The Greatest Depression Community Diary

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JAG's picture
JAG
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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

wstanhall's picture
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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

i personally would like to talk to people who survived the great german inflation between WW1 & WW2

agitating prop's picture
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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

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.

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

 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 )

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A Great Depression Story

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.

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My Bohemian Grandparents

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 

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

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.

Full Moon's picture
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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

 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.

 

 

 

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

 

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 . . . .

 

 

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June 26th, 2009

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.

Jeff

Houston, Texas

Entry #1

 

 

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Battle Hymn of the Republic

 

I'm not sure why, but the Battle Hymn of the Republic keeps running through my head, of late:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
(Chorus)
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the woman, [she is destined], crush the serpent with her heel,
Since God is marching on."
(Chorus)
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)
 
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
(Chorus)
 
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)

 

From the Wikipedia entry for Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembers, "I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper."

No wonder this is such a sublimely beautiful piece . . .

 

 

agitating prop's picture
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Re: June 26th, 2009
JAG wrote:

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.

Jeff

Houston, Texas

Entry #1 

Things rarely turn out as badly as our worst fears. At the same time, your concerns make sense and so do your preparations. Best wishes, and keep the faith. I look forward to further installments, particularly about hurricane season...oh and by the way, now I know why you're not interested in reading up on conspiracies much. What's the point when the climate is busy ganging up on you?

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

Very cool story re how the Battle Hymn if the Republic, C1oudfire!  It is a good thing Howe had enough sense to write down the lyrics before they got lost in sleep!

Ok, let me throw in a thread-related tidbit to stay legit:  Then I was a kid, I remember my mom telling stories about how, during the depression, her dad (my grandfather) used to make "lemonade" from sumac.  I've never tried it, but Sumac grows wild around here, so it would be easily available. I just did a search and found this link to a recipe for it at: http://www.natureskills.com/lemonade_recipe.html .  

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July 4th, 2009

Well the heat has abated ever so slightly from the previous week, as thunderstorms forming in the Gulf of Mexico and rolling inland offer some afternoon shade and some air circulation, but very little rain. The one good thing about the humidity being so high is that my wife finds little need to spend money on skin moisturizers. As Hurricane season approaches, I find myself spending more time on the Weather Underground Blog, which I find much more reliable than the mainstream weather reports (no big surprise, huh?).

On a personal level, this week has been tough because I watched an old friend deteriorate into a vegetable after a 10-hour surgical procedure to remove a brain tumor. Such an event can really change one's priorities.

As far as the local economy goes, my proprietary "Pop-up Camper" indicator is showing ominous signs again. We have an old pop-up style camper in our driveway, we don't use it much but we keep it maintained and ready to go in case we need to relocate suddenly. Last fall and early winter we averaged about one drop-in inquiry to buy it per week. We had two such inquiries last week, the first of 2009. To clarify, these people are looking for a cheap place to live, not recreational fun. I guess when someone actually steals it, I'll have my first full-blown indication of a local economic downturn.

Another local economy indicator just blew a warning sign as well, our local chamber of commerce cancelled the annual July 4th fireworks display this year. My daughter is just now old enough to appreciate fireworks, so this is a disappointment. As far as how I feel about Independence Day:

Are we still "land of the free, home of the brave"? 

My brain answers an emphatic "No", but my heart answers "Your Damn Right We Are!"

Happy 4th of July All,

Cheers, Jeff

Entry #2

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July 19th, 2009

Yesterday brought us a true gift of nature, a summer thunderstorm. It hasn't rained here is so long, that I almost forgot what a little rain can do for one's mindset. My wife, daughter, and I sat on the porch and "soaked-up" every sensation of the thunderstorm. Every living thing around us seemed to rejoice in this gift from the sky. My favorite things about a thunderstorm are the smell of rain approaching, and the singing of the tree frogs afterward. 

As my rain barrels are full, and my air conditioner is silent, I can only say, its the simple things that make life worth living. I have taken much for granted in my life, and the suffering of a friend has shown me how much I have to be grateful for. I just wish we humans didn't need suffering to remind us to be grateful for the present moment, because it truly is a "present".

All the best, Jeff

Entry #3

(PS. I have realized by now that the community doesn't value the idea behind this thread as I do, but thanks for indulging me anyways. Expressing my experiences in this way gives me some peace-of-mind. Thank you.)

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Re: July 19th, 2009
JAG wrote:

(PS. I have realized by now that the community doesn't value the idea behind this thread as I do, but thanks for indulging me anyways. Expressing my experiences in this way gives me some peace-of-mind. Thank you.)

I think it's a pretty neat idea for a thread; I just assumed that you were posting these for your family's benefit, and didn't want a bunch of comments from the peanut gallery.

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Re: July 19th, 2009
tx_floods wrote:

I think it's a pretty neat idea for a thread; I just assumed that you were posting these for your family's benefit, and didn't want a bunch of comments from the peanut gallery.

Sorry if I did not make that clear. I was hoping this thread would become a community diary, not just my babbling. I'm very interested in learning about the members of this community and their daily experiences during these interesting times, if anyone is willing to share.

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Community Diary
JAG wrote:

I have realized by now that the community doesn't value the idea behind this thread as I do, but thanks for indulging me anyways. Expressing my experiences in this way gives me some peace-of-mind. Thank you.)

Whoa, wait a minute, there, Bud!  I apologize for my negligence, but I, for one, very much appreciate the impulse that inspired you to start this thread . . . I've just been smattering the other threads with my reflections and experiences, rather than saving them for here . . . But, now that you mention it, I think this thread is a great idea . . . I'm just a bit gagged by the "no religion" clause, which makes it difficult to express myself without running afoul of Mr. Law, if you get my drift . . .

Don't give up on us, Jeff . . . I'll be on the alert for daydreams and musings that would be appropriate to post here.  In the meantime, I want to thank you for sharing yourself so openly, in this thread, and elsewhere, in both the tangible, and the intangible. 

 

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

08-18-09 @ 8:10 PM

I wanted to take just a couple of minutes and jot down my thoughts. It's hard to see exactly where we're at, and of coure, no one can see the future. But, it appears to me, we're on the cusp of The Next Big Something. It's very challenging for me; I'm just a rank-and-file W2 wage earner. I have never before taken a great interest in Things Financial. I started reading about a year or so ago. Much of what is being written and said right now boggles me. There is so much competing noise: Inflation/Deflation/Hyper-Inflation/Stagflation - What's a guy to do? I just barely understand what each of those mean, much less, how I can prepare for every possible scenario. Contrast the blogosphere with the MSM, who speak of Green Shoots and Recovery, and The Noise Inside My Head is driving me crazy. I've done all I know to do, really. We made some changes to our banking situation and prepared for some other basic contingencies. I feel like we're at the top of the first big crest on the roller coaster - That point in time, at which, it's entirely too late to do anything other than hang on, enjoy the ride, and see what happens. To further complicate this for me, I don't see any immediate impact on my life - I go to work, I get a weekly paycheck, I pay my mortgage, and buy groceries. All appears well - Deception? The cognitive dissonance in my head is nearly deafening. I hope against hope that things will remain the same, yet the blogosphere rapidly points to a future unlike our past.

But, despite not seeing the economic landscape clearly, one thing I can see is The People's Discord. There is so much dissension and division in our country right now, one wonders if a small, hot spark will ignite the whole powder-house. Health care, Cap & Trade, Cash-4-Clunkers, an ever-growing and ever-apparent Socialist/Facist Agenda, National Debt, Budget Shortfalls, Taxation, etc, and The People are afraid. We've begun to see our future, and We do not like what we see. We're beginning to think we've been duped and that "Hope" and "Change" really mean "Better for Us; Not so good for You." Tea Parties, Name-Calling, allusions to Nazis, all contribute to the divisiveness in our country. More and more, it becomes "us vs. them" - Without really thinking about who "WE" are and who "THEY" are. It's possible that we have not defined the teams correctly.

It's a spooky time to be alive - But, an exciting time, too. We live in what may very well be one of the great defining periods in History.

On another note: My seven-year old daughter has been asking me for weeks about taking her camping. I was supposed to go with a buddy from work, but he cancelled. I knew I couldn't put V off another weekend, so we packed up and went. It was me, my 7 yr old, and my 4 yr old son, D. We went to the mountains of Southern New Mexico. It was beautiful! We went to a campsite that was fairly well used, so the kids met the kids in the neighboring campsite, and I spent some time visitng with the parents. Really a nice time. I burned all the firewood I brought, and all I could pick up at the site. Really relaxing. As I looked up at night, I saw more stars in the sky than I can ever see when I'm at my house, in town. Without TV, the cell phone, the internet, I began to feel far removed from the Machinations of Man. I think I even got to see a small part of the Perseid Meteor Shower. It's hard to describe the feeling I had that night, but I began to see that all the worry is for nought. There is something bigger in play here; President Obama and His Team, as powerful as they are, cannot stop the sun from rising. And sure enough, it rose in the east on its' own time, just like it has done every day from the beginning. (And I was glad it did, too - It was cold that night! Too cold for us thin-blooded Texans! Poor D tried to snuggle up with me in my sleeping bag that night - It was a long, long night.)

I just wanted to vent - I realize this site has much greater brain-power than mine. I don't think any of what I've written is earth-shattering to anybody. It's just what's rattling around in my head at this time.

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Re: The Greatest Depression Community Diary

  Hello Tx ,      We too took a day and went to the lake . The WHOLE family enjoyed the company of the Great Grandpa's and were entertain by the young ones.  We pretended all was right with the world ,burned up gas in the boat and spent the night laughing and joking around the fire .    This is a big step for us as we have been frantically putting up all the produce from the garden we can .And so trying not to spend money on frivolous things    But you just can not focus on worldly things so very much without it dragging your spirit down .    The one kink in the day was that we saw our first homeless person sleeping under the overpass and it took all the self control in me not to go back and bring him home .  I am going to call the church today to get some men to go check on him .

   As  we have no extra $$ to buy gold What we do is prepare a little at a time and my guess is no one can totally be prepared anyway  .  Life is full of the unexpected  so that we do not get too puffed up and self reliant  .

 See each day as a gift .  

  

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