Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Greatest Generation - The Depression

When my grandmother was born in 1920, she was the adored first daughter of Florence Shawver and Ora Gage.  I remember being excited when I first got access to the 1920 census that I would be able to find my Dad’s parents in the census.  I was never able to find my grandfather and my father theorized that they were living on the breaks of the Missouri River.  However, there was another reason entirely for my grandmother not being in the census.  She was born on June 10 and the census was taken on June 9th.  So, I had to wait until 1930 to first find her in the census back in Mapleton, IA where she was born.  My grandmother was a child of the depression.  She was old enough to remember better times but also old enough to understand what was going on. 

Marian in her store bought dress for her first communion!
When the depression hit in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, rural families were in many ways lucky.  Unlike those that lived in the city, they generally had more food available.  My grandmother’s mother spent a lot of time growing gardens and canning the food that they grew.  They had chickens, cows that gave them milk, and hogs that provided meat.  My great grandmother sold eggs and butter to make money to support her family.  I remember my Grandma Marian saying that she hated to see that butter go…she loved butter on her bread.  She said that she felt bad for her younger sisters because they never had store bought clothes as she did.  By 1933, my great grandparents faced a choice – they could either not pay their taxes or leave their place and move on.  They chose to sign the property over to a friend and left for South Dakota.

South Dakota was not terrible friendly to my grandmother’s family.  They didn’t spend much time there and left for greener pastures.  My grandmother’s older brother was sick with what they thought was tuberculosis and was left behind at a sanitarium to heal.  The rest of the family traveled in a Model A and crossed Montana into Idaho in 1934.  There were 7 children who traveled in that car with their parents.  They spent some time at their uncle’s place in Jordan, MT then they traveled west.  My uncle Bernard remembered that they ate eggs in every form that my great grandmother could think of to prepare to feed their family

Within a short time after arriving in Idaho, the family bought land and made a home on Hatter Creek near Princeton, ID.  My grandmother spent little time at home – she worked out as they used to say.  She spent most of her time taking care of children and being paid to do so.  Grandma Marian then gave that money to her parents to help support her family.  She ended up in boarding school in Moscow at what they called the Ursaline Academy in Moscow, ID.  Grandma Marian does admit to a certain amount of stubbornness and this attitude didn’t work too well with the nuns at school.  She came home and ended up attending the local high school and graduating in 1939 with her older and younger brother from Potlatch high school.
Grandma Marian’s family survived the depression because they had parents who did what needed to be done…had children who as teenagers got jobs and helped provide for their families.  The girls took care of their younger siblings and the boys helped on the farm.  This story is no different than many others who lived through the depression.  Is it any wonder that these same children who lived through the deprivation of the depression are the same ones who fought our battles in World War II and stayed home and kept the home fires burning or built the machines needed in war- as Tom Brokaw labeled them, they were truly our “greatest generation! ”