Monday, September 15, 2008

New Deal or Great Depression?

Which would you rather have? F.D.R. has always been a hero of mine. My mother was a child of The Great Depression. I heard her tales of poverty. And I lived with the neurosis this deep, frightening poverty carved into her psyche. She never threw away anything. She saved tin foil, rubber bands, twist ties, old clothes, plastic bags, and on and on. Occasionally there would be an intervention, but into the sorting for the trash can, she would burst into tears and say, "You don't know what it was like. You didn't live through it." And she was right. I was not old enough to really understand what it was like, but I do remember the rationing after the end of WWII. And in every way those two experiences defined my mother's behavior for the rest of her life. It made her deeply stingy, even with her love. And unless you weren't a student of history, or had a parent or grandparent who lived through both those events tell you about it, you need to read something like this. It's fundamental. And it's not just the economy, stupid.

This is one of the saddest songs I ever heard. Thanks for reminding me, Ghost.

And this is my favorite performance of it.

11 comments:

Beach Bum said...

I've been trying to write something about how I know the Depression affected my grandparents. Like your mother my grandparents saved everything and did much to live frugally. Up until they were no longer physically able they grew a small garden, picked the crops, and canned much of it. Several years after my grandfather's death were still pulling mason jars out from underneath the kitchen counter.
But the biggest divergence my grandparents had from what is common now was how they completely distrusted credit cards and bought what had to be close to 90% of what they needed on cash. I write needed because I never once remember them buying anything they just wanted.
The last thing was how I learned through my grandfather and his friend that they both ate squirrels as kids to have a little extra protein.

DCup said...

All I can say at this point without sputtering and cursing is this:

I hope that John McCain is fundamentally and completely DEPRESSED the day after the election.

And I hope that Sarah Palin takes to her tanning bed for days on end.

Utah Savage said...

My mother's nightmare story was them having to burn their furniture one winter to keep warm. My mother did all her shopping at thrift stores or garage sales. And she had a nightmare horror of ever being poor again.

BBC said...

Helen, the wise old lady next door that I look after lived through it. And lived her whole life in what you would call poverty.

But there isn't a bitter bone in her body about any of it, and she is just the sweetest thing.

Just thankful for what she does have, little that it is.

BBC said...

How you look at it is all in the mind, many whined, a few took it all in stride.

BBC said...
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DivaJood said...

My mother hoarded. She hoarded sugar, and flour, and salt for fear of rationing. At any time when I was growing up, there would be 20 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of flour and ten of salt in the house; and about a dozen tins of Maxwell House Coffee.

That fear of lack colored everything. For other reasons my mother was not capable of giving love - a tragedy that occurred while she was pregnant with me made her incapable of attachment and riddled with fear. But that's another story altogether.

The comparison of Hoover and FDR vs. McCain and Obama is very real. McCain's attitudes are so much like Hoover's "stick your head in the sand, everything's fine" attitudes it's shocking. I am reminded of Marquez's brilliant book, 100 Years of Solitude - the last line reads "…because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth."

I feel that if McCain is elected, we will not have a second opportunity.

E said...

Absolutely the Barbara version! Yes! Thank you for reminding me of it.

D.K. Raed said...

My parents were children when the Depression started. Because they grew up with nothing, it seemed normal to them. They never became the hoarders that their parents (my grandparents) were. To this day, my dad still won't eat potatoes because that's about all he ate as a kid. And his toes are deformed because he kept scrunching his feet into shoes he'd outgrown & didn't want to bother his parents who couldn't afford new shoes for their 6 kids. By the time anyone noticed, his toes were permanently scrunched up.

When I was still very young, I found the ration books my mom had put in a memory album. Talk about an eye-opener! The way she described using the ration coupons in detail really brought it home for me. Her dad was a miner during the depression in order to support his 9 kids. He actually iced up his almost-burst appendix for 2-3 days so he could get it removed on a weekend & not be docked.

I feel humbled by their experiences & hope to god we are not looking at another great depression.

I left you a response on my blog ...

Randal Graves said...

I never watched Happy Days all that much.

Oh diva, of course we'll have another opportunity. But it'll be fun, like Mad Max, with our souped-up junkers as we jet around the country killing each other for a few gallons of gas. And the outfits!

Dusty said...

I love Bab's rendition of it too...so slow..awesome!

How ya doing today Chica?