Useful lessons learned from the Great Depression

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by MtWoman

(Note: the numbers in certain places are references to the links and info provided at the end.)

Recently, there was a discussion here on the SBlog (as I like to call it) about what knowledge and wisdom our parents and grandparents may have to share with us from their experiences during the depression. I decided to “interview” my father on the subject, using the specific questions that Hunker-Down and Bam-Bam proposed, and expanding from there using my own questions.

It was a very good experience for me. My father is a tough German man, and is seldom open to such things, especially because having to ‘think back’ reveals to him how his memory is failing. But I was gentle and patient and this time he opened up quite a bit. I learned a lot about him, other members of our family, and myself. Discussing my family of origin, and what their lives were like has given me a better understanding of how I am, and what life was like ‘back then’…and what I can do to ‘prep’ for my own future. I’ll share with you here what I found out.

First a little history:

It seems that my father, who was born in 1925, making him 4 years old when the market crashed at the start of the Depression, didn’t have a very hard time of it, really.

His parents were German immigrants, who had been “sponsored” (1) by some other family members to come to the US. In those days, immigrants had to be “sponsored” for a year, which meant someone vouched that you would not become a “burden to society” and they would cover your financial needs until a job was found. There were other requirements, like taking the “umlaut” (those two little dots over some letters) off your name if you had one, which my grandparents had to do. My grandfather came over first (1922), and my grandmother came a year later. They were married here in the US in 1924.

When my father was born and through his childhood, my grandfather worked, and my grandmother was a housewife. They had a small house in Minnesota (one of my most favorite places to go in the summer as a kid). It had a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, a ‘sitting’ room, and – my favorite – a screened in front porch where I would sleep on a cot sometimes in the Summer, and watch the train go by on the tracks just across the street.

There was electricity in the house and running water and ‘flush’ toilets. They had an apple tree, a good garden, and a ‘cellar’…a space under the house with a hardened dirt floor. I remember there being bushel baskets of root vegetables down there and some jars on shelves. My grandfather had some barrels at the corners of the eaves of the garage which gathered rain water. Their house was 1-2 miles from downtown.

Here is my interview with my father:

Q: Dad, I’m writing a piece about helpful lessons from the depression, and I’d like to ask you some questions about your life during that time, ok?

A: Ok. But I don’t know what I’d have to share.

Q: Well, let’s start with the situation today and how it compares with back then, as in the economics changing, recession, food prices, etc, and the impact that is having on our society and had then.

A: It’s different today, and you can’t really compare. Those were the best times of my life. Everything stayed the same. There was no new phone every week. No new autos all the time. People have all kinds of goods now. How many cell phones does there need to be anyway? Back then, people’s attitudes were different. They worked together more. Now they’re ready to shoot their neighbor. Back then, that wasn’t the case. And not everyone had a gun and a sack of ammo. We had to cooperate to survive. Besides you couldn’t shoot your neighbor for food, ’cause he didn’t have any either. More people were in the same boat. Now there’s more spread between statuses. Back then there was haves and have nots…no middle class. What’s going to happen, no one knows. It’s too complicated now. It was simpler then.

Q: Was there any ‘bartering’ or trade of goods?

A: Not really. We just co-operated and just helped, not really for trading. If someone needed something done, we’d just help. And they would do the same for us. But this didn’t come up often. Most everyone had basic skills, like sharpening, woodwork, stone work, whatever. People knew these things. Had to. My uncle was a stone mason, and he helped my father build the garage and enlarge the cellar.

Q: Were there people who’d come around to sell things or do chores? A “rag-man”? Do sharpening?

A: Occasionally a farmer would come by in a wagon with produce. And yes, there was a “rag-man” too. Milk & ice were delivered. No one doing sharpening…everyone did their own of that. You could sharpen on an old piece of concrete block.

Q: Did Grandma & Grandpa deal with any of these vendors?

A: Sometimes with the farmers, but not the rag-man.

Q: Where did you get your food? Did Grandma & Grandpa have a garden? Or animals?

A: No animals. Had a small garden and an apple tree. Pretty much everyone had gardens. Even the city people had gardens. But we got food from the store.

Q: So there were grocery stores?

A: Mostly shops, like a butcher and baker. But there was a grocery store. I was sent to do the shopping sometimes.

Q: How was food kept?

A: We had an ice box (2) for things.

Q: How often was shopping done?

A: Once a week.

Q: Where did the food in the stores come from? Local providers?

A: Yes. There was no imported food, except maybe in New York and a little from Canada. There was no Chinese crap. Even gas was from the USA. 5-10¢ a gallon. 99% of things were US made.

Q: What did Grandma cook? Did she can foods? Did she bake bread?

A: She sometimes made jelly. And she baked sometimes, but not bread. Usually rolls and sometimes cakes. We ate roasted meats and vegetables…a common German diet. Pork, chicken, beef, in that order. Very little fish…only what we caught, and we didn’t fish often. Sauerkraut. Rye bread from the bakery.

Q: Did Grandma make the sauerkraut or was it store-bought cans or jars?

A: Store-bought. But sometimes it would come from other people.

Q: Did you ever eat noodles? Did Grandma make noodles?

A: No, no noodles. Grandpa was a meat & potato man, that’s all they had in Germany, and not much meat.

Q: Did you eat salads?

A: We’d have cucumber salad. Cucumbers and onion with vinegar, black pepper, sugar, and water. It would be made some hours or a day ahead.

Q: What about desserts? Didn’t Grandma make puddings?

A: She didn’t make puddings until later in life. Well, she made rennet puddings(3). But we didn’t really have desserts.

Q: What about snacks? Did Grandma make cookies?

A: There were no snacks. You ate at mealtime, and that was it. Except for eating fruit off the trees in the neighborhood. Sometimes there were cookies at Christmas.

Q: How many meals did you eat then? Breakfast , lunch, and dinner? What did you eat for breakfast and lunch?

A: We had three meals like now. I didn’t eat much breakfast after I started school. We’d have sandwiches for lunch, or just a small dinner type meal.

Q: People ate less back then didn’t they?

A: Yes, but not because there wasn’t food. They just didn’t eat as much. They eat more now because of those damn advertisements. And because they don’t prepare it…it’s all already made.

(My response: I think people eat more now also because food is less nutritious and people eat, but then are still hungry.)

Q: What kinds of vegetables did you eat?

A: Mostly root vegetables: rutabagas, turnips, celery root, carrots, potatoes, onion.

Q: What about fruits?

A: We went to the countryside in season, and picked grapes off government land. And we kids would eat lots of plums from neighborhood trees.

Q: What about grapefruit and oranges? Bananas?

A: No bananas. And grapefruit and oranges were only at Christmas.

Q: Was the bulk of your vegetables store-bought food or home-grown food?

A: Up until I was maybe 15, it was mostly home-grown, then there was more from the stores.

Q: So Grandpa grew the root vegetables?

A: Yes, some.

Q: Did he grow cabbage? Or green beans?

A: I don’t remember if he did or not.

Q: Was the cellar used for food storage?

A: Yeah for some.

Q: What did you drink? Did you ever drink lemonade?

A: Water. Or hot tea. I drank milk when I was little, but not later. Grandpa must have drunk coffee ’cause he didn’t drink tea. No lemonade, but Grandma used lemons somehow for washing dishes. I remember there was always a lemon by the sink.

Q: Did people visit much? Was food shared?

A: Sometimes on Saturday or Sunday, people from the old country would come. But Grandma cooked very seldom. There was no money for it.

Q: Did they ever drink beer? Or wine?

A: Sometimes beer, but rarely.

Q: Did you ever go to a doctor?

A: Not unless you were really sick. Even if you had measles, you stayed home. Grandpa went for a TB test once. He didn’t have it.

Q: What did you take for medicine?

A: Grandma used Vicks vapor rub(4) if I had a cold, and that’s about it. I was sick once when I was 7-8. I stayed in bed, but didn’t see a doctor. Once they swabbed my throat with iodine when I was in second grade. Grandma took something for nerves, maybe Lydia Pinkham’s tonic(5). Hucksters would come by to sell it.

Q: Why did they swab your throat?

A: For a sore throat or cold.

Q: Did you take vitamins?

A: Well, Grandma had some Vit C ..some rutin (6) and we took garlic.

Q: Where did you get them?

A: They were sent from Germany.

Q: Do you remember anyone dying when you were young?

A: Yes, my aunt when I was 10-12. And my Grandfather when I was 8-9.

Q: Did you go to the funeral?

A: Not my Aunt’s but I think I went to Grandfather’s.

Q: Were the funerals like they are today? Was there a “showing”of the body? And was it in a funeral home or a personal home? Did neighbors take food to families who’d lost someone?

A: Just like they are today, in a funeral home. No…taking food was more of a Southern thing. People in the South were more scarce than up North.

Q: Did Grandma make things? I remember that she tatted (7)…did she crochet or knit?

A: Yeah. She knitted socks, stockings, scarves and Winter hats and mittens.

Q: Where did she get the yarn and thread?

A: From the store.

Q: I know she sewed because she taught me how on her treadle sewing machine (8). Did she make clothes for you?

A: Sporadically. She made some of her dresses. Mostly we bought our clothes at Montgomery Wards.

Q: Did she mend clothes?

A: Yes, lots of mending. And she darned socks (9).

Q: Did the house have electricity and/or gas? A flush toilet?

A: Yes we had electricity and gas. They came from city lines. And we had a flush toilet.

Q: Where did your water come from?

A: City pipes, and Grandpa had barrels to catch rainwater that he used on the garden.

Q: What appliances were there in the house?

A: Electric Maytag wringer washer (10). No dryer. Clothes were hung outside to dry. And there was a toaster (11), which had the sides that came down to put the bread in, and the coils in the center.

Q: Did Grandma use a washboard (12)?

A: Yes for really dirty things.

Q: Where did your furniture come from? Did Grandpa make it?

A: No he didn’t. Most of it came from saving up Green Stamps (19). The table there (pointing to the drop-leaf table in the DR) was gotten with Green Stamps, and the desk and other things. The washing machine came from Green Stamps. And maybe the sewing machine and toaster.

Q: Was there a telephone in the house?

A: Not until I was 8. It was a tall one with the receiver hanging on the side, that sat on a surface (13). It didn’t have dial because we just rang the operator. We had it mainly because of Grandpa’s job.

Q: Did you use store-bought or homemade towels and cloths?

A: Store-bought.

Q: Did Grandpa have a car?

A: Yes, a 1925 Hupmobile (14). He drove himself to work.

Q: What did Grandpa do?

A: He worked for Ford Motor Company at first, for $5 a day. Then he went to work for a grocery manufacturer, in charge of shipping. He worked long hours. Later he worked for a paper company, driving a Mac truck with solid tires, picking up scrap paper to recycle. Everything was recycled back then.

Q: What was your first car and when did you start to drive?

A: The Hupmobile. I’d drive Grandma around. I was probably 14. I didn’t own a car of my own until after the war. That was a Dodge or Plymouth. It developed a leak in the roof, so I put a rubber boat on top of the car.

Q: Like a rubber raft?

A: Yeah…a deflated rubber raft.

Q: Was there ever a shortage of gasoline?

A: No. Not until the war, when it was rationed.

Q: Did you work when you were a young man?

A: Yes. I once sold magazines house to house when I was 8 or 9. The Saturday Evening Post and Liberty Magazine (15). Sold by issue not subscription. Then I worked for a druggist, delivering prescriptions and ice cream. I bought 2 bicycles with my own money.

Q: Did you give Grandma & Grandpa any of your money?

A: Yes. When they re-mortgaged the house, I gave them a little…a dollar or two…each month to help with that. The government made it easy to re-finance mortgages to lower payments.

Q: How old were you when you did that?

A: 8 or 9.

Q: How much was the mortgage payment?

A: $5 to $15 a month. Houses cost $3-5000.

Q: What did you do for “entertainment”?

A: We kids played outside, in all seasons. We listened to the radio (16)…”Ma Perkins”, “Fibber Magee and Molly”, and a program that played a song list. We played pick-up ball games, and when I was younger, played hide and seek. And we made coaster wagons (soap box car) and had derbys (17). Once we made one, and had to leave it at the race place overnight the night before. Someone came along and clipped the steering cables. I had to hold the cables while we raced. We didn’t win. If there wasn’t something to do, you invented something.

Q: What were the soapbox cables connected to before they were clipped?

A: A steering wheel that came from a car Grandpa had junked and used for parts.

Q: Did you have toys?

A: Once at Christmas I got a toy fire engine, and another time I got a “Stanlo” set (18), like an erector set. You got 1 toy at Christmas and clothes, not like today. The kids today have so much, none of it is special.

Q: Did you have pets?

A: Not really any pets. Oh, there was a cat around sometimes. There was one that Grandma fed with a broom because it would attack her if she tried to give it food. And there was a dog named Teddy that belonged to the girl next door. But you couldn’t run around the dog. It would bite then.

Q: Did you have a gun? Did Grandpa?

A: No guns. Grandpa did go hunting a couple times, but used someone else’s gun.

Q: Did ‘hobos’ ever come by, looking for food?

A: Yes, but not many. We lived right on the train tracks, and the train hub was just a couple miles away. They would come and ask for work and/or food. They would be glad for just a piece of bread. One young man came and he was invited in to eat. He wasn’t a hobo, just someone without any money who was traveling the trains.

Q: Did you ever travel a train?

A: We would use it as a street car. We’d hop it in front of the house and ride it uptown, where it had to go slow through town. We’d go to Montgomery Wards to get parts for our “coaster wagons”. You could get individual parts then, like one bearing ball…you wouldn’t have to buy a whole part. With 25¢ you could get all the parts you needed.

Q: How old were you when you did this?

A: Oh, around 9 – 10 and after.

Q: Did you read much?

A: I read the magazines I sold and the druggist had a lending library. I read some of those books. And I read newspapers.

Q: Did you get books from your school library?

A: No. But I knew it was there because I was a crossing guard and we had our meetings there. They trusted kids in those days to be things like a crossing guard.

Q: What was your neighborhood like?

A: It was a mix of people, all kinds of people…Americans, immigrants, different cultures. Mostly Americans with pockets of immigrants.

Q: Was there ever trouble between Americans and immigrants, or between immigrants?

A: Not really. You were dependent on your neighbor. Everyone was busy working to get by. The problem today is this (points to computer screen)…is technology. Everything is instant and people are thinking too fast or not thinking, just reacting, and making instant decisions. Everything was simpler then. If a Tsunami happened in Japan then, you might learn of it in a week, not a minute. And anyone in the neighborhood could discipline any child, not like today. They could paddle them or smack them, or they would call the parents if it was bad enough. Everything is topsy-turvy now.

Q: Was there ‘racism’ then?

A: Not really. In high school I had a black friend. I didn’t think of him as different. It was only after I came to the south (Texas) that I came across that. The street cars were still segregated and had a sign in them saying the negros had to sit behind the sign. I would sit behind the sign or move it. The driver would stop the car and make me move or move the sign back.

Q: Were you aware of the depression in any way during that time?

A: It didn’t make a difference in my life. Not having much money was normal to me. I hadn’t known a time before that was better or different. I was aware that there was no money. And I heard about it on the radio and from newspapers. When I was 10-12, I started paying attention to the stock market. I kept records to try to understand it. But I never did. I had no mentors.

Q: Dad, how would you summarize how people handled those times:

A: Simplicity, frugality, and cooperation. Life was simpler and you were busy working to get by. You were dependent on your neighbor. You co-operated. People now are isolated by technology. No one knows their neighbors. Back then, you knew each other and would relate. And a generational gap didn’t exist then like it does now. There was no knowledge gap. Information flowed more smoothly between generations because it moved slower then. And you could expect next year to be pretty much the same as the current one. Until the war. Then that changed.

Q: Any words of advice to people today in how to handle these tough and getting-tougher times?

A: Co-operate. Those that don’t learn to cooperate won’t make it or will be shot.

I told him this was for a contest where I could win something, including buckets. He said: “Buckets are fine, but you’d better enter a contest to win a wheelbarrow, ’cause you’re gonna need one to carry your money with this inflation”

Just to add a little bit, here are some of my memories from my visits with Grandma & Grandpa when I was a girl, that I think relate to the theme of this piece:

  • -Grandma used cloth rags as “pads” for her menses.
  • -She used pine tar soap as a ‘shampoo’.
  • -She boiled milk no matter whether it was already pasteurized or not.
  • -She kept a really clean house.
  • -She gave me a spoonful of brown sugar after dinner as a treat.
  • -My Grandfather was always tinkering in the garage, and made some of his own woodworking tools (my dad still has some of them).
  • -Grandma would always sit in back when Grandpa took her to the store, even with just the 2 of them in the car.

I have gained quite a few ideas from this that add to my prepping plans, but I am not going to break down any specific things here. I’m more interested in what all of you have to say about what you get out of this piece. I will respond if there are any questions.

Bam-Bam and Hunker-Down, I hope there are some answers to your questions here. 🙂


(1) “Sponsored immigration”: “In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which did away with quotas based on nationality and allowed Americans to sponsor relatives from their countries of origin. As a result of this act and subsequent legislation, the nation experienced a shift in immigration patterns. Today, the majority of U.S. immigrants come from Asia and Latin America rather than Europe.”

(2) Ice box:

(3) Rennet Pudding:,1940,148168-255201,00.html

(4) Vicks Vapor Rub:

(5) Lydia Pinkham’s tonic:

(6) Rutin:

(7) Tatting:

8) Treadle sewing machine:

My Gma’s is like the “STANDARD BRAND TREADLE SEWING MACHINE IN CARVED OAK CABINET” that is shown on this page, and is sitting right now here in the DR. 🙂

(9) Darning socks:

Darning tools on eBay:

(10) Maytag Wringer Washer:

(11) Toaster:

(12) Using a washboard:

(13) Candlestick telephone:

(14) 1925 Hupmobile: His was a “soft-top” car, not a convertible. Dad’s was a simpler model than this. This one is a coupe, his was a sedan with 4 doors.

(15) Liberty Magazine (still around!):

(16) Radio programs:

“Ma Perkins”:

“Fibber McGee and Molly”:

(17) Soap box cars:

(18) Stanlo set:

(19) Green Stamps:

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” A total prize value of $28.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

Copyright Information

Copyright (C) and M.D. Creekmore. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to and a link to the original article. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media forms


  1. Hunker-Down says:

    Several folks have touched on the topic of hunting. My boyhood years occurred around 15 years after the depression. By the time I was old enough to hunt there were almost no animals left. The depression forced folks to develop hunting skills and they used them throughout their lives and by the time I was allowed to shoot a single shot 4-10 there was nothing left to shoot at. There were no deer, no ducks or geese, no coyotes, no creek critters to trap; only a very few squirrels and rabbits left. I was probably 50 years old by the time I saw a local wild deer.

    Today we have ample game because they are protected by law and propagated by wild game departments.
    Kids that should be learning stalking skills are thumbing their cell phone, strengthening their myopic view of reality.

    When TSHTF, skilled preppers will be forced to harvest the wild game and we will shortly return to the hunting environment in which I was raised. I hope we are not forced by circumstance to hunt in that environment again.

    Can the person whose cell phone you pay for skin a rabbit?

    • Good thoughts Hunker Down. Something we preppers need to stay aware of, and make others aware of if possible. One of the things I think about that is really important to remember is how many MORE people there are now than there were during the Depression. That will put a much BIGGER strain on resources in a SHTF scenario than back then, including game. I think the population numbers will be THE biggest problem as time goes on, SHTF or not. Thanks for your comment.

      • Hunker-Down says:


        The 1940 census was 132 million and grew to 308 million by 2010. Gun growth is probably worse. We need to develop a taste for TVP and stock a bunch while it is still being made (we have none).

      • That is exactly why all of the survival stories prophesy a large population die off it it happens. Imaging the inner city welfarites who know nothing about acquiring food other than the store or fast food places.

  2. Thanks MtWoman. You brought back a lot of memories. I grew up in my maternal grandmother’s house in a big city in S. TX. My sister lives in the house today. My mom would tell me a few stories about the depression when asked. They made out better than others thanks to her father. Growing up there was a ringer washer with clothes rinsed in a wash tub out back then hung to dry. She had a bottle of “bluing” to put in rinse water for white clothes. She used a rag mop instead of a store bought mop.

    My father grew up in NW AK. My first visit as a college freshman to the other grandparents was interesting. In the ’60s they had electricity but no running water. The well was next to the front porch with a well bucket. Grandma cooked on a wood stove. Didn’t hear anything about that time from him. Did hear a few things from an aunt. My uncles hunted with a borrowed .22. They didn’t own a gun. In his later years my grandfather grew flowers, walked to town to the U of Arkansas to sell them. One year they had pictures of him in the year book selling the flowers. The students just knew him as the “flower man”.

    Both grandfathers had a couple of jobs at the same time, so they could support their families.

    • Papabear…SO many similarities in everyone’s stories of those times, and yours is no exception. BLUING!! I remember my grandmother using that. I wonder what it was. I’ll have to research it. Thanks for your post. 🙂

      • Bluing was added to white clothes to make them whiter. It used to come in balls in a cardbox. We used to load it into 410 shotgun shells and shoot things with it when mom did not catch us raiding her bluing supplies. Such memories that one little word brings back. We had a hard time during the war and actually had to use some percussion caps and the black powder that was on hand to reload shotgun shells with using broken glass or small pea gravel, bits of nails etc for the shot. And those were just the good times. Never mind what the bad times were like, walking two miles to school in the wintertime with worn out tennis shoes with holes in them and arriving with feet so cold that I was lucky I did not loose toes to frostbite. What I would have given for some plastic bags back then to wrap my feet in.

        • Thanks Harold. Yup…many memories associated with certain words for myself too…and smells and tastes. Brown sugar is one…my grandmother gave me a spoonful every evening as a ‘treat’. She never made desserts, so this was the only ‘sweet’ I ever got when with her. To this day, I think of her when I smell it. 🙂

    • Papabear says:

      A few hours later I realized a typo was in this. I should have written “NW AR” not “NW AK”.

  3. Pineslayer says:

    MtWoman, thanks for a great post that spawned many great stories. Perspective comes to us in many ways, I wish you were my neighbor.

  4. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Good read, thanks for sharing

  5. rich hutchin says:

    Thank you- & let your dad know every time someone here says to thank him -i hope he sees how many people today are searching for the advice of our elders! One benefit of our technology is that people like me far away are able to hear his wisdom, so it’s not all bad. My parents & grandparents have all passed so I no longer have access to any more of their knowledge. My favorite piece of wisdom from your interview: “Co-operate. Those that don’t learn to cooperate won’t make it or will be shot.”

    • Yes Rich…that is what I saw as an important part too, and something the masses are not so good at any more.

      I am copying all the responses and thanks today, and giving them to my father. He will enjoy reading them.

  6. Weemowop says:

    Great story…
    One thing my grandmother who lived in a city on the East coast passed down to me was that noone had money for new clothes. She remembers wearing anything she could find that would fit. At some points this even included wearing very formal attire passed down from her aunt to attend high school during the day. No choice about it, kids outgrowing the clothes they had wore anything they could get their hands on…. Also, my grandfather had significantly malformed toes as an adult as a result of wearing shoes longer than they properly fit as he was a growing young man during the depression… something to think about if you a prepping with kids.

  7. Patriot Dave (kna David the new one) says:

    I got a lot out of the glimpse of life in the 30’s. At first, I was struck by the number of things your Dad said they bought at stores. Then I realized that the depression did not affect everyone the same. Then I realized that I was another product of the progressive media re-writing history. The primary thing you see about the depression is food lines. As if everyone in the nation was standing in one. The second thing you see in history books is all the government programs and the shovel ready jobs and how the guvmint was your best friend. The history books don’t mention that the depression would have ended a decade sooner if the gov. had not intervened. (it did end sooner in other countries)

    My Mom has always been tight lipped about her childhood. She was born 1930. I sent her a link to your article hoping she will open up.
    I could not get much out of my Dad either, until a few months before he died. Then he would only tell me fun stories.

    • Patriot Dave…yes, I was ‘enlightened’ too by how relatively “easy”my father’s experience was; I had the same impression that there was NOTHING but food lines and hobos and homeless hardship. I also realized (as mentioned by someone above) that the UNCERTAINTY of the times must have been hard, even if you had food and a home. I see it in Dad’s ‘frugality’ – even when times are ‘flush’ he will not spend unless he has to, to the point of letting the house get in dis-repair, etc. I think there is an underlying fear there of being without funds. Of course, today’s “economy” (and I have that in quotes because it’s suspect to be called that) doesn’t help…I think it triggers the same fears as back in the Depression.

      Thanks for your response. And please share the ‘fun’ stories or any others here. I think they are benefiting us all.

  8. Patriot Dave (f.n.a. David the new one) says:

    screwed up. meant fna not kna.

  9. Hi WolfPack-
    I wrote a longer post yesterday that disappeared as soon as I hit submit. First time that’s happened to me here.
    My father’s parents were young adults during the 30’s. They are the ones I was closest to growing up, as they lived with us during the summers. All of my grandparents lived in the immigrant boroughs of NYC in very crowded apartments with many generations packed very close together. My grandfather was a machinist and mechanic, and his salary paid the rent, but he had a nasty habit of drinking the rest. My grandmother had to make do with what she and her boys (my father and his brothers) could glean to be able to find enough to eat. All able-bodied members of the household worked for whatever they could get – a nickle to deliver groceries, a penny per newspaper sold on the corner in the business district, a batch of traditional pastries sold to the owner of the coffee shop for $1.50… everything went into my grandmother’s tulip jar in the kitchen, to be used to purchase whatever they couldn’t grow on the rooftop garden or back yard, or pluck from under their chickens and pigeons. The walk to the market took them through a park, and there were greens free to those willing to pick them, to be cleaned and cooked with dinner. Dandelions and elderberries were pressed and made into wine, (my grandfather’s homemade specialty). At the market, for whatever was purchased, a few green stamps were given out, to be pressed into books and exchanged for special things. My grandmother’s tulip jar and decorative plates came this way, and they grace my kitchen today exactly how they did in her kitchen all those years ago.
    My family survived on odd jobs and resourcefulness, with everyone pulling together to make the most of what they had. And they lived in the middle of one of the biggest cities on the planet, with far too many people in much too small a space.
    I know the prepper dream that is near and dear to all of our hearts is to escape the city limits and live on our own self-sufficient farm, but maybe we could do a whole lot of people good by using our prepper knowledge to come up with a plan for those trapped in the city. I suspect there are far more people in that situation than there are in need in the countryside, and if we can help some of them survive in place, there will be fewer who have no choice but to join the zombie hordes flooding out of the cities when there is nothing left for the gubm’t to hand out.

    • Cat…excellent points. I think it’s not always a choice to “bug out” or move, and the skills to “bug in” are necessary and possible. I think the key though is co-operation, something that sure seems to be missing in today’s world, especially the cities. I would think that finding a network of folks of like mind would be crucial. I feel it’s necessary even out here in the boonies, but would SURE be into it if I had to live in a city. Thanks for your response.

  10. Heartland Cindy says:

    Short term lurker here (but I’m in lust with this site) – jumping in without a life jacket. 🙂 This article was wonderful for many reasons, but most of all, it’s a fantastic reminder of how we should all respectfully learn from our elders!

    Both of my parents were actually born during the Great Depression (1933 & 1934) so neither of them (as babies & toddlers) remembered factually what was happening at the time. Although, they each had plenty of tales to pass on from their parents, to relay to us kids born in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s.

    Our parents died all too young in the 1980’s but not without insisting us youngsters, their children, spent plenty of time with the grandparents who did remember the Great Depression, clearly, and kept us kids active in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts (before they turned far left and headed off the cliff) 4-H Club, & school courses in both shop (mechanics & carpentry) and home economics (cooking and sewing) not to mention how often they shared their own life skills and experiences over the years.

    Both genders of us kids learned about animal care, guns & gun safety, fishing, gardening, archery, mechanical repair, building, sewing, cooking, baking, camping, etc., – with a sound education of morally correct behavior needed to pull it all off correctly, too boot.

    Computer, internet, cell phone & IPad/Kindle technologies are great! That we can connect with others and collect information and buy a new book or musical recording with such speed and ease these days is nothing short of terrific!

    None-the-less, failing to teach the kids & folks younger than ourselves how to get along without the bells and whistles, is a giant failure. Why can’t we make them listen? They need to learn how to get along without it all, ‘cuz there “ain’t” no promise it will always be there!

    Thanks, MtWoman, for a great article to remind us all of the importance of sharing wisdom from our elders. You sure sparked a lot of memories & interest on this thread! Wishing the best for you and your father!

    • Heartland Cindy…thanks for a great response. How fortunate you are to have had all that wonderful training! My father and mother gave me much of that too…mainly, how to think through a problem to a solution without just calling a “fixer” or just buying something new. My father to this day “invents” solutions. He just ordered a scientific bottle to separate the ethanol from gasoline, as he needs gas without it to put in his ultralights, and it’s getting hard to find. Yes…he still flies, but only one short loop up and around the airstrip. I have learned from him that what you know is what you will still do…and BE ABLE to do…when you are older. Flying is in his blood, and he may not remember my name on occasion, but he remembers how to fly.

      And as to getting the younger gen to listen to reason about tech, well…I don’t see it happenin’ in general. However, I must say that my grandson, who has done pretty much nothing but play video games all his life, has grown into a fairly astute young man. His idea of what he wanted to do was always to “make” video games. Now, as he nears HS graduation, he has realized…and on his own I might add…that that’s not such a realistic idea, and is pursuing a degree in network systems instead. I am proud of his growth, and it gives me a sigh od relief. There IS hope!!!

      Thanks again for your response.

      • Kelekona says:


        just as well about him not wanting to go into video games. All they do is train you to fall into a fallback career of running your own programming company. It was better in the 90’s when the fallback career was bent toward wedding videographer with a good foundation for a career in book cover illustration, and they actually taught you a bit about 3d graphics.

  11. Awesome interview. I wish more people would choose to do this… including me!

    • millenniumfly…well….get on with it!!! 🙂 And share it here. I think we’re all benefiting from the stories here, and more won’t hurt.

  12. Yadkin Girl says:


    Great interview and what a great man your father is!

    I adored my grandparents who struggled through the depression and, I believe, it helped create who they were. They were dirt,dirt poor but my father and uncle never knew it because my grandparents were so loving and giving and funny. They did it all, like your father states. And, even thought they were poor they always gave to others. My grandmother could make a great meal with little. She would make, what she called, Chicken Pot Pie, using potatoes for the ‘noodles’…mmmm, it was good. I still make it to this day. She had a “Sand Tart” recipe that made a zillion (exageration) cookies with very little sugar and butter. Their house was known to be a place you could go if you were hungry. They didn’t have a farm or land. Just love.

    They were part of the Great Generation. And, boy, they were.

    Thanks again. You brought back many memories of these fantastic people who I am thankful were in my life.

    I have to go now because I am crying…. Happy tears for these two wonderful people who blessed me with love, happiness and the desire to help others.

    • Yadkin Girl…thanks for your response. And, yes, I get teary too when I re-read all these stories. They WERE a great generation, and we owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Thanks for your response. BTW…any chance for a recipe for those “sand tarts” or the pot pie??????

      • Yadkin Girl says:

        I was wrong, she called it “Potato Pot Pie”:

        3 lbs chicken (I use a whole chicken) – cover with water, slow boil 1 hr. Remove chicken, cut up into small pieces. Keep broth to put noodles in (below)

        1 c mashed potatoes (from scratch!)
        1 t shortening
        1.5 c flour (or enough to make consistency of pie dough)
        Roll dough thin and cut into small squares (I make 1″ x 2″ rectangles), drop into boiling broth piece by piece (do not add several at a time as they may stick together). Cook 30 minutes, salt and pepper to taste, add cut up chicken & parsely, cook additional 10 minutes.

        This is really a soup but due to using the potato noodles, the broth ends up being thick.

        Sand Tarts:
        (I guess I lied about these – they do take a lot of sugar and butter… but the recipe makes so many – I mean a lot!!! – that relatively speaking, there is not a lot used)

        3.5 c sugar
        4 eggs
        1 lb butter
        0.5 c sweet milk
        8 c flour (this should tell you something!!!)
        1 t baking soda

        mix all ingredients and let stand covered in fridge overnight.
        Roll thin (as thin as you can), brush with a beaten egg, cut into squares (I make mine about 1.5″ x 2.5″), spinkle with chopped nuts or colored sugar, bake 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes

        • THANKS Yadkin Girl!!! Can’t wait to try these! 🙂

        • Oh my…yum!
          Thank you, Yadkin Girl. I’ve printed these out on my 3×5 cards and added to my recipe box. These recipes are very clise to my normal way of cooking – I expect they will get alot of use.
          Thank you for sharing them.

  13. MS Senior Chief says:

    As a young boy growing up on a Mississippi Delta cotton farm during the early sixtys, I would sit for hours and ask my Granny questions about different aspects of life. Granny had just lost my grandfather in 1929 and still had 4 or 5 children at home on the farm. When I asked about the depression, she stated she hardly knew that there was a depression. She had a garden and canned her vegetables, raised chickens and sold the eges, and had a milk cow. She had a hand pump, no electricity, and probably an outhouse. For those who have the means to do it, maybe her method of preparing is just what we need.

    • MS senior chief….good, good point!! For those of us that can, living on the land and keeping it simple is a good idea. Thanks for your response.

  14. I liked your father’s perspective on his survival and the great memories of those here who remember their grandparents going through the Great Depression… although my grandparents were so self-reliant that the depression really didn’t phase them, which is another reason to be prepared, have a garden, natural food surrounding you, the skills to live primitive, and gather like minded neighbors together.

    Funny how our grandparents and parents worked hard for the next generation’s lives to be easier, to not have to live the hard life and an unexpected result occured…………. most people lost that generation’s skills, our country lost manufacturing, and got lazy and depend on gov’t handouts and here we are…………..

    • Donna H….you hit the nail on the head. And I’d add that it’s a rotten shame how that generation has to RE-LIVE the uncertainty of economic instability, after they worked so hard to create the stability we got to grow up in (my gen). Makes me very sad…and mad. But…I think there ARE folks who carry on the skills and knowledge from those times. I just think the amount of tech-reliant folks makes it seem otherwise. Thanks for your response.

  15. Everyone…I am copying all the responses and thanks and will be giving them to my father today. I’ll post his response…if there is one. Sometimes he just doesn’t say anything. But we’ll see. 🙂

    And I want to thank you all for your responses…it has been great reading them, and I’ve gotten some good prepping ideas.

  16. Hunker-Down says:

    I haven’t mentioned this because I did not live it, only heard it from my mother.
    My grandfather rented 1,000 acres during the 1920’s, forward into the depression. His sons, Max, Shorty, Tater and Brick (nicknames) each received a ‘courting buggy’ on their 14Th birthday and a car on their 16Th. There was a second house on the property where a hired family lived.
    Uncle Max flew a plane in WW1 in Germany. He flabbergasted me with a story of butchering cattle on the boat to Germany so the troops could have fresh meat. He later flew mail in Michigan for the government on the same route as Lindbergh. I was told that my dad was ready to go to medical school when the depression ‘hit’. He never made it.

    They couldn’t sell the corn crop and ended up burning it to heat the house. My grandmother took in washing to earn money.

    I don’t know why they rented the acreage, I was too young to wonder why.

    • Interesting story Hunker Down. Again, the lesson seems to be: you do what you need to when you need to.

  17. Interesting. This article & comments have now been “shared” on a different blog (see “trackback” below), and without any contact with me….did they say anything to you MD? I know that anything put on the net is subject to public use, but usually I assume…or at least hope…that there will be some sort of “professional consideration” from someone before using content for their own purposes. And I didn’t know that the content here could be linked out like that.

    I am glad that they appreciated my article, but doing this was a very personal endeavor, and done specifically for this blog, as I felt ok sharing with the Pack here. I feel a little violated. Makes me look at things a little differently, knowing that this (that anything can be linked from this blog) can happen. I’ll have to be more careful about putting such personal things here…or anywhere.

    I have left a comment on the other blog stating simply that some “professional consideration” would have been appreciated.

    • Having read the current “What I did to prep this week” post, and your post about “linking” MD, I now understand the openness of this blog. I still think a little professional courtesy would have gone a long way, on the part of the person who re-posted this thread.

    • MtWoman
      There is no “subject to public use” for info posted online, online content has the same copyright protection as any other written works such as magazines. However, posting a short “snippet” with a link back to the original post is considered normal and acceptable. This type of this can be good in most cases because it sends more people to the blog to read the post increasing the potential to help more people…

  18. Kelekona says:

    Copyright law is twisted, and I probably don’t understand it well.

    If you gave an article to MD for his blog, it’s probably some form of implied permission. You did not say in words that MD could repost, but it would be implied by entering his contest. (Perhaps there is an official form, otherwise it’s wishy-washy.)

    Some other blog stealing a non-MD post from this site…. either MD or the contributor probably has claim enough for a formal letter. I think the only protection they have is the lack of law-educated person to clarify the matter.

  19. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very useful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  20. Encourager says:

    Welcome, Fumiko Sandford. Looking forward to helping you anyway we can! The Wolf Pack is awesome, full of great people who are full of great advice.

  21. MtWoman says:

    Hey everyone…I have shown my father the responses here, and he was very interested in what you all had to say, especially the stories and memories you all shared of those times.

    What he said: “It’s great that they can appreciate what I had to say, and gain something from it. And I really like the stories they have to tell. It’s interesting to see how it was for others during those times. This must be a good group of people.”

    I explained how the “group of people” is called the Wolf Pack, but he didn’t quite get that. 🙂 He understands that it’s a group that is trying to be self-sufficient and is concerned about the state of affairs in the world. He said: “Smart people then too. They SHOULD be concerned”.

    Doing this article was a great gift to me, as I had not heard many of the things he had to say about his childhood. It has given me an insight to him, and some information about a ‘simple’ lifestyle that is useful to me now. And I have learned even more from the stories you have all shared in response. Thanks to you all for your responses.

    I encourage everyone to “interview” your elders…ANY elders…as they are fonts of wisdom.

    • Your dad sounds wonderful! I so agree with your last sentence. I wrote a family history book last year, and interviewed some aunts and my mom, and others wrote their stories in more or less detail, it was very poignant. Make sure to interview your dad for his detailed life story, too. Most of us never hear our elders’ stories in great detail. As we get older we think of more questions to ask!

      • MtWoman says:

        Thanks Natalia. It’s a great thing for all to get the stories and lessons. 🙂

  22. Bam Bam says:

    Mt. Woman,

    Thanks for posting your father’s comments on what everyone posted. I am grateful to be a part of this community. Thank you for your work on this post. This post has my vote for top post this go around.

  23. MtWoman says:

    Thanks Bam Bam. It was a work of love for sure. It was the first time he was willing to open up with me and talk about all that. I am grateful I had the format of this blog to spur me on! 🙂 Thanks BB.