Through my many email contacts, I receive a lot of political writings and cartoons, jokes, how-to-do projects, memorabilia of the 1930 to 1970 eras as well as photos of past wars, exotic places, animals and trees. I get a lot of stuff, and some of it I forward on to other contacts. My computer has become my contact to things past, present and interesting.
A few months ago, I received a series of photos that were taken during the 1930s Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Both catastrophes occurred in the same decade. The photos had been restored and the subject matter was spellbinding.
They graphically illustrated how tough life was back then for the poor souls living in our nation’s lower Midwest and Southwest who not only had to fight to survive the years of drought, desolation and dust of the Dust Bowl era but also the Great Depression and its consequences.
While my immediate family lived in areas not affected by the Dust Bowl, I was around for the decade of the Great Depression and remember very well some of the hardships and deprivation that had to be endured. Like most kids, however, I just assumed that the lifestyle we lived was normal. It was not until much later in my life that I came to realize and appreciate the magnitude of what Americans were exposed to during those hard times.
The photos were very compelling. I enjoyed looking at the old cars, the street scenes and the businesses and buildings of the day. I was saddened to see the lines of people waiting to be fed at community kitchens, hundreds of men waiting in line for a few job openings and the new cast of entrepreneurs standing on a street corner selling apples.
The most compelling photos were of the people themselves and how they lived and where they lived.
In some of the photos, the father and the boys wore bib overalls, those loose-fitting denim pants with a bib in front and attached suspenders that formed X at the back. While living in rural Oregon, I wore bib overalls and hated them. Then, at age 8, I moved to California and civilization where bib overalls were seldom seen.
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The photos also featured clothes for an entire family made from colorful, usually flower-patterned cotton materials that were once sacks filled with white flour. The family bought flour in large colorful sacks and then Mom recycled the sack material into dress-up clothes for the entire family. In some photos, mother and daughters wore dresses and the sons wore shirts all made by hand from matching flour sacks.
Many of the victims of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression migrated to California and many of those became residents of Napa Valley and Napa County.
Try as I might, I don’t think my writing about it can do justice to what life was really like during those trying times. Those of you seasoned citizen readers who were involved in and affected by the Dust Bowl and all of you who experienced life during the Great Depression know what I am trying to convey.
Our nation and its citizens just celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and most, by whatever means, gave thanks for our bounty and our freedoms.
Having been born eons ago as a citizen of this country and having witnessed things great and things catastrophic, I am thankful for the opportunities I have had during my lifetime and know that they were made possible through the sacrifices and hardships of my ancestors and their neighbors.
God bless America!