Depression Era: Growing Up in the Thirties

Missourian recalls growing up in the thirties and wasting nothing during the depression era.

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This is of my own recollection of the Depression era as I grew up in the Thirties.

Those years were hard. CCC Camps, WPA work, etc. helped us survive. Most people followed the motto, "Use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without." Outgrown clothing was passed on to the next child or to neighbor children who could use it. Newspapers and magazines were shared. Anything needing repaired was patched, darned or mended. New articles of clothing were made from old.

Feed sacks and flour sacks were valuable. White sacks were bleached by boiling with lye until letterings came out. They were then used for sheets, pillow slips, tea towels, underwear, and handkerchiefs. I used ten-pound sugar sacks to make our boys' training pants. Printed sacks were used for dresses, blouses, children's overalls, curtains, and quilts. Heavy clothing was cut into blocks and made into comforters. Fabric scraps were used for quilts. Rags were torn into strips and then crocheted or woven into rugs.

Mothers gave their children hair cuts and often their husbands.

We saved waxed paper from cracker and cereal boxes and there weren't very many kinds of cereals. Sometimes a loaf of bread was bought and the wrapper was re-used.

One time I papered my pantry with newspapers - at least it was clean.

Beds had straw ticks. After threshing each year, clean straw was used to refill the ticks. A feather bed went on top of this.

Fuel was wood or coal. Lamps used kerosene. Telephones were on party lines. Each family had a different set of short and long rings as its call numbers. Farmers met occasionally to repair the telephone lines. The Operator at Central was a great help in relaying messages. Some enjoyed eavesdropping to hear the news.

We had a country doctor everyone loved and he kept busy.

We also used home remedies such as salt water to gargle, or goose or skunk grease rubbed on the chest with kerosene added (later much like Vicks was used). Alum cured mouth sores _ how it puckered the mouth! A chicken feather swabbed the throat.

In today's lifestyle with so many toys, fast food places, clothes, TVs, videos, computers and all the modern conveniences, it sounds like life was hard then, and it was. We didn't realize we were so poor, as everyone we knew was in the same boat or worse. Life was less stressful here in the rural areas.

Crista Taylor
Livonia, Missouri

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.