they hitched them to horses and called them "Bennett Buggies" (after Prime Minister R.B.Bennett.)
Hobos marched on Ottawa and rode the rails. Some of our nicest riverside parks today were once "Hobo Jungles". The social services in the "jungles" were organized by the anarchist IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World or "wobblies".
Nevertheless, for some in Northern Canada, the Depression was a boom time. With deflation, gold mining became very profitable. Every high grade vein that broke out on surface merited a shaft being sunk and a little bush camp and mill going up alongside it.
Fortunes were made on the Vancouver stock exchange.
The city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories was founded in the Depression. The miners and their families lived in tents in -40 winters. The children crowded into a 16'x16' log cabin where Miss Mildred Hall taught all ages their 3 'R's.
It was the era of the float plane. Vast area that had previously been inaccessible were now a mere day's travel in Canadian made DeHavilland aircraft.
I LIVED it, as a child of five, by 1933.
We were in a small town in Fairfield county, CT. There were still a number of farms, and almost everyone had a garden on their land ( of about an acre or more ) . Home from school ment a number of chores for my older brother and I. Hoeing out the weeds, hoeing UP the corn, feeding the chickens, rabbits and ducks.
In the fall, dad would take us to the deep woods to pick up hickory nuts ... FUN ! Cracking them late, by the hour, NOT fun ! QWe had 21 apple trees, and after spraying them in the spring/summer with arsenic of lead (one punping, one spraying ), we were also put to going through ALL the baskets of apples to weed out any rotten/turning so.
But, by the time I was seven, I was hunting and learning to trap muskrats in the streems. By the time I was nine, I came home from school, and with chores done, I took the twenty two rifle and hunted squirrel ( Sp ?), by walking down the main road for 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile before picking a spot to go into the woods.
There were NO police/swat teams to meet me when I came home. Eveyone one in the neighborhood KNEW who my father was AND that I had been taugh the responsible handling of guns.
At least 1/3 of Americans did NOT live on farms or in rural areas; it's not as if Chicago, NY, et al just sprang up after WWII.
And the U.S. (especially in those urban areas) was busy absorbing European, and especially East European, immigrants -- due to the tail end of the big immigration boom, plus the global Depression.
Since I'm steeped in NYC history, and my family lived through it all:
It was NOT a Golden Age of Brotherhood.
There were crooks, slackers, gangs, thieves, and ripoff artists; "nice" people brewing illegal-toxic liquor in the basement, or getting odd jobs with neighborhood crooks, or selling things that fell of a truck; and dirt-poor new or recent immigrants with culture-clash problems (assorted Old World bigotries, language problems, and difficulties with sanitation, indoor plumbing, and American customs).
But people pulled through for very non-mystical reasons. Mostly, it's that a then-non-techie society ALLOWED people to do more to get out of a hole.
-- Most used coal for heating. So they weren't in the gas/electric co's total grip: If things got rough, they sent their kids to railroad tracks and trainyards to pick up coal that dropped from the cars.
Some of my relatives remember those trains' all-black coal-car crews: When those guys saw "poor kids" scrounging for coal at trackside, they'd wave and heave some big shovelsful of coal down for the kids.
-- People could raise chickens, rabbits, etc (even in cities) for food, or have communal veg gardens. Today, "food animals" would be a zoning violation, and there's no unclaimed gardenable space in most cities.
-- Businesses were mostly mom 'n' pop shops, so the owners had say-so, and also felt responsible for the community (even though their shoe pinched as well). They'd give people a break, pay a kid to deliver small things, hire someone to sweep -- not because they needed the help, but since they knew that just one 10-cent job could make a difference.
As a kid, my grandmother would be sent to get stale bread, for a penny, from the little local bakery. The owners were a Jewish couple from Poland, and (though their business was struggling), they did the goofiest thing: They kept "regular" prices for the better-off folks, but virtually gave the stuff away to the have-nots (and they knew who was who). Instead of giving a kid stale bread for a penny, they'd give him/her a fresh loaf -- and throw in cookies or a pastry "for your mother."
Italian and Polish butchers did similar things -- because everyone was in the same boat; no one could be high and mighty, or oblivious to the people around them.
But today, most stores are chains, or run from afar, and the staff can't just "decide" to show a little mercy.
-- Somehow, somewhere, people could find some manual labor to do: deliveries, repairs, cleaning, housepainting, window-washing, doing "home work" (sewing at home, for garment factories), bricklaying, temp construction jobs, road crew, door-to-door sales, newspaper presses ... ANYTHING.
But those jobs don't EXIST today: They're handled by private companies, contractors, or unions; and "home work" is illegal.
And frankly, most people today
(a) would regard those jobs as beneath them, and
(b) couldn't do them right anyway, since we've lost the labor/tool "reflex." We're too used to pushing paper, or sitting at keyboards. Most people can't even change a drill bit or a vacuum-cleaner bag with any intelligence -- much less ad-lib their way through an unfamiliar laboring job.
-- It was "normal" for kids to not graduate from high school -- due to the era, the abundance of blue-collar jobs, lax labor laws, and the immigrant groups who still viewed secondary-ed as a luxury. (Anyone who graduated from high school in the Depression was NOT awfully bad off. Anyone who went to college -- !!! -- was either truly privileged, or came from a family that was REALLY willing to suffer, and placing all of its bets on the kid's education.) So you'd have 16-year-old kids working full-time in some factory, or pasting together several PT jobs, to help out the family.
-- ADULTS WERE GROWNUPS. Even KIDS were grownups -- so teens could be TRUSTED with all those adult-type jobs. Life was tough, but you had some responsibility for someone(s) other than yourself. You didn't quit when things stopped being "fun," or say "eww!" and have a hissyfit, because no one around you did that, either.
The only people exempt from this Code of Responsibility were (a) the mentally ill; or (b) totally hopeless pathetic losers (since it was a waste of breath to nag them), whom you pitied and ignored. But today, it's as if most adults want to be rich/hunky/gorgeous kids, and all kids just want to be "famous."
-- They cut to the chase: survival. Whatever their bigotries, people LEARNED to get along, HAD to get out of their own "ghettos," and learned that other groups/religions/ethnicities weren't all that weird ... and were in the same boat.
As kids, my very-white-Euro grandparents routinely ate Sunday supper in the local black-pentecostal church: Throughout the Depression, the church hosted free suppers for all, with no "preaching." They made a point of being fancy (with napkins and flowers), so that the "guests" felt respected, not "poor."
The local synagogue had a food pantry and baked-goods breakfasts -- for all. The Italian, Polish, and German social clubs had free-food block parties. And when people were in dire straits, with rent in arrears, neighbors held rent parties -- blocked off the street, played music, danced, and had people put something in the hat to help a family avoid eviction.
-- Many immigrants, or first-generation Americans, KNEW that their survival was up to themelves ... because they were broke newbies, at the bottom of everyone's totem pole, had experienced real hardship/discrimination in the places they came from, and knew that "established" Americans and WASPs didn't give a s--t about them, and regarded many of them as vermin. They knew that life wasn't a happy-ending movie, real s--t happens, and if they didn't do something, they'd be roadkill.
-- They had communities. People in the same boat (regardless of ethnicity-religion-etc.) would help each other out ... by taking turns watching each others' kids, or feeding them lunch or dinner, so the parents could work. Today, we're so mobile (and paranoid) that we barely know if we HAVE neighbors, until they sue us or get arrested.
So it wasn't magic, and people weren't any more ethical, religious, moral, etc. than they are now. But they WERE more grown up: They didn't whine, point fingers, blame everyone else, sit in some private bubble, live totally in their heads, or think that all would turn out OK if they repeated some mantra or believed they could fly or mentally created their own reality. They lived right smack-dab in the real world.
my grand parents said those living in the country that were ALREADY growing a lot of their food, survived, though they had NO MONEY for shoes and clothes.
SHOES SHOES SHOES BOOTS
BOOTS! they need footwear...
and they grew their own food.
My Grandfather on my dad's side made out like a bandit in the depression, as he had dairy cattle and land to grow all his own grains... and because he was generating MONEY from the sale of milk, they bought MORE LAND...
so get some sort of job/product that EVERYONE NEEDS, even in hard times, and you will be able to generate cash flow...
"herbs" and alcohol
all are valued commodities...
My great grandpa worked for the railroad and would kick coal off the train for people who needed it. My other great grandpa had bean fields and would not harvest the outer edges so the hungry could have it.
WAR WAR WAR AND MORE WAR....
industry driven by war
I heard a story about how some handled losing their farms. When it came up for auction a lot of 'fellow neighbors' would come to the sale and the bigger ones would stand beside anybody but the former owner and quietly whisper in their ear that their bid was a little high. The original owner was the one who ended up with his old land.
My parents both did [survive]. My father was the bread winner for his family at the age of 10. He sold newspapers. He worked odd jobs. He picked up dropped coal from the railroad tracks to heat his family's apartment. He never had a childhood. His father could not handle the depression. He was from money and he was not accustomed to struggling to survive. He spent time in prison and died as a bum in the back seat of an abandoned car.
My mother's father was out of work most of the depression. She remembers going apartment hunting regularly because they were behind in rent. She had holes in her shoes in the winter and always had wet feet. She never had a store bought dress until she was in her late teens. Her clothes were all made over from her aunts old ones. Her uncle, who worked for the newspaper and had regular work, would often bring them groceries so that they would not go hungry. As a kid she never learned to ride a bike because she never had one.
Both of my parents were scarred by their childhood experiences. It was not fun. They ofter went hungry. I believe that many of their health problems and their lower intelligence levels(then they should have had) was due to malnutrition as children. They were born of middle class, Yankee families. This sort of thing was not supposed to happen.
I want to say thanks to everyone who has contributed to this so far. It really is a good, informative thread. I needed to know these things.
I am one of the few teenagers know who is not a total wimp. I am soft, that much is true, but I am not a slacker like the others. My parents have taught me the value of hard work, and that there is no job beneth me.
I don't want this to happen, but we all know that it is coming in the next 4 years, which is sad. I wanted to go to college...
All the above comments I find very interesting and very hopeful and helpful (given that the the world appears to be headed for a new Great Depression). Especially important is to understand the differences between THEN and NOW. Remember, 1930 was not all that far removed from the 19th century when, indeed, people had way more survival skills.
For a long time I had not been too interested in the "survival movement" or survivalists because I never really thought things were going to get this bad, but I have done a "one-eighty." My own options are limited but I think that whoever has the means and the right situation should indeed be preparing in earnest.
The goods news is, as many above pointed out, that humans do indeed seem to help each other out when everyone is in the same kind of difficult situation. I have seen this in the poor 3rd world countries during my youthful travels, especially India. I saw that it was always the poor helping the poor, not the rich, and if someone was having a hard time their neighbors would provide a bit of rice or a small loan to get by.
It won't make much difference then who created this mess or why. Yes, it does seem that "the controllers" are now turning to the final weapons of mass destruction: food, shelter and gas. Except for gas, that is an ancient strategy for control. As animals of a sort we NEED food and water first.
The comments above also mention another point: we no longer know HOW to survive at a "dirt" level; but we have something they didn't have then: instant and far reaching communication via the Internet. People can find out from each other how to survive. They can pool their knowledge and learn fast.