Life is hard now. Inflation is nowhere under control, supply chains are still messed up and with the current financial and political situation in our country, people are struggling on all fronts. According to Bloomberg.com, 20 million Americans cannot pay their utility bills and the amount they owe has doubled since before the pandemic. That’s one in six households who can’t pay their utility bill. While the US has been in and out of recessions over the decades, given what is happening in our country now, some wonder if another “Great Depression” is around the corner.
So that got me to thinking about the Great Depression between 1929-1939, which began with the stock market crashing on September 4, 1929. People lost their jobs, their life savings, their investments and sometime, their lives. In the middle of this, there was my Grandma Maidia.
She was born in 1899 in Spokane, Missouri and was one of five daughters, of which one was her twin. Her father was a farmer in Spokane, as was his father before him. An older sister was a teacher. As a farmer’s wife, I’m sure her mother was one busy woman and the five daughters were not cut any slack in their responsibilities on a farm. Her highest level of education was 8th grade.
After she got married, she lived in Kansas City before moving back to the Ozark foothills to raise a family smack in the middle of the Great Depression. Her first son was born in April of 1927 and her first daughter followed in March of 1929 just before all hell broke loose. Two more sons and another daughter arrived in 1932, 1933 and 1935. Talk about bad timing.
Life in the Ozarks was not easy during this time. Severe drought hit the region in the 1930s and the effect was devastating. Commercial orchards were destroyed. Streams and springs dried up. Winters were unusually warm while autumns and springs were hotter than normal. Summers brought unbearable heat. Animals died for lack of food and water. Gardens fried in the summer sun. Just to the west of Missouri, states were being ravaged by the Dust Bowl.
My mother was the child born in 1933 and will tell you since she was a “depression baby,” they had very little while growing up. Still, my Grandma Maidia raised, clothed and fed five children on my grandfather’s over-the-road truck driver’s salary and, later, as a rock quarry machinery mechanic. As a trucker, he was probably gone a lot on the road, leaving my grandmother to take care of the property as well as raise the children. To my knowledge, she never held a job outside the home and never learned how to drive a car. But, I’m sure she was a very capable horse and wagon driver. And, she probably grew a wicked garden for food and found creative ways to stretch a dollar.
The year I was born, Grandma Maidia’s mother passed and a year later, one of her sons was killed in an auto accident. Two years after that, her husband of 48 years passed away. Still, she lived on to die in 1982 at the ripe old age of 83 years old.
I remember her showing me how to get eggs out from under the chickens. She fed feral cats at one of the homes where she and my grandfather lived, For a while she had a pet turkey chick named Peep, and loved her black dog named Mitzi. She grew beautiful African violets. She raised my cousin for a while when his mom divorced and fell on some rough times. She made very lumpy mashed potatoes! After my grandfather passed away, she continued to live on her own for a number of years.
Of my two grandmas, she was the one I felt was most open with her affection towards her grandchildren…that’s really all she had to give us. Even though I was raised a “city kid” and only saw her a couple times a year, I felt a kindred spirit with her.
My Grandma Maidia saw tremendous change during her life. She saw the introduction of electricity and indoor plumbing into homes. She lived through two world wars; one as a teenager and another as a mother. My grandma saw hemlines rise during the roaring 20s and the horse and buggy transportation evolve into automobiles. She changed with the times, adapted to her circumstances and did what she needed to do for herself and her family.
And I respect that.