When the depression (giyp*) hit in 1929, my mom was a teenager. She was one of the lucky ones in the depression. Her family did not lose their home. They had some steady income. For their time they were very well off. By today’s standards, they were church mice.
I grew up comfortably. We lived in a nice house, my father earned a good steady income, but my mom still had a church mouse mentality.
We had a car; we had a boat, we took vacations, mom even had a housekeeper (called a maid in those days) come twice a week. We never went without a meal, and did not lack for clothes.
You notice I did not say we were well fed and well dressed. Food and clothing were a luxury which the depression mom never took for granted. Our Thanksgiving turkey lasted for at least two weeks. That fabulous feast became leftovers for dinners and turkey sandwiches for lunch for a week. When the bird could no longer be sliced, the meat was picked off by fork and turned into turkey salad which stretched with celery, tomato and mayonnaise would last another week. Finally the carcass was dropped into boiling water where the remaining meat would flake off into the pot and along with more celery, and left over rice we would have turkey soup up until Christmas.
When I was thirteen I ordered my first roast beef sandwich from a deli. When it arrived I could not believe it. The sandwich was two inches thick with roast beef. The sandwiches that mom packed for school were one thin slice thick. Mom’s bologna sandwiches were made with one slice, and I swear she re-sliced each strip of pre-cut bologna in half.
At dinner our family of five shared vegetables from one can, and mashed potatoes were really mashed potato. Seconds were served to the fastest eater.
I was fourteen before I actually wore clothes which were not handed down from my two brothers. It there was a fashion trend in school, I was always six years out of the loop.
My kids grew up with all new clothes, designer jeans and designer sneakers. We always had seconds at the dinner table…..and my income sucked! Our Turkey lasted until lunch the Friday after Thanksgiving. Our trash can was full to the brim. The depression mom’s garbage was bones and tin cans.
The depression mom threw nothing away. Garbage became compost, paper towels and napkins were replaced with washable and reusable cloth. Rubber bands and foil wrap were saved in ever growing balls. Fat from fried foods and bacon was saved in an old coffee can. (I still don’t know what ever happened to it.)
When in season, vegetables came from a garden. We had a dryer, but everything smelled better when hung out in the sun to dry. We had a dishwasher, but dishes were first scrubbed clean. The dishwasher was only to sanitize.
Mom walked to the store when needed. Dry-cleaning, beer, soda, milk, butter and eggs were all delivered, so one car for Dad to go to work was enough.
The depression mom would have nothing to do with prepackaged food or throw away plastic. Bottles were all recycled, tin cans became storage units.
I am guilty of waste. I enjoy the convenience of prepackaged stuff and of throw away containers. I do not try and find a use for everything. I would not survive a depression, but I do feel the pangs of depression guilt. I hesitate before I throw anything away. I think twice before I buy anything, and if I think I can do it myself, I do (well I try to).
I am a cheap skate; I am the son of a Depression Mom.
*giyp = Google it young people
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