After my grandmother died last month I had the somewhat daunting task of listening to and editing over 5 hours of interviews my mother conducted with her a decade ago. Along with the many familiar personal and family stories she told, I was also riveted by her many short accounts of life as a young woman during the Great Depression. While some of it sounds like the old joke, “We were so poor that…”, well, they were really that poor! Each vignette, though seldom longer than a minute, manages to paint a stark and vivid portrait of the times sure to make you grateful that The Great Recession hasn’t receded any further. Far from beaten down by her experiences, my grandmother remained an optimistic (if not understandably neurotic) and joyful woman who knew how to grab hold of a good time when it came her way.

Aspirations

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Babysitting

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Butter, Bologna and Bread

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Church as Entertainment

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Clothes

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College

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Didn’t Have Toys

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Didn’t Have Friends Over

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First Supermarket

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Friend with Painted Shoes

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Heat and Coal

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Ice Delivery

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Laundry

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Milk from Farm

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Mortgage on Furniture

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Movies 10 Cents

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Never Took Vacation

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No Bedtime Story

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No Playing with Parents

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No Birthday

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Parent Health Problems

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Penny Candy

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Potatoes and Chicken

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Radio

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Rug beaters

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Smoking Cubettes

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Story About the Dollar

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Teachers

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Too Proud to Take Coat

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Vegetables During the Depression

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Visiting a Farm

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Wallpaper Cleaner

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Xmas

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9 Responses to We Were So Poor…

  1. Nancy Wilsted says:

    Oh, that little Mama!

    As a child I used to cry myself to sleep over the pink-centered candy. I wanted my mom to have the prize she never won. My pillow would be so wet, I would have to turn it over.

    As the youngest of four, Mom (Bobbie) took a lot of teasing. She was tough, but there was one way her siblings could always get her to cry. They would insist that, unlike the others, Bobbie had not been born – she had been found in a cow pie.

    Mom said that during the worst of the depression, she and her best friend, Shirley Bannon, were invited to a birthday party for the banker’s daughter. They were so entranced by the cake that they positioned themselves underneath the cake table. The table cloth hid the two girls as they stealthily reached up for fingers full of icing. The banker’s wife caught them and sent them home. No cake for Mom and Shirley, needless to say. I asked Mom if she and Shirley felt terrible about it. “Oh, no!” she said. “We thought it was funny and laughed all the way home”.

    Sounds like and episode of Little Rascals, doesn’t it?

    • Ruth Adele says:

      Nancy, I’m so sorry to hear that your mom died, and Noel’s grandma, and the boys’ great grandma. I’m glad you thought to get these stories from her to treasure forever! During this recession I’ve been thinking so much about my relatives in the Great Depression. It’s amazing hearing these first hand stories. Good job, as usual, Noel! Love to all of you, Ruth

    • Janet Conover says:

      Oh Nancy,
      I didn’t know you had lost your Mom. You had a heck of a year! I didn’t know your connection to KRCC.
      See you soon.
      Janet

  2. Sean says:

    Now I’ll picture your grandmother sitting next to the prettiest cake!

  3. Carol says:

    What treasures these conversations are! Thank you so much for sharing these sweet vignettes.

  4. Brenda says:

    fabulous- my “aunt edna’ used to bemoan the old days- now I know she probably was telling the truth about how tough it was…

  5. joyce cheney says:

    Noel and Nancy,
    What a gift to your family (and the rest of us) to have saved your mom’s stories.

  6. Jan McMillan says:

    Annie and I just said goodbye to my ex-husband and father of my 5 children. After we’ve said goodbye to the last family members who have traveled here to attend Larry’s memorial, we will sit down together and listen to these wonderful stories that Nancy was wise enough to record. What a wonderful gift to Noel and his family and to all of us who were so blessed by Barb’s life. Thanks Nancy and Noel!

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