Friday, November 4, 2011

4 November 1957 “1957 or 1937: The Modern World Encroaches into the Past”

First of all, let me thank all of you for such wonderful birthday wishes. It felt so wonderful to get such warm wishes from so many. Thank you again, all of you.


50sfamily2 Today I wonder if I am thinking more of the 1950’s family of plenty or the 1930’s family of want?depressionfamily

For the most part, I only access current information online through various sources. We don’t watch TV and don’t have access to modern cable. Which is fine for me, because whenever I see any ‘news’ programs on at friends homes I just have to laugh. It is more entertainment and speculation and heresy than news. I suppose when one has to keep up a 24 hour news cycle anything can be news and even speculation or what ‘he said’ gets air time. Something Walter Cronkite would have never stood for, but I digress.

What I have noticed when I research various things for future posts is more and more similarities showing up that pin the modern day more to 1937 than my usual research into 1957. Before I go on, let me just say to anyone that I am NOT saying today is as bad as the Depression. But, we must also remember that it has not yet got as bad as the Depressions years because the Social reforms which we now have came OUT of the Depression. So we are going into our current bad state with many things in place, such as unemployment, food stamps, various welfare, Social Security and so on. What is frightening to me, of course, is with these schemes firmly in place we still see a bumpy road ahead.

I also cannot help but see parallels in images such as thesedepressionprotest1.depressionprotest2with these of today.modernprotestsSurely today we see less “I want a job” sign (though we do see those as well) because our government reforms of the 1930’s are still in place as of now. But, we see that while we once were upset by the financial world into no jobs and lost homes and farms, we see now that the financial ruin of 2008 has left us wondering why so much went to those with so much who were indeed the cause of the current melt down.


moderndustbowlEven this image of a modern day farmer in the South West here on his farm with the dustbowl storm stirring up. It certainly has its twin in the Depression Dust Bowl Days.30sdustbow2In both situations we act as if there is a variety of reasons for the storms. When the simple fact was after the land was given out during the 1860’s, you farm five acres you keep it, the very nature of the land changed. What was once endless grassland prairies became increasingly large farms from 1900 through 1920s. The land had been set up to keep its top soil by the very nature of the densely planted wild grasses and wind breaks of hedgerows and forest interspersed. As these were cleared more and more and more area with no wind breaks and loosened top soil were formed, the same wind we always had simply gained speed and swept through taking with it the topsoil needed for both growing and holding down the substrate of sand!

30sdustbowlthen and nowmoderndustbowl2

What is amazing to me is, we may not have known then to not farm that way (Though if we simply recalled our ancestry farming in England and Europe, we would have kept hedgerows and multi-crop rotations, as it wasn’t a ‘new’ idea.) However, after the Depression we DID know why it had happened. Even simple things as plowing a certain type of furrow helps maintain topsoil, but after WWII we were inundated with chemicals from the wartime. These industry wanted to find new ways to sell  their product. And today we are again faced with dust bowls. This time, again, we have cleared TOO much to form TOO LARGE vast areas of farming. And today that same topsoil problem is solved with endless chemicals. Chemicals that require farmers to wear masks when spreading, so now this gets mixed in with the ‘dust bowl storms’ and who knows where it shall spread?

Even the drought aren’t simply an ‘act of God’, but as wetlands were removed to make more land to plant less water is available to go up into the atmosphere and make rain and then collect up to do it again. It is simple land science one would have learned in their McGuffey reader, yet we act as if we can’t understand why these things are happening. When really we are simply TOLD a variety of things so as not to try and figure the real problem and then we can argue amongst ourselves rather than fix the problem. Leaving, of course, the solution to large corporate farms and new chemical products to ‘save’ us.

Once, even farms were more part of the ‘small mans’ domain. A local farmer grew a variety of crops and could make a business for his sons or daughters to inherit.

What is interesting is as the farms grew larger, and smaller farmers were forced out until we have what we have today: a very small percentage compared with the 1930s, we were told it was because it allowed the greater populace as a whole to spend less of their income on food. We are seeing that today, that is no longer in the case. If one wants to buy cheap fast food, perhaps it is cheaper, but much of what we consume is not even grown in our country anymore. And those jobs of farm laborers and helpers to farmers are now mainly done by cheap labor from other countries. Thus, we can see how the increase in farm size and decrease in farm labor adds greatly to more job and career loss for the population at large. As well as less actual control over the environment to grow food ourselves if we so chose as a business model.

 usfarmworkdata Today, many small farmers have to have off-farm jobs to supplement their income. We can see here that in 1930 only 30 % of farmers worked off farm, while today 93 percent do.

Another interesting point is that during the Depression many farm subsidizes started. It was to help sustain the dying land and farmers. Today, however, many such ‘farmers’ are simply corporations run by a few hard pressed farmers. These farms still receive money for over growing products such as corn for corn syrup which, as a food crop, is inedible unless processed into that sugar substitute.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year.

More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers.” INFO HERE.

indymac Another parallel I found was the odd scenes of people standing in line at banks to close out accounts. Here we see people this July in line at the closing of Indymac Bank:

The closing of IndyMac in July, the third-biggest U.S. bank failure, may cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s fund $4 billion to $8 billion, in addition to an estimated $1.16 billion for seven closures through Aug. 1. Premiums for insuring deposits will likely rise, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a July 30 interview.

The major difference being that today the FDIC exists because of what happened in the 1930s. However, because the FDIC exists to back up the accounts of individuals in failing banks still means that money has to come from our tax payer money rather than from the bank itself as its failure to handle our money give to them.

``It's going to be a bloody, expensive mess for the banking industry,'' said Bert Ely, president of Ely & Co. Inc., a bank consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. ``Healthy banks are paying for the mistakes made by failed banks.''

The potential $9.16 billion in withdrawals would be the highest since the insurance account was created in 1933, said Diane Ellis, the FDIC's associate director of financial-risk management.”

A situation more akin to the 1930’s was the recent lines at Bank of America, when customers wanted to close their accounts due to a hike in monthly debit card holder fees. One can understand such anger by their customers when we consider that Bank of America received 50 billion of the bailout money as well as 118 billion in Federal guarantees against futures financial woes. And, many customers were literally barred at the door by police from closing out their own accounts, despite the fact that the Bank is a healthy solvent bank which had no claim to stop individuals from claiming their own money.

And a similar situation happened in NY when customers in Citibank were locked into the building and refused to be allowed to close their accounts. One woman on the street waiting to get in for regular Banking business was arrested. Today, however, with the easy access to video phones we are more aware of such injustice, so it begs to see what sort of result such protests and militant actions on the part of the big banks will result in.

I am immediately drawn to the scene in “Its a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart’s character has to stop a run on his families small lending organization. When he explains the money is lent out to the neighbors of those trying to get their money and he willingly gives up his own honeymoon money to tide people over, it warms our hearts.

I watched that movie recently with a friend. We had not seen it in years and we felt ‘Christmassy’. I was taken by how differently I now view that ‘evil character’ Mr. Potter. At once I thought he was simply a Plot device to embody the evil of the time, but now watching it, in our current climate, he seems almost mild in comparison to the various people and ‘corporate people’ in the guise of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and so on. It made we wish, even more, that our TRUE Capitalism could be in the hands of the free people. Small business in small communities helping one another for profit for THAT community and its inhabitants.

Today, how can we say we have a ‘free market’ when a bank far too large to have failed was indeed GOING to fail and therefore got money from the government to help it. What small mom and pop, when Wal-Mart rolled into town, received Government money from the ‘Free’ market to save it? I fear that we have found ourselves in the world that Jimmy Stewart found after his guardian angel made him never been born. His small town became Potters-ville and was owned by one man, one corporation. And with that, very fittingly, we see more seedy areas such as the old bar owned by the character Martini turned into a dive to survive.

I have been a small business owner and I can tell you there was no one there to bail me out as the larger ‘too big too fail’ multi chains rolled in offering everything super cheap. Why have we let it all get out of our hands? I heard a quote from some woman, I can’t recall her name, but she said in defense of ‘millionaires’ that we need them for jobs. “Who” asked she, “Has ever been hired by someone who isn’t a millionaire”.

I found that such a scary lie to spread. There were once MANY people hired by simple middle class people. A few years back, when I owned a shop, I hired people and had three designers and two drivers on my payroll of my little shop. I was NOT a millionaire. In fact I struggled to keep my little business afloat but I paid people OVER minimum wage and I was simply ‘one of them’. Towns and even cities were once filled with employers who were not millionaires providing jobs for others in their community. Such a concept only shows the sickness of our times. That Advertising seems to be the utmost import to any political or news movement. It is very scary. I am frightened for many people who simply have to be lead by whichever ‘side’ they choose. Because, in all honesty, they are both the same side. One has only to look and see that Democrats Big Government and Republicans Big Business are two sides of the same coin. They work in tandem to continue to warp and change our world into one further and further our of the hands of the majority. Small towns are all but gone, there is little chance for individuals to start small business or small manufacturing to provide jobs for their own area as most manufacturing was made huge by a few and priced out of our country by moving overseas. I don’t know why we allowed it all except that we were simply to passive. We were allowed to become to ‘relaxed’ in all the wonder of our ‘retail therapy’.

And there is another glaring difference from the Depression to our Recession. At the time people did not have guaranteed money coming in to tide them over and to then use to go buy i-pods or the latest cell phone to text their friends. There were not endless knit tops on sale racks for 3$ at local big box stores to make one feel they ‘have things’, while their credit card debt piles up and one more local clothing shop has to shut down to compete and one more future homemaker can’t even fathom sewing their own clothes.

The levels to which our current world has infiltrated our abilities to truly live is immense. There are MANY things in the modern world that I am glad of. Medicine being one of the main and even the technology that allows us to communicate like this. But, I wonder have we even the power to go against any of it? I am scared that even those who now protest will simply get co-opted somehow by some talking head or some political party or some corporate power to shift the tides to simply lead us to another level of less freedom in our country. MORE regulations in our daily lives?

Even when we begin to see that it is the banks and the money that controls the world and that the Government is simply made up of and appointed by those same financial institutions and kept interest in by their lobbyists, one is frozen. What can we, the little people, really do?

All I can do, as a homemaker, is to plan. Being a homemaker, that very career path, is based in planning, preparation and lists. Therefore I feel it the duty of any homemaker to be up on what ‘may’ be coming and to plan for it. I know already that my food bill is such that when I shopped two weeks ago using an old 1955 list I had which cost me then $40 (this was 2009 now remember) cost me $72 today! In three years that is the increase in foods for me in my area. So, all along I have been altering my shopping list.

Recently to get back to $40, which is quite a challenge, I have an even more early 1950’s menu in that we don’t eat big cuts of meat all week long. I can’t afford it, so it is spread out through the week in casseroles and various bakes while the big meal dinner of chicken or beef happens on a Sunday. We are fine with that, but it does beg the question, what will it be in the next three years? Will $40 not buy me even enough to get by? Now, I am able to have hubby’s lunch be carved out of the weekly food and my own at home luncheon has become much more crumbs of this or that to keep the flour and sugar supplies down. It might help my waistline in the end!

I know this has been a rather lengthy post and I don’t want it to be political but merely to point out where we are. Because as a homemaker knowing what you have to work with is the cornerstone of successfully running your home. When we have to work with less (Such as ingredients such as flour which has doubled in price for me since three years ago) you learn to stretch what you do have. However, along with the prices rising, incomes seem to be stagnant.

This has often left me wondering should I try and return to the outside the home job market? Am I foolish to not begin to gather up as much extra cash as we can? I have gone back and forth with this with myself and with hubby. It is a tough decision. First off, there are less jobs available, so there is no guarantee that I could even get one. But, thus far, I have decided against it. We feel if we continue to make adjustments and live with what we currently have, we can still plan for the future. My skill set keeps improving our ability to live with less as the bad times continue.

I think I am going to do a few posts about the 1930’s and today and begin to look at more frugal ways to live now. I think our role as homemaker, rather it is our full time job or not, is even more important at a time like this. Prices rise, income stays the same or simply goes away due to layoffs, we need to know how to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves. I only hope we aren’t heading down a road to any great war. But, if that does happen, as many homemakers before us did, we shall persevere and we shall overcome.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Well, first thing first: Happy belated birthday!

    Wonderful, well thought-out post here. I do love It's a Wonderful Life. The movie does seem more relevant to me now than it ever did before this whole economic mess. It makes me sick to think about it, but as you said, what can we really do? We have to keep chugging along, doing the best we can with what we've got, working and hoping for a better future.

  2. I have to apologize for the proof reading of this post. I am now seeing that it is rather hard to read, but very busy today and off to do my marketing now. I shall try to fix it later, but hope one can still get the gist of the thing with my odd un-proof read sentence structure.

  3. Your post today was very interesting. I don't know if you interested in hearing about what it is like to be a small family farm but I thought I would share with you. My husband and I are small farmers (in Canada). It is a struggle. My husbands family has been in dairy for what is now the third generation. However, his parents wanted to retire from it just as he finished college, and in Ontario we have a quota system, if you do not have quota you can not milk cows. Well, at that time the bank refused to give him a loan so he could take over the dairy operation, but they offered him a loan to set up a finishing operation for pigs. This makes no sense, there is far more volatility in pigs, as seen a couple of years ago when it was costing more to raise the pigs than the farmers were making. One in every five pigs farms was going bankrupt. So he had to work off the farm and save enough so that he could eventually get a loan to get into dairy. Basically with quota a simplified way of looking at it is 1 kg of quota means you can milk 1 cow. He initially purshased 10 kgs. We are now up to 16 kg and the first 10 are completely paid off. For both of us to be able to work solely on the farm we would likely need around 40 cows. And currently there is very little quota available, we bid on 1.6 kg each month (you are allowed to bid on 10% of what you have) and receive 0.1 to 0.3 kg. To put this in prespective the farmer behind us milks 600 cows, we only want 40-50. In the past few years they placed a cap on the price of quota so it is at $25,000 per kg, it had been getting up into the $30,000 range. We receive no subsidies. And the huge farms drive the land prices up so high that if we had not purshased our 50 acre farm from a family member we could never compete. The large farmer behind us has an open offer of $12,000 per acre for any land that comes up for sale around him (his farm backs ours). We could never match that, for a 100 acre farm that is $1.2 million. I will be going on maternity leave in December and will be going back to work after, but for the duration of my maternity leave (1 year here in Canada) we will be putting away his income and living on my maternity benifits and the farm so determine if it will be managable for him to work only on the farm after I go back to work. I help on the farm, but he does most of it, so currently he works from 5:30am to 8pm monday to friday and weekends are often spent doing the farm work he does not have time for during the week. Which is why we have decided that he will work on the farm upon my return to work even though he is the higher income earner. This year will be good practice for us living on a reduced income, while still having his income should it not work out. And once I return to work we will be used to living on less than I will be making.

  4. I think that we are so far removed from the "do with less now, to have more for later" mentality that it's a foreign concept for many people. While much of our economic problems today can be blamed on the banks and governmental regulations, we have to also accept some of the responsibility ourselves. We (as a collective culture) allowed ourselves to be lulled into the idea that we deserve whatever we want, whenever we want, no matter the cost. No one forced us to buy iPods and all the Walmart trinkets and McMansions.

    I'm on the fence on where to place blame. I agree that banks and big business and big government have acted atrociously the last 30 years. I hate that there are less well-paying jobs all around; I've come up against that personally as my husband currently has to work 3 part time jobs, and between the 3 of them he still makes less than $20,000 a year. He has a masters degree, but can't find a full time job that pays a living wage. I hate that a college education is so expensive; we'll be paying back his student loans until we're 80 probably.

    At the same time, if we had managed our money more responsibly over the years, we wouldn't be struggling so hard to get by now. Our income would be the same, but we wouldn't have so much money going out for credit card payments, and we would have money set aside for emergencies. We came by the "do with less now, to have more for later" mentality too late, as has much of the rest of the country.

  5. country lady-thank you so much. I know it is hard for small farms and farmers. Our Gussie works for a local farm and they are always getting hit with new 'regulations' that require them to go into more debt to be 'legal'.
    Much as it is with any real small business today, regulations and laws are merely set to benefit the big guys who can afford it. I know I was a small business owner and when we had to sell, there went 5 local jobs from a local business.
    We have thought of farming ourselves, to try and subsist but realize the idea of ever selling to make money from it would be very hard due to the regulations. If I wanted to kill chickens I raised and sell them in my town, I would be fined and have to have a specifical facility that would costs 100s of thousands to do it. How can any of we small people really do anything any more? We are completely at the mercy of and dependent upon large corps and the gov which are really one and the same.
    Thank you for sharing that with us. It is good to hear from all of us to better understand our world.

  6. Betsey-I have felt the same way as well. Only the more I really begin to peel back the onion skin do I realize that we are to 'blame' in some sense, but that our 'coercion' into it was in many ways just evil practices. The media and tv/comp is basically a wonderful propaganda machine that allows us to literally raise people from infancy to simply think there is no other choice but to buy buy buy and have credit is the norm and no saving or self sufficient skills.
    It isn't as if we all have such skills and simply think, "Oh well, i won't teach that in the school or to my children, I'll just let em buy it all up". There are no generations removed from any sort of school level teaching of self sufficient banking saving cleaning cooking normal life training. There are no shows that support such behavior and the general consensus for 'cool' is to have and have more and to 'rebel' from parents who are too busy working two jobs anyway to pay any attention.
    So though we are to blame somewhat there is much to be said for the great power of a media station in every home and hand that allows constant advertising to not only sell to us directly but to sell to us a new kind of normal that keeps us distracted from the real problems and real solutions.
    At this point I don't care who is to blame I just want to know how we CAN fix it. And I wonder if we can. We are so hedged in with laws and various regulations that literally the small farm/business/family/town has no place to go. Think of children generations removed from a normal small town now just living in various 'satellite walmart towns'. One has to work for them, buy into them, and it is all such a mess.
    I just want us to find solutions.
    So, for me, at this point, it is in my home and try to move out into my small town. To see what we can do just to get by on less money.
    We have SO many regulations for small farms and business to do this or that yet it was completely legal for big corp such as steel mills to move overseas while devastating an entire city and area. I think it is hard to 'blame' those who sought out such jobs to raise a family when that company left with all the work.

  7. I agree and I wonder what future this country is facing and if we will look back on this as a Great Depression. I see more and more people standing on the street begging for jobs, money, food so much more than I used to. This past weekend I was driving in my middle class suburban strip mall and came across a young couple (20s) with a handwritten sign up on the side of the road asking for a job... That never would have happened 20 10 or even 5 years ago. It makes me wonder what this nation is evolving into and with all the turmoil in Europe and slowing growth in the US it will likely only get worse

  8. hotpinksy-Its so true. I also see such things that would have been unthinkable just last year.
    I see more 'please give me work' signs in the main town here as well.
    I really am beginning to consider next year's focus on either one year or the entire decade of the 1930's. Perhaps it will prepare me and all of us for what might be coming, more Depression and hopefully not, but maybe? a world war.
    What is interesting is the last World War got our country out of the Depression because of all the production.
    Today, however, we are AT war, we are fighting a few wars but all the money is NOT being made in this country. It seems if we are to continue fighting in USA's name we could at least begin steaming up the factories here to make all the things needed for it rather than simply private contracts to companies producing in China, India and other places.
    What is scary, too, is when the Depression really hit in 1930s there were not as many people with house debt there was NO credit card debt and the government actually started with a surplus while our government is currently very much in debt. We also had a gold standard for our currency which we do not now.
    It is all very scary and I think we should keep our minds and eyes on the big picture and our hands and hearts at home learning and making do with less and learning to restructure our own needs and skills there, don't you?

  9. Difference between today and the great depression (yes, it was GREAT).

    *Today there are a great many of people who CHOOSE not to work. Many who will not even work part time because here in America people can be paid not to work.
    *I work at an inner city school in Boston and (sadly) there are many gilrs who are/plan/want to get pregnant before graduation, because here in the Baystate, they will qualify for section 8 subsidized housing, food stamps, etc. I had one student say to me that "you are a sucker for working, my mother does not work, we have a free house, free food, and get a monthly check and free healthcare).
    *There are college students in the area (as seen on ch. 5 news, who eat their meals at food pantries, so that they can spend the money that their parents give them for food on the credit card bills, shopping, and phone plans.

    People consider themselves "poor" if they can not keep up with the Jonses and it is sickening. If those lazy protesters down on Wall St. spent as much time/energy working/looking for a job as they do complaining, they could amount to something.

    If people do not like the big banks, put their money in a local bank - we did!

    If people do not like the big box stores, then stop shopping at them - we did!

    All the government handout are doing is making aAmerica a greedy, lazy intitled nation.

    Take away the crutch of a free hand out and you would be surprised how many people could walk.

    Susan Branch

  10. Donna, I'm thrilled that you are planning to make 1930s posts!
    Will your next year be 1936?

  11. I would love to hear more about the 1930s as I think it is my favourite era of the 20th century. so much change, many new ideas, a very interesting time

  12. susan branch-I do agree that our welfare programs are hardly well organized. For example one commentor from Canada said she receives one whole year maternity leave. Perhaps if we didn't pay people for not being responsible enough with child birth then we might have to money for such programs for families who Plan children.
    I am not sure how I feel overall, though I don't like to ever have a blanket ideal of a people. I think maybe calling the protesters 'lazy' is really just another part of our problem here in the USA. We are often quick to draw lines and join camps and throw names and hate at one another. When really if we talk with each other we find that we do indeed want many of the same things.
    I think maybe some of the protesters are simply angered, as am I, how the banks were allowed to get the power they have and then to get bailed out. I do think that there is truly a large loss of jobs in our country. The manufacturing and farming alone that was happening in the USA in the 1930s is no longer even available here in our own country. So, I can understand some of your points I don't like to call people lazy unless I understand their entire situation.
    We must FIRST take away the 'crutch' of the government handouts to the Corporations, they certainly received quite a bit including the car companies that easily was greater than any amount given to people on Social Security. We need to look less at blaming each other and look to where the problems lie and get to the root of them and see if they can be rectified. There are certainly no simple solutions but anger towards others suffering is hardly the answer.

    Anon-I am not sure yet. I am going to let it mill about until the end of the year and decide on 1 January.

  13. also Susan it is also hard for many to shop at 'local shops' as they are less available. I know in my area it is almost impossible to shop completely for groceries at local places as well as clothing.
    We must remember to consider all reasons and not be too cruel but rather to consider and look at both sides of problems.
    Again, I am less concerned about blame and more about finding solutions.
    And to add, the next big bubble, like the housing bubble, may very well be college education. The endless easy credit available to college students and easy to get loans for over priced schools where after graduation there are fewer jobs is only going to lead to more trouble down the road. It is too sad.

  14. I loved this post! Thank you for all your thinking and writing. I have 5 different soups in my menu for the week which really stretch the food dollars. I prefer to save all I can by being the best homemaker I can be and leave the outside jobs for those who are the primary bread winners. Dee

  15. This was a thought-provoking post. We do need to understand history to have a good perspective on today's events.

    The quote from the bank consulting firm--"Healthy banks are paying for the mistakes made by failed banks" could apply to more than banks. When we divorce consequences from actions, people (and institutions) do not have the incentive to be "healthy" or work hard or behave responsibly.

  16. Wow - love this post! So much to mull over.

  17. I loved this post! I love it when you write social/economic commentary. It always gets me thinking. :)

  18. I, too, would love to see you do a 1930's year. If you did, would you go about it with as much detail as you did the 50's? And, would hubby be on board with it as well? I think a year in this time period would be so much more relevant to what is currently going on in the world today, the parallels are astounding. We have a ton to learn from that period.


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