It is hard to believe it was so many years ago, a lifetime, my lifetime, and yet the memories are still vividly encased in the caverns of my mind. I was born in the middle of the Great Depression, a time totally foreign to the lives we live today.
How can one explain to today’s children that back then there were no such things as jet travel, television, fast food outlets, home telephones or hand held computers? Families had dinner together at a designated time, Checkers and Snakes & Ladders were the popular home games and hop scotch, hide-and-seek, kick the can, tag and skipping rope dominated outdoor play. Saturday matinee movies were 12 cents, hand-me-downs were considered new clothes and once a year Dad bought leather and re-soled all of our shoes. Breakfast was usually puffed wheat which came in a huge transparent bag and milk, bread and ice for the ice box were delivered to the door. We had only cold water taps in our rented home and water had to be heated on the stove. On wash day Mom turned a hand crank on the washing machine to rinse out excess water before hanging the triple loads on the outdoor clothes lines to dry.
In season we found wild raspberries, hunted asparagus and mushrooms and gathered nuts from an old hazelnut tree. There were no wartime houses back then, only empty fields and bush where Dad went hunting every Saturday morning. Many, many Sundays we dined on every variety of dish Mom could put together utilizing rabbit. Bread and eggs were plentiful so we enjoyed French toast for dessert and lots of bread pudding and Mom sure made good use of the fruit from our backyard apple tree.
We were poor. Most families in our neighbourhood were poor, but we never knew it. It may sound strange but that is how it was in the thirties; we all survived with what we had and we never asked for or expected anything more – the thought never entered our minds.
So much has changed over the years, so many inventions, travel modes, salaries beyond belief; kids are no longer allowed to be (or even want to be considered) kids, some changes for the good and some for the bad. Of course, the past half-dozen generations including the present have no idea what it was like during the depression, so have nothing to compare now from then. I am not sure whether the phrase peer pressure was even invented yet, certainly not back then; if someone had a beat-up baseball or a bat, we all went into the field to play scrub. We respected our parents, obeyed the law and appreciated our friends, that is what we accepted as normal.
Yes, I am old now and admit I just do not always understand today’s normal. All I know is when I was a boy everything was simple, my friends and neighbours were Armenian, Jewish, Irish, Catholic and Protestant, we all played together, laughed and cried together and viewed the depression as just another day.