Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Looking for Silver Linings
The number of people who lived through The Great Depression is steadily diminishing. Age is wearying them, but they stay steadfast in their memories.
I read Michael Bliss Professor Emeritus at Toronto University and his comments on our financial history from the 1930's to the present. I nod my head in affirmation and shake it in sorrow and disbelief that we should so soon forget the lessons of frugality and self discipline that were taught us in the Dirty Thirties. And in forgetting have once again arrived at the brink....
I remember my Grandmother's gate, just a few blocks from the railroad tracks in Calgary, marked as a good place for a meal. And I remember trips to the farm, laden with necessities to help the family there cope from day to day and month to month.
I remember my mother, around paycheck time, asking my father 'did the eagle fly today'? Payday time was tremulous - it depended on any number of iffy circumstances.
I remember the Rector at St. Faith's in Edmonton, nourishing his parishioners not only with spiritual hope, but also with a roast or a bag of coal. And his wife, visiting each afternoon with Eccles cakes and words of hope.
I remember when bread was five cents a loaf, and my sister trekked across the field to go to the store for Daisy White Bread.
I remember when a widow's pension was $56.00 a month, and when my father's War Pension was $7.25.
My husband tells me of his older brothers' difficulties during that time of hardship, and of the March of the Unemployed which was dispersed at Regina.
But also I remember the sense of community and neighbourliness. The closeness in the church - the self reliance and yet the knowledge that we were all in this together, and that if we wore hand-me-downs probably most of our friends did also, so it was no big thing. There was a mindfulness of the strength of family that seems to be lacking today.
I remember the pleasure we got from small things and the ability to find satisfaction in whatever was available to us. This perception of life stood us in good stead in our early married life when we struggled to establish ourselves on the land.
From the memories of Laura C. Rinfret......
"Riding the rails was a rite of passage for a generation of young people and profoundly shaped the rest of their lives. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality, a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons they learned. Their memories are a mixture of nostalgia and pain; their late musings still tinged with the fear of going broke again. At journey's end, the resiliency of these survivors is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit."
We have forgotten the lessons, but hopefully 'the indomitable strength of the human spirit' still remains the same, and if we must put aside the idea that it is possible to attain everything we yearn for, perhaps the same old fashioned ideas of simple living within our means, self reliance, honesty and the importance of family will be a silver lining to the dark clouds that beset us financially.