- Posted October 18, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Great Depression
The Great Depression
am a Gen-X'er. I was born in the mid-1970s to a baby-boomer mother. Growing up, I lived with her, her sister, and her parents whose lives were shaped by The Great Depression.
American's leanest years had a great impact especially on my grandmother's life. She was born two years before Wall Street fell. Her childhood was further marred by the death of her father due to complications of mustard gas poisoning while fighting in World War I.
My great-grandmother raised four children by herself. She was a single parent way before it became commonplace. The state had wanted to break up the children by placing them in different homes because they believed a single woman couldn't raise a family by herself. Boy, were they wrong.
By taking in people's laundry and sewing and working at the local cotton mill, she struggled to feed and clothe the three girls and one boy. She could make $2 stretch to buy groceries that provided them with food for a month.
My grandmother has told me stories of how she and her sisters wore sewn-together feed sacks and placed cardboard in the holes of their shoes, of how oftentimes her mother went to bed hungry just so that they had food to take for lunch to school the next day. Furthermore, my great-grandmother did all this and much, much more without asking or expecting help from anyone-- a fact that she was vehemently proud of.
She could boast that all four of her children graduated high schoo,l a great fete for the time period. Her son joined the Air Force later on and became a Master Sergeant. Her youngest daughter, who was just six weeks old when her father died, attended nursing school.
My grandmother went on to marry the man she'd been dating since she was fourteen and give birth to my mother and her twin sister. The Depression years were tight; the war years even tighter in some aspects (my grandmother craved chocolate when you couldn't get chocolate during WWII!), which made them even more grateful for the plentiful bounty they enjoyed during the post-war boom of the 1950's and 1960's.
My mother and aunt never wanted for anything, but the experiences my grandmother and grandfather had during the Depression also shaped their upbringing. They knew the value of a dollar and that if you want something; you have to work for it. My grandfather made them get a job and pay for their first car, on their own-- he refused to buy them one.
I was a little luckier. I didn't buy my first car, my aunt did. She did so, however, because I was the first person in my family to attend college. A lot of hard work and sacrifice from my entire family went into getting me to college and helping to keep me there. I know that a lot of times they did without things just so I had spending money. They gave and gave without ever asking for anything in return, except for asking that I always did my best. One of the proudest moments in my mom's and grandfather's lives (They are both gone now.) was to see me walk across the stage at my college graduation and accept my degree.
As I hear people talk about 'the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression,' I think about my family. I think about their strife and desolation during that era. And I think about how that dark period in history molded my mom's and aunt's values and ideals, which in turn also effected my own outlook on life, which sometimes greatly differs from that of my generation.