Ten capabilities that helped my household survive the Terrific Depression


What lessons from the Terrific Depression could possibly apply currently?

Here’s how my household got by.

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by Leon Pantenburg

The stock market place crashed in 1929, the economy tanked, farm costs dropped and my grandfather, Peter Pantenburg, lost the household farm in central Iowa. My people today have been in that region due to the fact my fantastic-fantastic-grandfather, James Hallowell got a land grant just after the Civil War and  homesteaded in the late 1860s. My fantastic-grandpa, Charles Hallowell,  plowed the prairie for the very first time in the 1870s with a John Deere breaking plow

Leo Wirth moved his family to Wesley, Iowa to find work. Here's some of the kids, in the late 1930s: Vincent, Alina, my mom, Mary and Eldon.

Leo Wirth moved his household to Wesley, Iowa to come across function. Here’s some of the youngsters, in – I believe – the mid 1930s: Vincent, Alina, my mom, Mary and Eldon.

My dad’s household went from getting prosperous farmers to homeless in a matter of months.

My mom’s household had a comparable story. Grandpa Leo Wirth also lost a farm, and he had a substantial household to feed.

Each households have been destitute, but they weathered the storm and stayed intact. There are a lot of lessons discovered about coping with financial disaster.

To place this in context: By 1930, according to history.com 4 million Americans seeking for function could not come across it that quantity had risen to six million in 1931. Meanwhile, the country’s industrial production had dropped by half.

My grandparents, Peter and Harriet Pantenburg on their wedding day in June, 1917

My grandparents, Peter and Harriet Pantenburg on their wedding day in June, 1917.

By 1933, when the Terrific Depression reached its nadir, according to history.com, some 13 to 15 million Americans have been unemployed and practically half of the country’s banks had failed.

The United States didn’t come out of the depression till 1939, at the starting of Globe War II.

In spite of the really hard instances, each households stayed intact. All their young children turned out to be upstanding, effective people today.

Eldon, Vincent, Fritz, Leo in 1940s

My uncles Eldon, Vincent and Fredrick and Grandfather Leo Wirth, likely in the late 1930s in Wesley, Iowa.

Here’s some of the lessons discovered.

Under no circumstances give up: Leo moved his household to Wesley, Iowa, for the reason that he identified function managing a gas station/garage at a Regular Station. Pete and Leo took what ever function they could come across and did any jobs that have been offered. Neither sat about waiting for somebody to enable them out. No one anticipated any government enable, and each guys would have felt it demeaning to take help from anyplace.

Figure out your sources, and come up with a program:  Even although it was a great crop, Pete’s corn was not worth harvesting in 1930 with the low costs. So the household burned corn for heat one particular winter.

Some of the displaced farmers headed west, or to other locations to appear for function. Other folks attempted to keep in location. Take an inventory of your sources and assets, and use that list to determine what to do subsequent.

Subsistence hunting and fishing: My dad was 11 in 1929. He was also compact to be substantially enable farming, but he was an outstanding compact game hunter. Dad hunted all the time, and regularly, the rabbits and squirrels he killed became the principal course for the evening meal.

His marksmanship got definitely great. Years later in the Army, that talent got Dad a job education troops and teaching rifle and pistol. Dad’s key hunting firearm was a single shot .22 rifle. He applied .22 shorts, for the reason that of the low value and noise, and he only shot after ahead of moving along. (It is hard to find a single shot by sound.) Nevertheless, he got caught poaching after.

My dad and his sisters, Agatha (left) and Edna, sometime in the 1920s.

My dad and his sisters, Agatha (left) and Edna, sometime in the 1920s.

Leo's butcher knife is a treasured heirloom, that my sister Karla still uses.

Leo’s butcher knife is a treasured heirloom my sister Karla nevertheless utilizes.

But do not rely on hunting or fishing. Hunting and foraging can supplement the meals provide, but heading for the hills and “living off the land” will not function. Have other tips and plans to place meals on the table throughout emergencies.

Have a talent or supplemental job: All farmers, it seemed, had some sort of side occupation. Leo was a butcher, and he would travel to farms to approach cattle and hogs. He regularly got paid in meat. (Leo died when I was seven or eight, but I bear in mind him skinning a pig and tending his bees.)

Charles Hallowell and his daughter, Alice Johnson, applied their musical capabilities to survive. Charles played the violin at bars, dances, parties and other social events. Alice accompanied him on the piano, or played one more violin.

They produced sufficient to maintain ends meeting, and to take in Pete’s household temporarily. ( It is in the DNA – currently, I play Charles’ fiddle in an old time string band. We do some of the very same tunes Charles did. Verify out how grandpa’s fiddle sounds on “Over the Waterfall.”)

Everyone, such as the youngsters and old people, had a job they could do primarily based on their skills. These tasks could be something, from gathering eggs, to snapping beans, to assisting with the harvest to operating in the garden. Each and every tiny bit helped.

My great-grandfather, Charles Hallowell, sometime in the 1940s.

My fantastic-grandfather, Charles Hallowell, sometime in the 1940s.

Stick collectively: Pete’s household moved to one more farm north of Ames, and got a new start off. I grew up on that farm, and my dad purchased it in the 1960s. (I hunted the very same hills and timber he applied to hunt as a kid, but I never ever had the stress to be effective!)

Other neighbors have been not so fortunate, and numerous of them had to hit the road (Believe “Grapes of Wrath”). Our subsequent door neighbor, Jo Stahlman, was born in Foley, Alabama, when her household moved south to come across function.

Make do: Repair, repair, recycle and reuse. Clothes was patched, handed down and applied up. When it ultimately reached the rag stage, it could possibly be produced into a quilt.

That went for just about almost everything. Income was scarce, and fixing or mending some thing didn’t price something.

Garden: Though millions of Americans went hungry, my relatives gardened like they generally did. Each and every farm had a substantial plot, and numerous households have been largely fed off the make. Fruit orchards and berry patches have been popular.

There was practically no market place for livestock, but farmers could and did raise animals for their personal tables. As far as I know, areas like Iowa and other midwest states, which didn’t have the serious droughts of the dust bowl locations, fared far better than numerous locations.

Raise chickens and rabbits: Farms back then have been much more diversified, with a wide variety of meals raising activities. Each and every farm had a flock of chickens for the eggs and meat.

Rabbit meat is one particular of the most nutritious meats offered, according to Rise and Shine Rabbitry, and rabbits can make six pounds of meat on the very same feed and water as it requires a cow to make one particular pound of meat.

My grandmother Sophie Wirth, with my Aunt Irene and Uncle Eldon, probably in the middle 1930s.

My grandmother Sophie Wirth, with my Aunt Irene and Uncle Eldon, likely in the middle 1930s.

Each of these animals can be raised in compact spaces and are productive and prolific.

Preserve meals: Each and every farm wife knew how to can and preserve vegetables, and each and every farmer had a pantry. My relatives, getting of mainly German extract, produced lots of sauerkraut, and pickled numerous other vegetables.

Canned and smoked meats have been also crucial. Just about each and every farm had a smoke property, exactly where meat was preserved by smoking. This integrated hams, of course, but bacon, sausage and other smoked meats final a lengthy time, and could get you by way of the winter.

This likely explains why bratwurst and sauerkraut is one particular of my favored comfort foods. That is also in my DNA.

Make a root cellar. These have been the family’s meals insurance coverage policy. They have been usually an region below the property, like a basement, exactly where canned foods could be stored. The temperature, getting underground, was usually fairly constant, and it permitted for lengthy term storage of root vegetables. Therefore the name.

The root cellar was an crucial way to maintain carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, potatoes, and other root vegetables fresh by way of the winter months. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, to function effectively, a root cellar will have to be capable to hold a temperature of 32º to  40º F and have a humidity level of 85 to 95 percent. Ground temperature stabilizes at 10 feet deep, according to the almanac.

My Aunt Irene, 86, recalls that Grandma Sophie Wirth regularly ended up feeding additional mouths at the table.

“He (Leo) was identified for supporting siblings in anyway he could,” Irene told my cousin Lisa Faust Swenson. “On weekends, anyplace from one particular household, to all his siblings’ households, would show up for dinner. Grandma would just maintain taking meals from the root cellar to make certain all have been fed.”

It took Globe War II to bring the nation out of the Terrific Depression. There are nevertheless arguments what brought on it, and who is accountable. That discussion can take location someplace else.

We’ve all heard that cliche’ about “Those who do not find out from the lessons of the previous are doomed to repeat them.” And I believe the lessons discovered from my families’ survival of the depression are valid currently.

Here’s the bottom line:  You have to be aspect of a tribe, household or bigger group that cares about the person. Stick collectively. Study how to make, preserve and retailer meals.  Learn job capabilities and how to get by.

And possibly the most crucial lesson: Under no circumstances give up!

(Note to all my relatives: I did the ideal I could with what there was to function with. I had to guess on the dates of  some of the pictures. I remembered stories I’d heard, and in certain, loved speaking with Terrific Aunt Alice about Dad’s side of  family history.  If you have heard other stories on this subject, or if I got some thing incorrect, let me know!)

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