My grandparents and parents lived through the Great Depression. They learned valuable life lessons during their survival years. I don’t know much about my father’s family during that time, but I know some stories about my mother’s Depression years.
Grandpa was a mechanic, which gave the family a valuable skill to barter in the neighborhood. People had cars, and those cars needed servicing. My mother told me that her family had a cow, which was a highly valued commodity. The family always had milk. I think that’s why Mama loved milk so much. The family moved around Georgia several times during those lean years, but they maintained their health, their faith, and their love for one another. My mother talked of “soup,” made with ketchup and water and kettle tea (water and a little milk). I know they didn’t have much, but they all survived, and they made a difference in other people’s lives as well. Grandma insisted that they invite the hobos who came to their door in for dinner with the family. She taught her children generosity and compassion that stayed with them throughout their lives.
I didn’t learn lessons from my father’s family through stories. I learned them firsthand from my Grandmama. She taught me to save aluminum foil (tin foil in her day), to use wash cloths instead of paper towels, and to darn socks when holes shot through the toes. She also taught me to sew what you need. My father and Grandaddy taught me to fix broken stuff rather than toss and buy anew. I learned to tinker with appliances and repair faucets and lamps gone awry. If I didn’t know how to fix something, I learned from them how to research and figure it out. They all taught me to be creative in dealing with life’s problems, and those are lessons I’ve passed on to my own children.
Today’s young parents and their kids would do well to learn the lessons from the Great Depression. Waste nothing. Share all. Fix the broken. Be creative. Help others. Love your family and your neighbors. Everyone is your neighbor.
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