So we’re in a recession that our economic leaders were afraid to tell us about for a year. Fear breeds more fear, and this reminds me of the Great Depression when fear ran rampant and helped destroy the stock market and people’s lives.
The Depression years left a huge mark that carried over to the next generation. My mother to this day hoards basics such as canned goods, shampoo and tissues – just in case. And I am like her in scraping out the contents of near-empty jars and saving leftovers no matter how small. “Don’t waste food,” I always heard growing up, as well as the implied “Don’t waste money” as my mother would drive the path from Jewel to Kroger to Honiotes grocery stores, coupons and sale papers in hand, aiming for the bargains. Many who made it through the Depression came to think that having money was most important and they would work hard and live smart so they would be ready for the next hard times and so their children would never have to go without.
A fellow lifewriting devotee queued me in on “Conversations With America,” a collection of the late Studs Terkel’s interviews with people across the country which he used as a resource for his many books and radio programs. Taken from the website, part of the Chicago History Museum site:
“Studs Terkel is regarded as the great spiritual father of oral history…his ongoing legacy is built … on his interview style and two powerful convictions that informed them: First, that the common person had profound experiences in everyday life and could speak about them in a compelling and illuminating fashion if they were asked; and second, that the American people deserved to have a voice and share with their fellow citizens their different perspectives about social injustice, civic issues, intolerance, and personal struggles.”
Terkel’s recordings used for his book “Hard Times” include an interview with a physician in a public health clinic who noted (in the second half of the recording) how the poor came as usual, the occasional rich person (now the “well-dressed destitute”) would park their fancy car down the street a bit and walk to the clinic so the social workers wouldn’t think they still had the means to pay, while the middle-class (now poor) people were too ashamed to come at all and so suffered from lack of health care. People were fainting in the streets from hunger, eating scraps from dumpsters while thousands of pounds of wheat were being dumped into the Chicago River. You will need Real Player, which can be downloaded free (see the website for a link), to listen to these interviews.
The interviews are historic and priceless, but you probably have some historic and priceless memories locked up inside your own parent or grandparent, aunt, family friend or neighbor. Or maybe there is treasure within your own memories. Is it story time?