Coming into the 1930’s, America was dealing with the start of the greatest economic collapse in history. The Great Depression lasted for most of the 1930’s and Americans, as well as the majority of the world’s economies were largely affected by this decade long event.
I find the Great Depression era as an interesting subject to be studied. This was the last time that this country felt true suffering. Although we probably felt it more than most countries due to, even at that time, being one of the strongest countries economically.
As Americans we have always had more than other countries and cultures. We have been the innovators that lead in creating a better world. From the invention of the cotton gin to the release of the Iphone, Americans always seem to continually produce products and processes that better the human life. Many of the life saving drugs and vaccines that are shipped all over the world were invented in America. We have grown so accustomed to creating a better world that it’s hard to imagine an America where the majority of the country struggled financially.
Although the Great Depression was only about 10 years or so long, the affects of this event lasted for decades. There are still some alive as I write this that painfully remember the struggles and hardships.
I’m sure some of you have a great grandmother or grandfather that saved aluminum foil that was slightly used to use again later. Or maybe a grandfather that would save old nails pulled from boards. He probably made you, as a young kid, take those nails and straighten them with a hammer and put them in an old coffee can. What do nails cost? Why can’t we just buy new ones when we need them? To this generation, they still remember the days when even the few pennies it cost to buy nails was a hardship on their household.
These are some of the things I want to research and learn more about. What was that household like? How did a family of six with only one family member working for minimum wage make a “household” and succeed… or did they just survive?
In today’s culture, the majority of us do not know true suffering or going without. Sure we may not have had the greatest bicycle on our street, or the newest video game console. Some less fortunate folks can remember having to wear hand me down clothing or sleep on the couch growing up, but very few of us had to watch our parents go without eating dinner night after night simply because there was not enough food for the whole family.
I want to study the grief and hardship associated with this decade in our history, but not to just see the pain and the struggle. I want to drill down and find out the motivations that kept these people from giving up. Sure, some people did give up and I’m sure suicide was on the rise during this time. But what I want to see is what values and practices did these people use to overcome the situation. What did they do on a daily basis to adjust their lives to the times?
Today as a culture, we can not imagine living without even the simplest things this generation went without… air conditioning, bottled water, transportation, and even radio. If you take a moment to take stock of your life when you were in your twenties what will you find? I say your twenties because that is the first time you were a true adult out on your own… and for most of us it is probably the poorest point in your life. Whether you were in college, married with children and working, or single living in a one bedroom apartment with your first real job… you were just getting your life started at this time and probably didn’t have much that you actually owned out right.
Even as bad as your situation was at that time you will find that it was no where near as hard as it was during the great depression. You most likely had a vehicle, air conditioning, a cell phone, never went without some kind of meal (hamburger helper is considered a meal), and if you were sick you just went to the doctor.
Many times today I find it funny to watch our culture complain about where we are economically. This is the greatest country on the planet, even in our worst times. We have more in this country than any country in the history of the world. In this country, if you are below the poverty level and on welfare living in government housing you are still in the top 1% when it comes to income globally.
How would we fair as a culture if there was another Great Depression? Would you know what to do? How to provide for your family? How to stay prepared and be independent?
These are the virtues and skills that I want to learn and bring to the forefront. In the future, there will no longer be anyone alive who remembers the skills it took to survive an economic collapse. I want to start the study so that we can be prepared and if there is ever another devastating economic development we can all survive and prosper like the Great Generation did.