"Forgotten" Wisdom starter thread...

Amanda Witman
By Amanda Witman on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - 8:52pm

Tell us your stories, your family's stories, the stories of your elders and neighbors and friends and mentors.  Tell us what you've learned from folks who lived in a less abundant era that is applicable to our current journey toward resilience.  This wisdom is not lost; it's just dormant.  Let's help re-awaken it by sharing it with each other.

What resilience wisdom have you gleaned, learned, absorbed, or had bequeathed to you by others?  Share the wealth here by telling us your stories and learnings!


thebrewer's picture
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Great idea!

This is a great idea for a group here and I look forward to reading all the little pearls of wisdom that come from it. Need to rake through my own attic of a mind and see what I can recover.

TreeGap's picture
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Words from a 96 year-old Woman

Over the past year, I've found myself thinking about inter-generational knowledge and how the process of sharing wisdom gained in families over lifetimes has been interrupted by time spent commuting, watching TV, playing video games, being away from each other (jobs and school). 

This thought occured to me when I made the switch to homeschooling my children. We don't watch TV or have video games... but, with so much time spend out of our home there was not enough time together to teach them things and really share knowledge.  Our time at home was focussed on preparing for the next thing we had to do out in the world —homework, attending school events, helping the kids process things that happened at school/were exposed to at school.  So much of "school" is useless distraction which  does not help kids develop into whole, well-rounded people with sound values built on personal responsibility.

So, I'm looking forward to this thread. 

Last night, I thought of something an elderly woman had said to me...  I want to share it here.  I was in my late 20s when we had this conversation.  Given that I now live a simple life in a rural area, I think her words influenced me much more than I ever realized.

Back in 1998, I had the opportunity to interview a 96 year-old farmwife over a period of eight months for a film project.  At several points, I tried to get her to talk about the Great Depression and it's impact on her life on the family farm.  But, she never launched into a description of those times.  Finally, I asked her directly, "Why don't you talk about the Great Depression?  Wasn't that a difficult time to live through." 

She said, "No.  It really didn't effect us.  We had our farm."   Basically, she said they were self-sufficient in their farming community and the Depression did not have the impact on them as it did those who lived in the Cities.   Her manner was that this was very much a non-isssue... which completely surprised me.  Having learned from my history classess that the Great Depression was devastating to all Americans, it was amazing to learn from a woman who was in the midst of raising a young family in those times that it wasn't worth mentioning.




saxplayer00o1's picture
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Great Depression Cooking

Click through her other videos. Here's one:

 (Great Depression Cooking: The Poorman's Meal). Recipes and stories.

Hotrod's picture
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Lessons from the elderly

Please... more information like this!

sdmptww's picture
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Info from elderly

I've watched this video before.  She's great.  I remember trying to get my grandmother to teach me how to make her extraordinary biscuits.  Unfortunately my effort at writing down her "recipe" has been lost to the years.  I do miss those biscuits.  They never got hard and were good two days old.  She measured nothing and worked the dough with her fingers.

You know it is odd.  We worry so much these days about bacteria and food borne illness but when I was a kid visiting my grandparents breakfast and dinner for the most part was put on the dining room table with a table cloth over it to wait until supper.  Just dairy stuff went in the refrigerator.  The table was in front of a window but there was no AC or fan.  I don't remember anyone ever getting sick.  Grandmama's biscuits stayed under there with what might be left from the sausage links.  Very convenient if you wanted to grab a snack as you walked by.


sdmptww's picture
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elderly and the depression

My mom echos that about the depression.  She was born about 18 months before the crash of 29.  She says the 1930s and 40s before the war were difficult but they didn't go hungry, although the year my grandfather spent in the Atlanta pen for running bootleg was hard.  Mama says one of her older and stronger sisters had to take granddaddy's spot ploughing with the mule, etc.  They all survived with love and a sense of humor about it all.  Some of my favorite memories is sitting on the porch and listening to all the girls telling stories about their childhood.  I use to have several on my family website but I've taken it down due to a lack of time to keep it updated.  The problem these days with economic downturns is just how many folks have no idea how to grow food, cook from scratch, preserve it for tomorrow and do the basics for themselves.  It won't take much of a downturn for the suffering to be pretty ugly.

My grandfather once told me his take away from the depression was not to have all your money in the bank.  He lost all his cash in the bank run.  He never made that mistake again.  We found little pieces of cloth stashed all over the house with gold and silver coins.  My grandmother's father had always been a gold stasher.  Some of the coins he had stashed had come from his father and were dated just before the civil war.

Having my Mom living with me has proven to be very instructive for me.  My gardening and household skills have improved and in some cases we learn something new together.  She is so comfortable in a kitchen.  She has the same innate understanding that her mother had on how to do just about anything in a kitchen, sewing room and garden.  I'm getting there.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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an odd duck

I've always been an odd duck in that I never worshiped youth and beauty the way the surrounding American culture did. My mother was a surprise menopuse baby to an educated woman who had her children late, as had her mother before her. It seems I  Perhaps that's why I have always fit in better with my elders than my peers.  And I've intentionally learned from them.  I knew from them that hard times are cyclical, and that our going off the gold standard (when I was a young teen) could only have one dismal ending.

My mother taught me recipes from the Great Depression, how to sew (clothing & homegoods) and mend, and that it's better to buy something well-made that can be repaired (example - shoes) than to waste money on poorly made things. She taught me to build a simple and color-coordinated wardrobe of well-made basics that could be altered by accessories. Above all, I learned that debt was slavery and to be avoided at all costs.

My father taught me gardening and how to repair most things with my bare hands and the right tools. He taught me that you can always find work if you're not squemish and will do what no one else wants to do. He was a man who worked two jobs and still made wooden toys for his grandsons. He taught me to read equipment manuals and service things by their recommended schedule.

Speaking of repairs, there was my husaband's great, great uncle - Marvin Ebbinger. He acted as a local grandfather to my kids; we saw him a lot. They worshipped the ground he walked on! He flew Air Force One for Truman and Eisenower back when such pilots also had to know how to repair the plane. He was 20 years in the Air Force, retired, then 20 years as a farmer, retired, then from age 68 until the year before he died at the age of 97 he was a lay pastor at both the local VA Hospital and the local public hospital. In his home was an extensive workshop--I inherited some of his tools--where he fixed broken lamps and appliances to sell at charity white elephant sales. "Live on what you have, don't buy on credit, maintain things" was his motto. I have never seen such a well-maintained car.

His wife, (Great Great Great) Aunt Anna to my sons, lived to 101 and was a heiress; her uncle was an inventor in Thomas Edison's lab. She taught me so many things. So many lessons! She saved the acorns from her oak trees to feed the birds and squirrels during hard winters ("You can alway tell when it's going to be a hard winter. The trees make lots of extra acorns.") They lived on Uncle Marvin's retirement. She used her money to help family members in need, but not if she loaned them money and they did not pay her back. The woman saved everything that might be useful, like the bows off Christmas wreaths one year to make her own wreaths the year after.

And Marvin and Anna never spent a dime they didn't have to. Frugality fuels generosity, that was their main lesson. I later discovered they were millionaires, but they lived in a small suburban home with a garden near that farm he worked on, and near a local prop plane airport. They were content with what they had and had no need to flaunt things.

And when I remarried 3.5 years ago he came with a passel of elderly relatives that are a pure joy to know. I'm still learning from them about farming the old way.

I could go on and on about elderly friends I've had since I was 5 years old to the present, but I will stop now. Suffice it to say that they have taught me all about meatless meals, various farm implements, home remedies (ever hear of ichthanol? Brown soap suppositories? Kerosene for lice or termites?) and how to make everything from dandelion wine to jam.

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Nervous Nelly
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The Elderly and the Great Depression

My parents were born in, him1926 in Austria & she Montreal 1927. They died a couple of years ago and they would repair almost everything that needed repairing. Jack of all trades, master of some. They saw the progression of over abundance where people  just threw away good and functional things by the side of the street just because it wasn't nice enough anymore. They were shocked by this orgy of waste. They would remind us often of the hard ships during the depression and during  the WW11 period. I remember my mom telling me about her grandfather. He was a mayor of a town and he had a lot of land under cultivation.  They never lacked food because they had a farm but when the depression hit a lot of people had lost their jobs. Mom told us that at a certain point a lawyer was looking for work in the fields and grandpa took one look at his hands and told him he couldn't hire him.  Can you imagine this ? Some people were so poor they didn't even have drinking glasses but empty jelly jars, mason jars to drink out of.

My mother never stopped mending holes in socks. Cooking everything from scratch. We even had chickens, rabbits in the back yard for a few years. A garden was a must.  Dad was a machinist and gunsmith by trade and he could fix everything , mechanical, electrical even some electronics, plumbing  and carpentry.  Cars, snowblower, outboard motors, chainsaw, toaster,.......When they bought their house it was a fixer upper !!!!! A real one crying.  That's where us kids got all our training, like it or not!!!!. Roof,  insulation ( I hate fiberglass !!!!!) ,windows, painting , drywall  .....it was endless. All these habits were ingrained in their mind, body and soul. 



westcoastjan's picture
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awesome topic!

I am sure this thread will be a "go to" read over the long term...

I have one valued saying that a favourite uncle who lived through the depression said to me when I left home at 20 and moved out west. It is a tad on the crude side, but I have never forgotten it as it has served me well in those situations where I was under-employed.

"...go and live your life and do the best you can. I don't care if you end up shoveling shit, you just make sure that you are the best shit shoveler that ever was."

That is how I have lived my life, and I have prospered because of that kind of attitude.


Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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The Sanctity of Food.

My father would never eat in a public place. My parents took sandwitches when they went to town but would wait until they were on the road before eating them. My father was ashamed because he had food, my mother was ashamed that they were sandwitches.

Food was not taken for granted. 

I have absorbed their values. My list includes Sauerkraut. It is cheap and easy to make and can be used up a little at a time. Of cause I make it myself. 

RNcarl's picture
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My Turn

O.K. I will bite...

First, my background. My father was born in 1898. He was 18 years senior to my mother. When I was born, he was 60 and as the story goes, decided he needed to stop playing baseball and "settle down." He worked full time mind you in a shoe factory (yes we still made shoes in the US back then.) And, he played baseball on the weekends as well as coached my closest brother's team.

I tell this part of the story because if you do the math, my father was an adult in the depression. He was a "city boy" so he was affected as much as others were. Except, he always had a job. He met my mother in Chicago and as was common back then, a photographer jumped out in front of them as they were walking down the street and snapped a picture. The photographer then handed them a card and asked them to come to the studio to see the pictures. Folks just did whatever they could to make money back then. Of course, money was tight and my father never spent a stray cent. However, at my mother's urging, he took her to the photo studio, "just to look" at the photo, and I am glad they did. He bought it for her and it it remains today one of my favorite images of them. here they were, walking arm-in-arm down the street in their "Sunday best." My father in a tailored suit with an expensive fedora and my mother in a suit with a fur wrap. Her hair was tastefully done and of course she wore a hat too. Perhaps they were returning from Mass. Although I had seen that photo many times over the years it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized the woman that my father had on his arm that day. She was a stunning beauty even by today's standards! (Dad, you old dawg)

OK, so what. What does this story have to do with this thread.

This thread is about forgotten wisdom. I tried to paint a picture of a couple that while they were on "hard times" never lost the grace, the poise, or the purpose of who they were.

My father never owned stocks until he was in his eighties. His home was paid off early and he bought his cars with cash. We had plenty of food and although they were from a completely different generation, (my parents were the age of most folks grandparents here) their beliefs were what we might call progressive today. I complained to my mother one day that my first job during college that I was only making $230 a week. My mother told me to be careful, my father made less than that just before he retired a few years earlier (and that was after 20+ years on the job). Again, it was the first time I realized that we were poor.

If you are poor, that gives you no excuse to be dirty, ignorant, or lazy.

Gain self worth by your actions not your words.

Everyone can contribute and has something worthwhile to share.

If you are hungry, look for a hand-up not a hand-out.

If you see someone hungry, invite them to dinner, don't bring food to them.

Let your word be your bond - no matter what.

Speak up when you see wrong doing or injustice.

You are made of who you are, not what you have.

Look to your left and then to your right, you will see someone who is better off than you and someone who is worse off than you.

You may be thinking, "Yeah, but - today is different. It is a different world."

Is it?

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