Sunday, September 6, 2009
Depression Era Survival
Tomorrow is Labor Day. It makes me think of how many people are out of work. It's too sad.
Mama used to tell me stories of growing up during the Depression. She used to say that, "Yes, we were poor, but so was everyone else. So, nobody noticed." They used creativity to get by. My Grandmother Theaux told me that she decided that she certainly could do laundry, so she went down to one of the local stores that required uniforms and she did their laundry. That built into more and before you know it, she had a business out of her home. My Grandfather Theaux would chop wood for people and from what I understand, he was quite proficient at making and selling wooden swings and that sort of thing. He would also take the neighborhood children to school for a nickel a week -- no buses in those days. They got through it. Neighbor helped neighbor. Families helped each other. You no longer felt humiliated to take a lower paying job because you were lucky to have a job at all.
My Aunt Lillian and Mama would tell me of their sewing escapades. They would go to the local fancy shmancy dress shop and see the beautiful attire in the windows. Lillian, the artist, would draw a sketch of the outfit and Mama and Lillian would go home and make the dress/outfit. They both told me how people would say, "That's the dress in the window. How on earth could you afford that?" (If my cousin, Linda, is reading this, she should post a comment and remind me of the name of the store.) They would just smile at each other. I guess it's in the blood because I used to get fashion catalogs, find a dress or outfit that I liked and make one for myself. It's a very satisfying thing to do.
Another sewing endeavor that they did was yo-yos. A yo-yo in sewing is when you take a piece of fabric, cut into a circle, bast around the circle, pull the basting thread, tuck the raw ins inside the circle, and tie off the thread. Then you make hundreds and thousands of these little yo-yos and sew them together. Mama and Aunt Lillian made a robe out of yo-yos. I never saw it, but Mama assured me that Lillian still has it. No piece of fabric was ever thrown away. They even used the cloth sacks from the flour purchased at the grocery store. When the scraps of fabric were finally so small that you couldn't make anything with them, then you made a pillow or something that required quilting or stuffing and you used the tiny fabric pieces as the stuffing. In fact, one of the first things that Mama taught me to sew was a pot holder. I may have been 10 years old, maybe younger. Take 2 pieces of fabric squares, a bit bigger than the intended pot holder, right sides together, sew 3 sides together, turn the pocket that you've just created inside out so the right side of the fabric is on the outside, stuff with fabric scraps (or scrap thread), fold the open edge in, sew across the open end, and finally sew all over the pot holder to kind of quilt it and voila, pot holder.
Everyone had a garden during the depression. They always had food and homes always had flowers. You did what you could to get by the best you could. The more self-sufficient you were the better off you were.
I find it sad that today there are so many people who do not know how to sew, garden, and build. Maybe I'm just getting old. As long as you can keep a roof over your head, food in your stomach and clothes on your back, you will survive. Today you also have to have electricity, running water, cars, telephones, internet, cable, insurance, and on and on and on. I know many people in Pensacola learned through Hurricane Ivan that you can survive without electricity, internet, and cable. It's certainly not as pleasant as otherwise, but it is possible. In fact, Hurricane Ivan caused most of us to meet our neighbors and in a large way enhance our quality of life.
I'm including a photograph of a recent cooler/beach bag that I embroidered. Notice the new "Shark Alert Team" patch. These patches will be on sale at the Arts & Wine Festival on Oct. 3-4.