Reflections on a time past
As a boy, I heard stories from my parents, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles about what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression. Members of my family would sometimes reflect on their experience and share their impressions of how memory affected their behavior.
The main lesson I learned was that they lived through a hard and uncertain time by staying together and by caring for one another. It proved to be a time that changed how they lived the rest of their lives. --They saved everything. Nothing was ever discarded because they never knew when they might need something again. My brother and I loved to roam through my grandmother's garage in the back of her house and explore the attic on the third floor of her home on Hall Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. There were treasures there. Like extra parts from washing machines and dryers, boxes of hand-me-down clothes, tools of various shapes and sizes, painting and plumbing supplies, containers of most every size of nuts, bolts and washers, car and engine parts, board games with missing pieces, drawing and coloring materials. All of this and more, just in case, we might need it one day. --They fixed everything themselves. There was never a need to call a repairman..and there were no funds even if one wanted to. My mother grew up in a family of 8 children and my father in a family of 12. I was always dazzled by the way they both could handle the repair of anything that needed fixing. My Dad was the most effective plumber, electrician, auto repairman, painter, carpenter, and handyman that I ever encountered. My mother maintained a spotless house, cleaned everything (never once sent any clothes to a cleaners), stretched a dime farther than anyone I knew, and did it all with an unwavering optimistic attitude. --They worked. My Dad often worked two jobs, just in case one did not work out. Around 1955, he got a job with the Ford Motor Company at its engine plant on Brookpark Road in Cleveland. He became a union man and worked that job for 38 years. And still he would often work a second job. My mother was a kind of Rosie the Riveter in the Chevy plant for a while after World War II, and then over the course of her life would work at various times in a bakery, retail stores, and eventually become a floor manager in a department store. --They made sure there was food on the table. My mother often made oatmeal for my brother and me for breakfast. Without fail, every time she did, she would tell us, "This will stick to your ribs." I suppose there were times for both of my parents' families when they did not have much to stick to their ribs in the 1930s. And we never had a meal that did not include potatoes. Both my parents were magicians with potatoes. If you could imagine a way to make a potato, we had it--mashed, boiled, baked (once, twice, with a cheese on it, bacon bits topped, ground meat over it, you get the idea), scalloped, au gratin, lyonnaise (which we called potatoes with onions), fried, french fried, the ways seemed endless and were. --They had positive memories of surviving a hard time. They told my brother and me about fireside chats that provided hope and encouragement to a troubled nation. They remembered radio shows like Burns and Allen, and Red Skelton that made them laugh. They recalled playing board games with their bothers and sisters. They recalled people pulling together to help one another. Today, we are all trying to get through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. What will our reflections will be and what impressions will we leave with our children and grandchildren? How will memory affect our behavior? I wonder... --Will we recall a country coming together to get through a hard and uncertain time? Or will we remember a time when partisanship and acrimony pulled us farther apart? --Will we take positive lessons out of this moment that will influence the rest of our lives, and if so, what will those lessons be? I wonder. Good Health and Good Luck Ray