Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

February 23, 2014

Ed Hungness: Frugality learned from hard times fades

My folks were raised during the Great Depression when frugality was not a trendy fad, it was a necessity.

My mother who will celebrate her 100th birthday this year and her brother, 92, have shared numerous stories about what “hard times” were really like. Fortunately for her, she found an office job which paid $5.00 per week and her younger brother worked as a pin-spotter in a bowling alley for $.50 per day.

On Friday, they took their earnings home and gave the money to their parents, helping to support the family.

In those difficult times, people had two priorities. First was to have enough food to put on the table and second was to have a roof over their heads. Food and shelter are basic necessities for survival. Unlike today, government safety nets did not exist. If you lost your job, you needed to find another one because there wasn’t unemployment compensation.

Likewise food stamps, rent subsidies, Medicaid and Social Security weren’t available. In short, everyone was dependent upon themselves and their family for support. Tough as it may sound, the government was not considered responsible for an individual’s welfare.

It was probably during the Depression that parents began telling their children, “Eat that food on your plate, there are children in China who are starving.” Nothing was wasted. My grandmother, like other housewives, was creative in the kitchen. Her meals, though not gourmet, were hot and filling. When hungry, few people are concerned with cholesterol or caloric intake unless they were not getting enough of them.

During the week, dinner was a hot bowl soup and a piece of bread. On Sunday, if their budget allowed, grandma served meat for dinner along with a vegetable and mashed potatoes smothered in rich gravy. The family always ate together and nobody missed a meal because of soccer practice.

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