Was I a spoiled little brat, or was I abundantly blessed? I prefer to think I was truly blessed. I was the youngest of five children, and the apple of my family’s eye. From stories I’ve been told, my older siblings and my parents doted on me. Of course I’m exaggerating, but I am the youngest of five children.
I’m still blessed by my husband of almost 50 years, and by my children and grandchildren, and friends and relatives. I should, and I try to, thank God every day for the love shown to me.
We, as a nation, are spoiled — although again I prefer to think of it as being blessed. We can go to the super center and find hundreds of things we can buy, if we have the money to pay for them.
I read somewhere about a young man who came to the United States on a college scholarship. He was shocked and overwhelmed with the wonderful things available in our grocery and clothing stores. In his country they barely had enough to eat.
The variety is mind boggling. Take toothpaste. When I was a kid we had Crest or Colgate, and one flavor, one kind. Now, good grief, we have mint, gel, whitener, enamel builders, ones for sensitive teeth and on and on and on. I prefer the old fashioned kind with no chemicals and additives. It’s hard to find.
Bread. We had plain old white bread, for 15 cents a loaf. Now you can get wheat, rye, sour dough, Italian and a whole host of others.
During the Depression, people barely had enough to eat. Mom’s father quit his good paying job, and foolishly sold or traded their nice new house in Springfield for a farm in Webster County. Due to the drought, nothing grew, and if it had Grandpa didn’t have any machinery to plant or harvest a crop.
I’ve written before about how Grandpa walked every morning and afternoon to Springfield to work for WPA (Works Progress Administration), making $1 a day. He took that one dollar and purchased groceries for his family. Mom’s brothers fished and hunted so they could put meat on the table. “It was hard times,” Mom said. As a result of such difficult times, my grandparents lost the farm.
In a column I wrote about Ethel Houk, my sixth-grade teacher, Frances, her daughter, told about the difficult years they experienced. “We really had a hard time,” she said.
Mrs. Houk, not wanting the school children to go without a teacher, kept teaching. But the school did not pay her. They gave her vouchers, not a paycheck. Since Mrs. Houk had a job, she wasn’t eligible to receive any of the free stuff the government handed out. Then when she did get a paycheck, they paid her $27.50 a month. If they hadn’t gotten that amount, the family could not have survived. Years later the teachers got together and sued the district for back wages. Her mother got a check for $600. She was thrilled.
The Houk family wasn’t the only ones having a hard time. Frances said Mr. Barnes, who ran Barnes Store, in Fair Grove, gave several people credit including her mother. Velzie Hood also extended credit, or some people would have starved.
The house Mrs. Houk and her children were living in burned, which added to this difficult time. Frances told about the problems her family had after their house burned. Her mother didn’t even have any rags. One of the neighbors found out about it and gave them an entire box of what the neighbor considered rags, but Frances said she and her sisters ended up wearing some of those rags to school.
Here’s a poem I wrote:
Those Lean Years
In olden days when times were hard,
My parents did their best.
They worked from morn to setting sun,
And hardly took a rest.
With summers hot and not much rain,
Our crops would barely grow.
We learned to gather weed and seed,
For winter’s need to stow.
Mom’s garden in those dry drought years,
Gave up the ghost too soon.
Our cellar shelves were stark and bare,
As were our plates at noon.
Each time we felt a pang inside,
We asked the Lord for grub.
He never failed to send to us,
The best and not the nub.
Those years soon passed and rain did come,
To Green up all the land.
Mom’s garden grew, abundantly,
She worked to get it canned.
Each year seemed better than the last,
With drought years far behind.
We bought, we spent, we lived it up,
Give thanks—well never mind.
We need, I think, a long dry spell,
To bring us to our knees.
To humble us, while seeking help,
Say thanks, and pretty please.
Our parents knew this humbling stance,
For on their knees they knelt.
They praised the Lord each night ‘fore bed,
For thankfulness they felt.