Home frugal living/saving money Tales of By-Gone Days: Legacy of The Great Depression

Tales of By-Gone Days: Legacy of The Great Depression

by Kelly Crawford

I don’t know why I love so much the stories of the past, told with a nostalgia that probably makes the telling far more lovely than the actual event being retold.  But I think there is so much to learn from the grit and fortitude of our great-grandparent’s era, and that we do a terrible disservice to ourselves and our children if we don’t recount their stories.

To be honest, I think our pampered, self-centered lives need a healthy dose of “the way it used to be” from time to time, just to temper us.

I enjoyed this one, a tale remembering the effects of The Great Depression, and I thought you may as well. I plan on asking my husband to read it aloud tonight in its entirety.

“My mother recalls Christmas when an orange in a stocking was a valued gift . One Christmas she received a compact with a mirror in it, something her mother had obtained as a bonus from the Watkins man by buying spices over a period of a year; and that was Christmas. At least there were gifts of some sort in my mother’s family. My father recalls a Christmas when the only gift for eight children was a white-frosted Christmas cake, the baby given the red candy horse that adorned the top; and that was Christmas.

Read all of Frugality:  Legacy of The Great Depression

You may also like


ladyscott December 21, 2010 - 7:54 pm

My parents have a collection of books that contain stories from the Great Depression and WW2, written by those who lived through them. I pour over those time and time again and enjoy my copies of Good Old Days and Reminisce.

Recently, a woman told me that she knows what it must have felt like to go through the Great Depression when she faced losing a job she doesn’t need (her husband makes more than enough to support the two of them. She just likes to keep busy.) I couldn’t help but tell her that she’s not stuffing her shoes with newspaper to keep out the weather.

I daresay many of us can’t hold a candle to what our fore mothers triumphed through.

Jessica December 21, 2010 - 8:22 pm

That sounds the same as the Little House Christmas’s. My son loves those books. Made him appreciate life the way it is today.

R. F. December 21, 2010 - 9:14 pm

I would love to get my hands on books like these. I love stories of the Great Depression. As miserable as it must have been at the time, I can’t help but feel that those that went through it have a depth of character that we are missing in the following generations.

Kim M December 22, 2010 - 1:46 am

I, too, love reading these stories. There is always something to learn.

My husband’s grandparents, who both recently died, had some great stories about that time period. And for certain, they were very frugal until their death. One thing Grandpa Matlock did that just tickled me pink (I have a picture of it somewhere) was when his washing machine broke down.
Instead of getting a new one, he “fixed” it.

He installed about five or so light switches on the face of it and sat there and turned them on and off through the entire cycle! And he could afford a new washer but he was too “cheap” to get one. It didn’t hurt their generosity though. They were very giving.

Thanks for sharing that story; I enjoyed it so much!

Cathy December 22, 2010 - 8:13 am

Like the writer, I, too turn catsup bottles upside down to eek out every last drop.

My mom, who wasn’t raised w/much (neither was I, unless you count the grandeur of hearing the Gospel from the time that I can remember–which, in my view, is a priceless gift), raised us to be frugal and thrifty. I remember a story that she told me decades ago that impacted my life greatly. I was about three-years-old, and my sister was about 18 months. There was no money for Christmas gifts, but my parents were expecting a small check. My mom prayed that God would bring the check in the mail so that she could buy Christmas gifts for my sis and me. Now, it wouldn’t have mattered to us since we were too young to understand gift-giving, or much about Christmas. But, it was important to my mom. I will never forget how she said that she was thrilled to open the envelope w/the check, and be able to buy us some gifts on Christmas Eve. That story is a testament to a God who doesn’t just provide for our needs, but gives us whimsical gifts, as well. My mom lived out her life that way, i.e., dependent on the goodness of God to meet her needs, until she succumbed to breast cancer at age 43. I still miss her, but when I think about her, I can’t help but be amazed at the woman who, at 12, came to faith, and influenced her three sisters and parents, who also eventually came to faith. And, her legacy! My siblings know Jesus. All ten of my kids know Jesus, my kids-in-law know Jesus, and we pray that all of our young g’kids come to faith.

BTW, Kelly, I think that you’d like the link that I posted on my wall. It’s an old hymn set to a new melody by Sovereign Grace Music. I’ve listened to it on a seeming-loop for the last hour or so…it’s that good.

Merry Christmas to all!


Cathy December 22, 2010 - 8:17 am

There should have been a comma after “too” in the first sentence. Mea culpa.

Charity December 22, 2010 - 9:34 am

I also love these stories of days of old. Thank you for sharing this. I enjoyed reading it so much. It brought back memories of my precious Papa (with the Lord for 7 years now) telling me stories of living during the great depression.

Julie December 22, 2010 - 9:46 am

My grandmother was a widow during the Great Depression. One winter, she sent the two older children to town to live with friends, so they could go to school. She stayed on the farm with the baby. One day, some hunters got caught in a snowstorm and couldn’t get home. They found her house, and she let them spend the night. In the morning, they asked if they could do anything for her. All she asked for were some matches. Hers had run out, and she’d been getting up several times each night to keep her stove fire going (her only source of heat). Whenever I feel sorry for myself or think I can’t get through something, I remind myself that I am the descendant of a sturdy woman, and if she could get through that winter, I can get through my difficulties, too.

Word Warrior December 22, 2010 - 2:35 pm

“I remind myself that I am the descendant of a sturdy woman, and if she could get through that winter, I can get through my difficulties, too.”

Love it! Oh to be more sturdy!

Holly December 22, 2010 - 10:43 am

My grandfather grew up on a farm in rural Virginia, the oldest of 8 children. He shared the story of oranges for Christmas and how they were such a treat. His best story was of the Christmas when their only gift was a new baby brother! The funny thing was that the siblings were all a little bit upset about that but of course, that didn’t last for very long as they quickly fell in love with their new baby brother.

Teri Miller December 22, 2010 - 1:43 pm

Yes, those reminders of days-past when one gift was more than extravagant, help convict of our present-day discontent opulence. O Lord, bring us back to YOU as our gift; bring us back to gratitude, simplicity, true giving…without so many gifts!


J December 22, 2010 - 2:51 pm

If you admire the resiliency of the people of this period, why not live like them? Get rid of hot/cold running water and indoor plumbing. Give your kids one present (total). Cook beans with lard and eat it for two weeks straight (even when it starts to go bad). Have pregnancies with no prenatal care. Give birth without medical help. Have your teeth fixed without Novocaine. Have two sets of clothes per person in your family.

Word Warrior December 22, 2010 - 4:50 pm

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

karen December 23, 2010 - 5:36 am

Even a “petend” hardship makes a person more sturdy, a few years ago we gleaned our back cornfield , the girls will never be confused as to what gleaning is when they come to it in the bible!!! Also they learned that a picked field still holds plenty of food (hope they won’t actually need this in their lives but the knowledge is there now) good solid instruction and now they have a hard story to tell their own children some day! hahaha. I hope this doesn’t come across as mean.

AbbysMom December 27, 2010 - 12:31 am

My dad (born in 1926) never starved during the Great Depression, largely because his parents were dairy farmers in an upper Midwestern state. They got milk and home-churned butter from their dairy cows, some chicken and eggs from his mother’s chicken coop, but his parents sold so much more than that was available for their family of 8 because it was only source of cash income they had. They did have fresh veggies and some fresh fruit and nuts that could be grown in a northern climate, but again lots of them were sold. There was no such thing as central heat, so everyone went to bed with a hot brick wrapped in a towel for warmth.

My dad and another sister developed polio during elementary school age. He survived with some facial paralysis, but his sister didn’t. My mother told me that my dad’s mother told him that it took them over 20 year to pay for their hospital bills (imagine a hospital who would be so patient these days!)

My dad’s father and uncle had identical black model-T Fords. One year neither of them had the cash to pay for the registration/license fee. They put their $$$ together and his uncle registered his car. When my grandfather needed to use his own car, his uncle would drive over and they would put the plates on grandpa’s car.

As far as I can tell, my dad’s father was pretty harsh and dad tried to put most of what happened during his childhood and youth behind him. Most of what I found out about was from my mother who learned a lot of about it from my dad’s mom before she died. But I know both of his parents did the best they could under the circumstances. Every child in the family did get something for Christmas, but it was a fraction of what even groups like the Salvation Army provide needy families for Christmas gifts.

There is at least one aspect of the Great Depression that stuck to my dad until very recently — he would never eat chicken or fish at all and would only eat a little of other fowl like duck or goose. I always wondered why. He finally told me when I was an adult. He said it was because he had eaten so much chicken and fish during the Depression that it repulsed him and he wanted all the time beef now, even just hamburgers. He also remembered that he and his brothers were told to go fishing and not to come home without enough fish for the family or there would be no meat on the table for anyone that night.

Having probably boring you to tears by now, I can say, though that both my parents (my mom had hard times during the Depression, too, but a totally experience than my dad’s) gave my siblings and I habits of thrift and a work ethic that has served all of well.


Leave a Comment

Facebook Twitter Youtube Instagram

Post Category

motherhood/family/parenting Uncategorized christian living homeschooling pregnancy/birth control marriage frugal living/saving money large families public school abortion feminism dating/courtship church/children's ministry entrepreneur pictures

Author's Picks

Why We Should Encourage Our Kids to Marry Young 220 comments Two Children are a Heritage From the Lord (After That, You Should Know... 173 comments Population Control Through Tetanus Vaccine 127 comments

Latest posts

The Power of Gathering Around the Table: Beyond Hospitality 0 comment Weddings, Getting Older, Navigating a Large Family & God’s Goodness 33 comments Help My Friends Find Their Child Through Adoption 0 comment The Shocking Truth About Education 2 comments

Copyright ©2023 Generationcedar. All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by Duke