Saturday, November 24, 2012

Depression Baby

   I recently viewed Ken Burns documentary of the dust bowl.   In the depths of the great depression families of the dust bowl suffered almost unimaginable hardships and through the strength of the human spirit survived either in place or by moving on to new locations.    My maternal grandfather and family emigrated to South Dakota in the 1910's to try find greater opportunity.   He and my maternal grandmother were immigrants from the Netherlands before that and had established a successful farm in upstate New York.  However, my grandfather had a wanderlust.   The new venture was a disaster because of a drought starting in 1910.   My mother who was born in 1906 vividly remembered the difficulties of their time South Dakota decades after my grandfather gave up and returned to New York State.   Just like the people of the 1930's dust bowl, some of my ancestors stuck it out and other such as my grandfather gave up a moved to more verdant areas.
   This all leads me to think of my parents as optimists.   I was a depression baby!  Born in 1935 in the depths of the depression to a mother who had been widowed by her early twenties.   My father owned no property but basically ran the home farm for the benefit of his mother and special needs brother after his father died when he was 17.   Those were hard times.  We weren't exactly dirt poor but we were close to that at times.   Because we were farmers, we never lacked for food.  However, there was little money for other amenities.   No running water or central heat.  An outhouse served for waste disposal.   The good news for us depression babies is that things markedly improved in the 1940's in spite of World War II or perhaps as a result of it.
Sad State of My Boyhood Home
    Most of my cohort of depression babies of my area moved on the successful lives.  Many stayed where they grew up and prospered in the local economy often in the trades or in farming.  Others went on to professional careers in teaching, business, and nursing.   It is good to reflect on the strength of the human spirit that survives and thrives beyond the worst of times.

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