The Greatest Depression Community Diary
Over the past year I have been getting my hands on any information or record that may still exist from the Great Depression to better be able to understand what life was like during that period. I do this so that I have a better idea of what may lie ahead for us as a society. Then I thought that maybe I should start a personal diary to document these "interesting times" for my young daughter to have later after I’m gone.
Then it occured to me what we really need is a Community Diary to accurately document the experiences of many people across the country and across the world. What a fantastic source of information such a record would be for future generations. It might also help individual members of this community to share their experiences with one another as means of coping with the difficult times that lie ahead.
I truly believe that we stand on the brink of what will become known as the most difficult and interesting time in US history, the Greatest Depression. While many may dismiss this realization now, I believe that this time next year there will be widespread recognition of this reality.
How Do We Do It?
Well, as this idea is only about 30 minutes old for me, I haven’t had time to think through its actual implementation. But I have a few suggestions:
- Think about what you would want to know from the people who lived through the Great Depression. Use this as a guide to decide what to contribute to this record.
- Be Specific: Talk about your daily life and the changes that are occurring in it. Describe the world and people around you in the most detail that you feel comfortable with.
- Personalize It: While you might not be comfortable with declaring your identity on a public forum, I think it might be helpful to sign all your contributions with your first name and where your from. For example (Jeff from Houston, Texas). This will provide some context to the experiences that you share and make it easier to follow for anyone that reads this in the future. If your not comfortable providing your first name, then make up a name, but if at all possible, provide your general location.
- Also, it might be a good thing to limit your contributions to just a description of your daily life and keep the "conversation" that naturally develops on threads to a minimum. Perhaps we could start a parallel thread for comments and conversation related to contributions on this thread.
Of course, I’m open to any other suggestions, in fact I’m counting on them.
Is anyone interested in contributing to this project? I hope so, because I personally feel that the members of this community are very unique and interesting, and I enjoy learning about you as individuals. If there is an online community that could pull this off, this is it.
Thanks for your time,
Jeff from Houston, TX
June 24th, 2009
i personally would like to talk to people who survived the great german inflation between WW1 & WW2
Great idea, Jag.
In my island community of 2,000 permanent residents, (used to swell to 6,000 during the summer months), I’ve noticed a lot of very expensive vacation homes are on the market and not selling unless they have radical price reductions. They’re down 30% in price from last summer. The market is strong for houses around 200,000. and it seems many people who can manage it, are considering moving here,to raise their kids, and to get away from high crime, high price areas, like nearby Vancouver, B.C. The War on Tourism, has been very effective and we have zero American tourists visiting this Gulf island, now, so the population isn’t varying as much between the on and off seasons.
Construction here is grinding to a halt. Restaurants are closing. People in service industries are busting themselves to please customers. Gone is the "whatever" attitude, the worker’s paradise. I’ve got to say, it would be nice if there was a happy medium, if there were more jobs, but decent service is a benefit. I wonder if this happened in the Great Depression too. Bet it did.
Jeff , Much of our community is tied to the UP Railroad … It seems that Rail Roads have survived every Depression/recession thus far but there are certainly slow times .. Volume is down 17% right now and there have been layoffs .
Calling some back to work this week because of the heat and high demand for coal .
I would like to know from any Old heads out there how vulnerable is an Engineer job ? Always Rumors when you ride the rail .
Diana ( from the Midwest )
A friend took me to their family reunion 25 years ago and they handed out a book about the history of their family since before the great depression. This is the story of how their great grandmother & her children thrived during a time when all others were not.
In the 1920s, the family of 9 kids / Mom & Dad lived on a farm outside of town and the mother gardened enough fruits & veggies to feed her growing family while the father farmed the land with draft animals and they managed to just get by before the G D. Then, the father died during the winter before the beginning of the GD. Most of the family & relatives expected the farm to soon be lost to the bank and they certainly did encourage her to sell before that happened. The Mother spent no time morning her loss and went about collecting seeds of every kind of fruit and veggie the when spring came. Then she did the only thing she knew to do- she made gardens of the empty fields and the kids worked all season long working the ground, planting, then weeding and picking. Neighbors sent their kids to help (and bring back a little food). It was all they had and sold it street side in town, and the family actually made enough to not just survive and eat well but to pay off the farm.
The children still tell their stories of the hard work on the fields and the sweet taste of fresh picked fruits. They all developed skills that would last them a lifetime. Unfortunately, those skills died with them as they have all since passed on.
That this resourceful woman thrived during a time when so many others could not still amazes me. What I also find amazing is that none of the grandchildren can grow a garden.
No, my g.p.’s weren’t hippies, they were actually Czech, from north of Prague. Their family had emigrated to eastern Iowa during the 1840s. My grandfather and grandmother were married right around the Crash of ’29 and bought a farm near Cedar Rapids not long after. They worked 14-18 hour days Mon-Sat, and worked on Sunday too except for church (the Moravian/Presbyterian chuch in Ely, Iowa — generations of them have been married there) for twelve years without knowing whether they’d be able to pay off the loan and keep the farm. The advent of WWII meant that there was a reliable market for everything they could grow — no more of the vagaries of the commodity exchanges (and I bet the gov wasn’t about to smile on bankers foreclosing on food-producing land [this was before giant agribusiness factory farms]) meaning you could work all year and if the harvest was bad, you lost money, and if it was too good (meaning the prices of corn/soybeans/wheat was driven down on the exchanges) you just barely got by. Twelve years endless labor before they knew they’d be okay.
I am humbled by their fortitude. (And I recommend the film "Sweet Land" — a fine little film that mirrors the above a bit with one of the threads of its story.)
That’s their Depression story.
Viva — Sager
My grandmother-in-law lived through the front and center of the GD. They did what they had to, to get by. At first, I was a little annoyed at her miserly ways. For example, when we would have Christmas together, She would protest if you tore the paper around the gift. "Open with the tape, please," is what she would announce. When I asked my wife (ex-wife now) why, she informed me that Grandma would iron that paper and use it next year.
She also was very careful to pick up every ribbon and bow to store for next year.
I remember my ex mother-in-law telling stories of when she was a kid on her mother’s farm. Water became so short that they would find multiple uses for it. It was not uncommon to bathe in that water, then wash clothes in it and finally water the hogs with it.
Times were rough.
Jerry , I thought that is all acceptable now as "Going Green"
My Grandma even saved the rubber bands saved them on the door knob and she made rugs out of bread sacks .The gift wrapping paper was used as drawer liner.
Funny thing herein our community was that one elderly Lady wrote a book of the old ways in our county and made a lot of money just off the memories. I had better drag that thing out because the young people are going to be looking for cheap things to do and if we do not guide them who knows what trouble they will find . Last week I sent them down to the river to float in inner-tubes .. word got out how fun it is and I may have to find something cheap to feed them . You can’t count sports as a cheap , fun thing to do anymore with the equipment costs and the traveling expenses . I will trying to convince them weeding the garden is FUN.
Friday, June 26th, 2009
The heat is unbearable down here on the Gulf coast. The last two months have been the hottest on record, while also being some of the driest months on record as well. Yet the humidity is stifling. It feels like late August instead of late June. I can only imagine what the Hurricane season is going to be like this year. The local economy seems normal, with plenty of construction going on to repair the damage created by Hurricane Ike last year. I see a lot of contractors from northern states looking for construction jobs here. Some of them even go door to door looking for work.
The heat is really taking a toll on the garden. I just can’t keep up with the watering, so many of the plants, especially the tomatoes, are beginning to suffer. I’m definitely going to have to redesign my approach to gardening if my family ever has to rely on it for more than just a supplement to our diet. I’m still hoping to install an aqua-ponic system this summer, but money has been tight so I’m going to have to wait on the pond liner purchase for a while longer.
My wife and I run a small pain clinic and business has been steady so far, thank god. Pain seems to be a good motivator to spend money on our services. Its very rewarding work and I hope it remains a viable business in the uncertain years ahead. I guess if things get really bad, we can always barter our services for necessities.
The price of gas has dropped some over the past few weeks. Its currently about $2.45/gal here. I’ve have used the pullback in prices to top of my generator reserves, about 80 gallons in various plastic gas cans, in case we get another storm (climatic and/or financial) late this summer. The price of the gas preservative that I need for this is almost as expensive as the gas itself. There is nothing I dread more than prepping for hurricane season, but in contrast to all the other preparations that I have done this past year, these hurricane specific preparations don’t look so bad any more.
The financial markets look as though they are in limbo to me. I have a growing sense of dread, but I can’t quite get a fix on what may be coming. From the palpable sense of confusion and frustration that I see in the blogosphere, I think many people feel the same as me. If this is the "calm before the storm" then I can’t even fathom the emotional impact of what lies ahead for our country, and for that matter, for the whole modern world. I spend every waking moment, and much of my sleeping moments, trying to figure out how best to preserve my "capital" and protect my family from what could be a very cruel reality waiting just around the corner.
I hope I look back at this entry someday and laugh at the stupidity of my present concerns and anxieties. That would be the best laugh of my life.
From Grit magazine’s July/August,2009 issue, in the "Friends & Neighbors" section (their equivalent of the "Personal Ads"):
I have a brother and sister I have never seen or been in contact with. I am searching to see if they are still alive. They were separated from my mother during the Great Depression, and she never found them. [Details follow.]
I think we’re in for a rugged ride, folks . . . .