Life during the 'Great Depression'

oldpea(8)January 17, 2009

All of a sudden I've become interested in how people gardened, cooked, "made do" during the "Great Depression".

A search on GW didn't turn up anything.

Anyone know some good books on this subject?

The library may have what I'm looking for, but thought I'd try here first.

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Frugal gardening forum?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 9:53PM
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I have heard a lot of stories from those who did live thru the depression but never heard of a book on the time, must be some somewhere??

It amazed me how well some people did during times so hard on some others. Times are gonna be tuff now but I dont think we will see anything such as the great depression.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 10:54PM
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My interest has nothing to do with current events.
Someone on another thread mentioned using techniques for gardening, etc. that was a carry-over from their childhood, growing up in the depression.
I've read a book detailing life on the homefront during WW2 and found it to be quite interesting.
Off to the library.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 12:06AM
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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

I always loved the Waltons.The whole family lived together & worked together.
I made my garden twice as large this season and am looking to plant more fruit trees and shrubs.I have a pond full of fish and can make a meal of fish and salad.
Someone shared the aquaponics link which is raising fish then gardening (hydroponically)in the water.
Google Aquaponics for some cool ideas.You might try visiting a nursing home and asking those who have lived through it.I love hearing my moms stories of creamed corn ladled over a slice of bread.
We have gone simple,Unplugged the sattelite TV and spending more time living life instead of watching others live it.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 3:21PM
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I,also, loved hearing stories from my mother and grandmother.
I live as simply as possible in town and have managed to have a good- sized garden right here in a neighborhood.
Other gardens have sprung up over the years and I even hear a rooster crowing early in the morning. It would really be nice to have a couple of chickens. Maybe that's next : ) Yes, the Walton's 'had it made' in some ways.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 6:17PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Look up victory gardens, for one. Canning what you grow is great, and pretty darned easy. Plant fruit trees now, either as whips that will produce in a few years, or drop a few more bucks for more mature trees. Look up what is a self-pollinator and what needs another tree of the same or similar type first though, so you can plan your garden. Also do your homework on what grows in your area and what doesn't.

Look up a technique called 'companion planting' that offers advice on what different types of plants to put next to each other. Also, square foot gardening suggests keeping down pests by breaking up your garden so you don't have, for example, rows of potato plants side by side. Instead, plant one potato in a small bed with three other different plants, some of them flowers, such as marigolds, which are naturally full of pyrethrins.

There are several other forums here and on That Home Site! (also run by the GardenWeb folks) that can be helpful.

Chickens are fantastic, and also very easy and entertaining to keep. Trading, bartering and farmers markets are all sources for food resources and information as well.

Off the subject of cooking and gardening, my grandmother would take old fabric scraps and outgrown clothing and make them into quilts, overlaying the new quilted top over an old army blanket. The scraps from the quilting project would get made into rag rugs.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 9:42PM
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From what I have read on the Depression, a much larger percentage of the population were farmers, and many of those who were not grew their own food. Both my parents' families gardens filled every available growing space on the large "city lots" where they lived. I remember that my grandfather dug pits into which he placed old rrefrigerators. He covered them with window sashes and had wonderful cold frames that with manure in the bottom could supply "greens" well into winter. My wife's parents were "real farmers" in Iowa and Oklahoma, and her dad's family lost the farm in the Dust Bowl, but managed to survive as mechanics working on other people's stuff and "following the harvest" from Texas up into Canada.
One of the items that my mothers family apparently made was "Scotch Ham". I have been unable to find anyone yet who really knows what that is/was, but according to my aunt who died at 98, it somehow involved deboning and processing an entire hog at one time. She said they seasoned the carcass and rolled it up somehow to keep it. She couldn't remember the details on how it was done. She was the middle child of 5 girls whose mother had died and whose father worked the mines in Pennsylvania and did most of the "farm" work as well.
The U.S. survived the Depression because it had so many self-sufficient people and farmers, and had heavy industry to provide jobs. We now have only a "paper" economy and services, so if another Depression comes, it will be very difficult to recover from--we will be more like Germany in the 20's and early 30's with rampant inflation and unemployment to the point of starvation. The people who had savings lost it all to inflation and the folks who were deeply in debt had their debt vanish in the inflationary spiral.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 9:59AM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

I think the way people of every nationality manage to hold it together during adversity is amazing. I remember stories of the british people raising rabbits in their yard or basements and growing veggies in small plots during the war and after all that's where the victory garden came about.

My Dad got hurt back many years ago and basically retired with little or nothing except a small farm. They sold the place in town and bought an old run down place...99 acres with house and barn... They literally raised most of their needs. When they needed money, my Dad would find an odd job or he made an odd job. One year he sold manure to all the "in town" gardeners a pick up load at a time and I also remember him selling watermelons on the side of the highway...They raised a little bit of everything to get by on, rabbits, chickens, beef and even a few pigs. They had a friend who used to plow for them with a team of horses.

People do what they have to do to get by if they have any initiative but unfortunately it seems like way too many just sit back with their hands out waiting for some one to help them.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 10:49AM
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My mother's mother made several versions of Salted Pork and one they called Scotch Ham. It could be flavored with different things and like salted pork could be stored without refrigeration. Grandma kept hers in the well pit-she kept much of her perishable food in the well pit. Milk would keep 4-5 days down there.

Grandpa worked for the railroad and they were some of the lucky ones that had a job. Even though they had money Grandma planted most of their 100 acres with vegetables and invited neighbors to help with cultivating it. In return they would all harvest, can and/or dried what was grown and it was split equally among them. That kept a lot of families together and well fed.

Grandma would tell of passerbys would put a rock on the fence post near their driveway to indicate that a meal could be had by any one that asked. Grandpa would knock it off and when not looking Grandma would put it back on the post. She said it would be shameful to let any child that the passerbys had go hungry. A very real christian woman!

Those times were filled with Grandmas like her. The women that made America the most Generous Nation Ever!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 11:00AM
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The Foxfire series of books relates many of the above comments with details on "making do." Books began in 1966 with many stories in the first person-or as witnessed by student reporters. Setting was in SE Appalachia-but my midwest origins shared many of the techniques-whether hog butchering, dowsing, or how to 'feed' twice the expected company.

Think we will see smokehouses in backyards again?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 1:48PM
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doninalaska, ruthie__g, seramas,blueberrier1,
That's what I'm talking about - stories, details!
I'll try to find the "Fox Fire" books.
I'm thankful that I garden and keep life simple, by choice, not out of necessity.
Thank you to all who responded with ideas on how to help one's self. I hope to never see the day when I would have to "pull myself up by the boot straps".

    Bookmark   January 19, 2009 at 7:52PM
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They made do.I know someone who raised a bunch of kids who saved their apple peelings in the freezer and made jelly.I made mittens for my little children from an old wool skirt.Haven't you heard"neccessity is the mother of invention"? or used bailing wire for anything?I guess hay doesn't come with bailing wire anymore.We even repaired parts of our vehicle with it or some odd piece.Nowadays everyone wastes lots of stuff that could be reused or recycled.They did not waste ANYTHING in the olden days before the depression even.They wore clothes until they were worn out and then made a quilt or comforter or unravelled the yarn and reused it.Furniture was built to last.There used to be tradesmen who repaired shoes and metal items.No more unless they are Amish.In the garden,you make compost instead of burning the leaves and use your garbage instead of putting it out for the garbage man to take.You can save some seed and plant it next year.It all takes time and work.We are all so busy running around and "being busy",we don't take the time to do the things we need to do.I guess I have said enough.Posy Pet

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 8:14PM
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Oh, with all the talk today of "Going Green", you'll probably see less waste as people get all gung ho to follow this latest fad.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 9:11PM
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I belive in people's good side. So far we mostly hear of bad news and real events did not hit majority of population hard, yet. It might be a depression in the future or it might not be. But I think if it hits, the HOA rules will be changed and gardening grassroots will be promoted from the bottom. I believe people will become more open to their neighbours, helping each other, having home day care cooperatively and such. I don't think we'll have riots and gangs everywhere, maybe in some places, but not too coommon. I think people will grow more understanding and humble than now. No more keeping up with the Joneses anymore and any such nonsense.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 11:28AM
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A few years ago my broker said people come into her office for refi loans on their homes to take the equity out for down payments for cars that have double/triple the payment of their home loans. They will have 2 or 3 vehicles that are less than 1 year old and are paying as much as $3400 in monthly car payments and complain about their $1200 house payment.

Electrolux closed it's Greenville, Mi plant-the average yearly pay was $70,000+benefits, average seniority 17 years, and many husbands and wives work there. Many of them lost their homes within 9 months of the layoff. What were they doing with all that money?? Average education of the production worker at Electrolux was 10th grade w/GED.

Now with the Retirement plans taking such a big hit in the stock market their retirement years will be bleak at best. Is the government truly at blame for their mismanagement of that kind of an income? Is it our educational system-not teaching real life information? How about their parents-for not openly including the children; as they grow-up; teaching them the hows of money management? Or is it simply themselves?

One thing for sure I notice fewer Hummers/Cadillacs in the area and more cars like the KIA being driven.

Many of the local retailers have seen large increases in the sales of garden equipment, vegetable plants and seeds. TSC has had a boom in rabbit/chicken/goat related products. Many that are still working are seeing the errors of their gluttonous spending and are getting down to the nuts and bolds of frugal economics. This may be a good lesson for the next generation if they care to learn it.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 1:29PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Complex causes, lots of complex causes.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 2:51AM
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It's not like we wanted all our lives to wear used clothes or grow veggies. But it is coming, to some degree, to our reality. It is not a "fad" if it will be imposed. The point is, how much a human needs??? Life "without" is much simpler, less stress and less need to go out there and be a super achiever. I have no problem with these types, it's their choice, but I discovered, just about a year or so, that simpler life is much more rewarding, creative and close to home.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 7:14PM
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Some people actually do follow whatever others are doing just to be "in". Right now, the "in" thing to do is to simplify ones' life. To me, having to do without is not living a simple life. That's as stressful as having too much.
Perhaps the reason I'm interested in reading stories about the "Great Depression" is that I just want to visit that way of life - not live it : )

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 8:09PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Well we are retired and have no money woes....We budget ourselves and it's an ample figure but we budget only so we know what we are spending and my husband likes playing with numbers....but know what is wonderful is the fact that we have enough money that we don't have to worry and more this point in our lives, we don't care who has what...we are not even the least bit interested in keeping up with anyone....we are not in the least interested in impressing anyone....we live our life by our own rules and couldn't care less what people think about what we wear or what we drive or what we spend our money on...we don't have even a small case of the I wants...

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 9:38PM
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Hey Oldpea,
A really good book is "Little Heathens" by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. It's about "hard times and high spirits on an Iowa Farm during the great depression". I love this book and couldn't put down. I wish there were more like it. Enjoy,

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 12:54PM
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Alrighty, I'll try to find that book. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 10:13PM
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featherhoof(zone 9)

Thanks to everyone that posted. I'm one of the growing number of people wanting to know how take care of myself and my family by learning how the people in the great depression survived. All your stories are priceless. God bless.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:35AM
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I was thinking as I read this thread that my motto is Simplify Life. Then someone mentioned that is the new fad. LOL

Personally I am not simplifying my life as a fad but because I saw how wasteful I was and at times still am, just because I can be.

My new thinking came when I brought this house. I wanted a big house on a large lot...3 acres minimum. That was the reason I moved back to NC. I wanted an old house so I can tear it apart and refurbish it and the land so I can have some animals.

When I moved here I had the job and started looking. The fad here is 2-3 thousand sq feet...and new. I knew I did not want anything that big and new houses are not for me. Well I spent a year in a hotel looking for the right place. I found that if I could find a large piece of land it would be so far from my job that it would make the commute miserable. So now knowing I had to move near the city I would have to settle on a smaller piece of land. Then finding an old house was the next obstacle. My Real Estate agent was absolutely frustrated with me. I did not want anything crumbling to the ground. I was not going to spend a lot of money on the house either. He tried to convince me to buy the land and get a modular home but that did not fit in my plan. Well the end result was after living in a hotel for a year, I found a 875 sq ft house built in 1920 but in decent condition on 1.25 acres.

It has been a challenge living here including not being able to fit all my stuff in the house. Most of it is packed away in the barn. I have been taking stuff out more and more and then I started realizing it is kind of nice having a small house and I did not really need all that stuff. There is not much to clean, not much clutter and the mortgage does not kill me.

Then I got the goats. Found they were useful in clearing up all the leaves that fall off the trees and they eat all the ivy killing some of the trees. Then I got chickens and discovered how nice it is not not have to buy eggs. And the idea of continuing to simplify my life started growing.

I am trying very hard to not have more than I need. I am a recovered shop a holic. Really. When the weather breaks I am selling all that stuff stored in the barn and using the money for something else. a vacation or something.

My job now tells us that we are going to have to work for one day free a week vs losing our jobs. Everyone is crying over this but you know because I have trimmed the fat out of my life it is not going to kill me. I will have enough to still cover the bills. The ones living in the houses they could hardly afford with more room than they would ever need are going to be the ones really suffering.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:46PM
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One of my favorite books is We Had Everything But Money.... stories from the great depression. It's great. Everyone I know that has read it- loved it.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 9:09PM
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