I'm a huge fan of history, and particularly the study of the Great Depression. I love learning from the mistakes of our past to either prepare for the future or avoid making the same mistakes of our ancestors. My grandpa's life has had a huge impact on my perspective of reviewing history in order to prepare for the next depression. His example of stashing away cash for a rainy day, eating everything on your plate, keeping the user manuals for all your machinery so you can repair it yourself, and reusing EVERYTHING, had a huge affect on me.
Grandpa was always talking to me about “if we had only knew that the Great Depression was coming we'd have been a lot more prepared.” My Grandpa was only 9 years old when the depression hit, and then lost his mom at the heart of the depression in 1932. He ended up quiting school at just 12 years old too, because his dad needed his help on the farm since he was the oldest boy in the house. Grandpa frequently sat down with me over afternoon coffee to explain some of the pains of the depression. I always appreciate our talks, because he's so reflective on the past and what his family did to make it. Here are a few of the tips my grandpa told me, and I've gathered from watching his lifestyle. I hope these tips might be able to help you make it through a depression (if there ever is one).
“If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” Luke 12:39
Start a Garden
Being less dependent on your local grocery store or farmers market is liberating. Plus you actually get to see your seeds produce something. Growing up on a farm and having a garden was a given. If you didn't have a garden, well than frankly, that neighbor just wasn't right in the head. Grandpa said they were so dependent on their garden that they only had to go to town for gas, flour, and sugar. Nothing else! I have a 8′ x 8′ raised garden today, but by no means could I supply my family with food for an entire year yet alone an entire week. That's not the point. Start small, and learn from it. My 6 years with a raised garden is helping me experiment with what works, and some day (God willing) if our family moves to an acreage we'll be able to have a much larger garden.
Learn to Can Food
Once you've mastered garden it's time to preserve the fruits of your labor. Late summer and early fall on the farm was filled with everyone in the family canning everything from beats to apple to sweet corn (my favorite!!!). The great depression impressed on my grandpa the need to be prepared for the future. You'd never know when their'd be a drought or hail storm that would take out your entire crop. Do everything to build up a inventory to help your family survive any food shortages or price fluctuations.
Do you have a supportive community that has similar interests? During the depression farmers in Iowa were always willing to help each other out. My grandpa talked so kindly of the neighbors and relatives that helped take care of his siblings when his mother died. He also described how other farmers were always helping each other out when machinery broke down or a big storm was coming in, and a neighbor needed to get their crops in. Most of us live suburban lifestyles where we keep to ourselves, and never interact with our neighbors. In our neighborhood today we frequently share cookies and snacks with each other, and are always offering to watch each other's kids. Start today…engage in your communities.
During the last great depression cash was king. Deflation took over after 1929 when the stock market started to tank and the price of goods and services dropped. People no longer got $2 for a week's worth of work, but closer to $1, as my Grandpa would have put it. “When I turned 14 (1934) I started earning $2/week again, and I thought I was living high. I thought there is no way someone should need to earn more than that.” If another Great Depression does come about, then do everything to save cash, because your pre-depression dollars will be worth more.
“Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the new status symbol of choice.” Dave Ramsey
I can't ephasis enough the importance of avoiding debt. In the words of Dave Ramsey,“Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the new status symbol of choice.” People in Iowa during the depression got squeezed, because 1) their debt was too high compared to their farm income, and 2) the dust bowls of 1934 and 1936 wipped out all my great grandpa's crops. My grandpa's dad lost a farm due to these two circumstances because the bank foreclosed on one of his properties. You ever notice how folks that lived through the depression are leary of taking out debt. Then on top of it they always talk about farmers that are “in over there heads in debt today, because they bought such-and-such farm for $10,000/acre.” The debt fear runs deep with my grandparents. Let that be true of your family.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
Just recently I stopped by my local goodwill store to see if they had any “new” blue jeans in. Low and behold they'd just gotten a ton more clothes in. When I was walking in there I thought about how my grandparents were always buying or scavenging for used parts. There was even time when my grandpa's family was in such need of tires that they'd visit the local landfill to find a used tire that could be repaired. People in the depression had to totally let down their pride to be able to survive. Look at your own life. What can you buy used at more than 50% off?
For probably everyone that reads this blog the depression is something we heard of through our grandparents or relatives. I'd venture to say that none of you who read this blog actually lived through it. However, many of us have relatives that did go through the Great Depression. Have you ever sat down to discuss their experiences of the depression? What was the biggest impact that it had on their life? Has their life impacted you (if so how)?