Depression Era: Making Clothes, Food Preservation, and Other Chores

Kansan recalls women of her community working together when making clothes, preserving food, and gardening during the depression era.

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During the depression era, some men, out of work, wandered the dusty roads laboring for food and shelter for a day, a week, or for however long they were needed. Neighbors traded work, and women assisted each other with gardening, food preservation, making clothing or quilts for the winter.

The work "recycled" was unheard of at this time. We called it "making do with what we had." Women made their own clothing, and that of their family from whatever materials they could afford to buy, or from whatever they had on hand or could trade with some other woman. Many times flour bags were washed and bleached to snowy whiteness to make undergarments. Used clothing was altered or restyled for a "new look," or handed down from one child to the next. Old knitted shawls and sweaters were unraveled and "new" garments fashioned from the used yarn.

The coat I was so proud to wear for two winters was one of my mother's "made over" from my father's army trench coat he wore in 1918. I was the envy of my girl friends at school as I wore this coat with the wide collar which shielded my face from the bitter Kansas wind. The bronze buttons with the eagle imprint, she had polished to a high luster and the wide belt had a shiny metal buckle.

Use able portions of old cotton or chambray garments were saved and cut into strips which were braided together, then stitched to form small rugs. Material from old velvet coats or other wool garments was cut into squares, backed with flannel, and tied with bright cord to make pretty, warm quilts for winter.

Reva M. Smith
Abilene, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.