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The Great Depression

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At age 92, I find my mind going back in time to the stock market crash of 1929 - the crash that took the world into the greatest depression of all time.  When the market crashed, people who had been living "the good life" tightened their belts and had at it.  Several families moved in together.  It was the only way they could afford the rent.  We were a poor nation in dire straights.  Being that I was born in 1916, I do not really remember the Roaring Twenties, but I kinda gathered that they did, indeed, roar.  I do remember, vaguely, that the CRASH of '29 brought the Roaring Twenties to a screeching halt.  I do remember the Great Depression. 

My family would have had a 'good' depression had it not been for one thing.  My dad was a "union" man - decoded - he made far better than average salary.  He worked for The Columbus Dispatch, and then, as now, the paper came out each day come hell, tide or high water.  So Dad was never out of work.  However, many union men held jobs not so secure.  So, each week, a portion of Dad's salary was withheld and paid to out-of-work union men so they and their families could at least eat.  Foreclosures on mortgages were common, and two or three families lived in what had been one-family dwellings. 

I lived through it and ate my fair share of beans and hamburger instead of steak.  One of the ways Mother stretched the budget was to brown a pound of hamburger in Crisco, (lard if the budget was really tight) add a bunch of pre-boiled spuds and brown the whole mess.  THAT was dinner.  Well, there was a bland vanilla pudding, but FORGET about whipped cream on it.  THAT PARTICULAR meal NEVER appeared in my home once I was married.   

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I married Paul and like a good wife, I "budgeted" money.  I had envelopes for the car payment, the rent, savings, whatever.  Each week, as Paul and I were paid, an appropriate sum went into each envelope.  One Friday night, Paul wanted to go to a movie.  His salary and mine had already been deposited in each envelope.  I announced, "We have no money left over for a picture show."   

Paul roared,  "What do you mean?  I have just been paid.  DO NOT TELL ME I HAVE NO MONEY FOR A PICTURE SHOW."  Suitably quelled, I handed over the money and to the picture show we went - 35 cents each, fer Pete's sake.  The next morning I tore up all the envelopes.  When the bills came due, I paid them.  After that, when I said we had no money for a picture show, we did not! 

WWII came along and, blast, there were still shortages because all the good stuff went to the troops.  We, Paul and I, did not suffer.  He was a Naval Officer; we ate at the Officer's Club.  The troops got the beef (although I suspect they fed the troops hamburger).  Officers were not considered in the same light as the troops.  Even so, there were no steaks. 

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One night, I decided Le Precope might have roast beef.  After all, they were the best restaurant in town, located in an alley, as all the really GOOD restaurants were.  

So, to Le Precope. I ordered a martini and when the waiter asked for our dinner choice, I said, "Roast beef - rare, please."  He looked at me and said in his snooty way, "Madam, we can no longer purchase the quality of roast beef we usually serve.  Since this is true, we prefer not to serve an inferior product."  No roast beef.  Food shortages, shortage in the variety of foods, can play havoc on people. 

But we, the common ordinary man and woman, are survivors.  It has ever been so and will always be so.  The number of my survival days is limited because I am over 92 and THAT is no longer young.  I will live them with joy because survival is joy, provided you have the God given gift to acknowledge and know it.  Knowing it is the trick.  I do not go to church on Sunday simply because I cannot abide those who attend on Sunday and live, Monday through Saturday, without love of their fellow man kind, regardless of their faults.  But God is with me in my love for my children and their love for me, in my lovely ravine, in my friends and in my faith that, one day, I will feel my family at my side as I wait for those I left to join me.  

And we, the run of the mill Americans, are survivors.  We tightened our belts and survived the greatest depression the world has ever known.  We also survived Pearl Harbor right along with the aftermath.  Rosie the Riveter was born and became a legend in her own time.   

I take comfort in the fact that this nation survived a major depression and, trust me, that was NOT easy.  I know; I lived through it. 


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Born in 1916, Jennie Shafer lives in the rural-urban interface of Columbus, Ohio where her home overlooks a wooded ravine and where wildlife performs its daily rituals and drama outside her window.
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The Great Depression