Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Lean Years

I thought about it, then forgot about it, then remembered (ain't the senior years just so grand???) again. Here is a short story from my mother's notebooks:
The Lean Years by Mavis B. Howard
We received government-issued commodities every fourth Tuesday, and occasionally were given thin parcels of clothing, but we weren't labeled among the "community needy" as people in this category are today. In 1933, entire communities were desperately needy. The country was struggling to come up out of the stranglehold of a deep depression, and there was still a hard pull ahead for most of us.
Meals for most folks in our community -- farmers, generally -- were made up entirely of unimaginative, government-distributed foods, and that which was grown in small gardens and in the few acres of cultivated land which could be given over to foodstuffs. A lean, poorly-fed young steer, woods-fed hogs and a small flock of chickens, furnished the inadequate meat supplies. Some merchants around the country would advance food credit, with the promise of payment in the fall when meager crops were sold; but few of them could afford the long wait. We ate three meals a day, but the first and last ones frequently were thickened brown gravy, served over heavy biscuits or cornbread.
Clothing was critical. I remember our family who planned a summer visit with relatives, but there wasn't enough underwear for the children to wear away from home. The problem was solved by taking a couple of sheets from the already short linen supply, and cutting and sewing them into the needed garments, with a hope of replacing the sheets after fall harvest.
Cardboard patches we wore inside worn shoe soles; a few pairs of thin socks, worn long past the mending stage, completed our footwear.
Abject poverty was a term not familiar to us in 1933 -- I was ten that year -- but the meaning was sure there.