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Hard times were really easy!

Posted: April 19, 2012 11:24 a.m.
Updated: April 20, 2012 5:00 a.m.

When older people talk about the Depression years -- before, during, and after -- they always talk about hard times, what they did not have. Actually, they have seemingly forgotten the positive sides. People can either remember the good times or the bad. In reality, hard times were really easy.

While it is true that no one had Nintendo games, cell phones, allowances, vacations, or cars, toys abounded if the child used his imagination! A discarded bottle, or piece of trash, aided in “kick the can” without a single outlay of cash. The game became even more fun when played with friends. If a child was lucky, he had a bicycle, repainted from a relative or older siblings, on which he traversed the town, never having to worry about diet pills or visits to the doctor. A wise child did not complain, as he often does today, of being bored! Mothers alleviated the problem by having the bickerer bring in wood, coal, or produce from the garden. Chores were endless unless an individual found his diversion. Books, on loan from the public library, were the most wonderful entertainment of all! The child could go as far as Africa or just to a town much like his own. Librarians, back then, were not just people found at work. When I, for example, decided I had outgrown my need to belong to the library club, where a child received a gold star for each book, Ms. Digby stopped and told me how many books she expected me to have read that summer (there certainly was no SEAGUL program). When I demurred, she simply questioned whether I would prefer that she call my mother. The upshot was that I read far more books than the required ones. By the way, she personally questioned each child about every book! These pursuits honed the imaginations of the individuals and stopped any possibility of the whining question of what to do.

Because no surplus money beyond livelihood existed, mothers rarely went to the store. My widowed mother, for example, had a pantry full of beautiful glass jars holding provender from her garden my brother and I had to help her work. These jars were far too precious to use in making mud pies or collecting rocks. I remember asking neighbors to save their cans for me to wash, remove labels, and carry to school to aid the war effort. My mother had none.

No one wasted time on current fashions. If the clothing or shoes fit, the child wore them. Mothers made dresses from chicken feed sacks, the mash used to feed chickens raised for the table. Hems were very deep and let down to nothing. Young ladies and men could look at the Sears Roebuck catalogue, well named the “Wish Book.” With this marvelous book, whose outdated pages were often used as toilet tissue, an individual’s spending was limited only to his imagination. It provided many pleasant hours of dreaming when current.

Modern children might think those living then to be deprived since rules and chores existed. Few children, if any, had watches, but they knew when they were to return home or face consequences far greater than “time outs.” They had family meals on oilcloth with the menu being whatever was available without complaint or heard, “If you don’t like it today, you’ll like it tomorrow.” Children never texted friends or siblings; they were close by -- sharing, talking, laughing! What modern child has laughed until he could not catch his breath? Nonexistent televisions would have been a poor swap. Many homes did not even possess a radio. They, however, did have warmth, love, and companionship coupled with responsibility. Hard times were really good!

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