Undepressed by Depression

Seniors are not worrying about the future; we do not share in the great fears of recession. We have coped with hard times before and didn’t even realize we were poor. Of course, it was our parents and grandparents who had to figure out how to manage.

My father lost his job and we lived with our grandparents until he found something else. Everyone did a lot of baking, cooking, mending, altering and making do. Nothing was wasted. We even saved buttons, elastics, string and paper grocery bags.

We ate a lot of macaroni, chowders, soups, bologna, fish cakes and hamburger. We always had bread and if it went stale, we were happy to see a bread pudding. My mother baked apple, raisin, apricot, mincemeat and custard pies; she made her own doughnuts, tapioca puddings, gingerbread, and – once a week – dinner rolls.  We had one pie for seven children and two adults. Nobody ever had a second piece or dared quibble about the size of their portion, which depended on the age of the recipient.

We even received bundles of clothes from our richer relatives. They were somewhat inconsistent with our style of living and we were ashamed of being different, but we had to wear them anyway as long as they fit. The luckiest in the family were the oldest who might manage to have a few new clothes. Sometimes, they inherited from our parents.

We knew a dressmaker who could turn things inside-out, shorten, lengthen and trim, so nobody ever froze. But it was difficult for our friends and neighbours to recognize which member of the family they could see in the distance. Clothes belonged to the family, just like tartans in Scotland.

Our big weekly allowance was five cents. Most bought a cone of ice cream but some, thinking ahead, bought penny candy. You could get four candies for one cent, so with a nickel, you could afford a bag’s worth. Of course, choosing which candies was a lengthy process.

Our shoes were resoled, reheeled and even relined at the back when they began to fray. Our beige ribbed stockings and knee socks were always darned at the heels.

My mother and father didn’t have too much left over for entertainment but they managed to go to the movies twice a week, regardless of what was showing. There was only one theatre in town and I think it cost 25 cents.

This was a great bargain because you not only saw the main feature but also a “B” picture which was sometimes the better of the two; newsreel and a choice of travel shorts; famous bands doing their thing; or an episode of Beyond the Eight Ball. It was a grand four-hour evening, replete with a roll of Life Savers each.

We were all very happy with our lot and didn’t even know the world was in a depression. We didn’t even know what that was.