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Look how far we’ve come

Last week I talked about the Depression. I complimented the two women in my life who had lived through it and taught me a lot. Today I have other thoughts. I read a piece called “I Like the Depression.”

The man had this perspective on how the Depression enhanced his life.

How could someone actually like the Depression you are asking yourself? During the Depression he said he “learned how to live.” What did he mean by that? He said that he had forgotten how to live. He had forgotten what it meant to have real friends. He had forgotten what it meant to eat common everyday food.

He went on to say that he felt free. He was free to spend time in a store without worrying about wasting valuable time. He could visit all he wanted to.

Now he had time for his neighbors. He was getting reacquainted. He was following the admonition to “love your neighbors.” He enjoyed doing the simple things once again. He had time to butcher hogs. He had time to tend the cows. He had time to play with his children and grandchildren. He had time to relax.

His time was spent at home since he did not have the means to do much else. Partying was out except for the family picnics and the neighborhood get togethers. Everyone shared what they had at a potluck supper.

He noted that he thought he fell in love with his wife once again. He had been taking her for granted. Now he relished her company – she was the only one who was around. He said, “I’m pretty well satisfied with my wife and I think I will keep her.”

Another benefit of the Depression was he was getting more exercise. He was walking a lot and riding his bike. Neither of these things took the fuel that was so precious during those difficult days. Neither of these things were expensive to do.

He relished the simple meals that his wife cooked for the family. Her cooking was not fancy, but it was filling. She used the things from her garden. She used things that she had preserved. Sometimes supper was bread with jam. Sometimes it was cinnamon toast. Sometimes she put together a pot of soup with the vegetables out of the garden. Since they lived in the country there was always something to put on the table. They could hunt and fish. That provided the protein for their meal.

During the Depression the man found that he had time to go to church. Farmers were always working so their time was precious. Now he had the time to attend church and concentrate on the sermon instead of falling asleep when the reverend was preaching.

My husband told me that he ate a lot of oatmeal when he was growing up. It was cheap and it was plentiful. For breakfast they ate it like cereal with milk and some sweetener of some kind – sugar or honey. For supper they ate it as the main course with butter and salt and pepper.

My mother-in-law used to tell about how she stretched things so they could have sandwiches. The filling was often leeks with garden lettuce or some chow-chow that she made. They raised their own meat or hunted for it. Sometimes dinner was a bread and butter sandwich.

I cannot relate to this because I always had enough to eat. Grandma would cut up bananas to make them go further. Two bananas would feed the family as long as you added milk and sugar. I always wished that I could just have a banana to eat but that was never the case. I remember frying the potatoes that were leftover from the boiled potatoes that we had for dinner. They had to feed four of us. A can of soup fed four of us – I guess we just ate smaller bowls. I never left the table hungry though.

The generation that has grown up with plenty does not know how to make things go around. They never had to live that way. Maybe this was their wake-up call.

We did not have pizza. We did not have chicken nuggets. We did not have lunch meat. We had bread and butter – some of it was homemade. We did not have a lot of snack foods either. Potato chips were a treat.

We did not all have a phone of our own. There was a phone with a dial that you spun around to call someone. You were tethered to wherever your phone was. There was one car per family if you were lucky. For years my mother walked back and forth to work and it was nearly a mile each way.

Home was a comforting place where the family resided. We did not heat the upstairs. It was cold but we survived. We just piled on a whole lot more blankets. Fuel was wood or coal. You did not just turn up the dial to get heat.

Were we deprived when we grew up? I really do not know. It was just how things were. My friends all lived the same way. Our ancestors knew how to make things work for the good of the family. What at that time would have been luxuries, have become necessities for today’s generation.

Just a little thing for you to ponder for a while. I believe that we can all live with less. We just have to garden, hunt, and fish. We have to go back to some of the old ways. We also have to reuse and recycle.

Think about it. There would probably be a whole lot less garbage too. This throw-away society has to come to an end. We are running out of space to put our garbage.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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