Any Family Memories of the Great Depression?

The 1930s were a long time ago, so not many people have firsthand memories of those. Some of us whose parents grew up during the Great Depression have family stories or learned behavior that traces back to the privations of that era.

I asked my friends how they felt it affected them or what family stories they remembered. Here’s a sampling of those.

Chuck shared this story, “I have two uncles who are brothers that lived through the great depression. A few years ago one of them decided to raise rabbits to eat. His brother would never eat any of the rabbits because, he said, though it is a bit of exaggeration, that all he had to eat during the Depression was swamp rabbit. They were hard times, but I know a lot of people who were made stronger from having lived through those years.

Phillip felt that we haven’t learned what we should have from that time of hardship. “The Great Depression was a lesson in greed that has been forgotten apparently. My grandparents wouldn’t talk about it because they lost everything and had to start over. I worry that my son might have to do the same.” His comment referred to the banking crash and how that happened again in 2008 and the effect of that on his family.

Kathryn had this to say, “I am one fascinated by this topic, as I think it is so applicable today. I grew up hearing the older folks talking about the Great Depression. I had some older relatives who saved everything in their sheds and attics, never throwing anything away after going through the Depression.” She said that her grandmother was a teenager at the time. Her family was not hit as hard as many because they owned a feed store, and people continued buying grains for their livestock and seeds for their gardens. “We could learn a lot from the generations before us.”


Bella felt her family was fortunate, “My grandfather had the brains to sell his stocks before the crash of 1929, however, he had several rental properties and suffered losses because the tenants could not pay their rent and he was too kind to kick them out. So many felt the pain of the 1930s.” Her comment reminds us that a rising tide raises all boats, but in the case of the 1930s, it was the opposite. When the people become too poor to pay their rent or shop for goods, then those at the top suffered as well.

Ady felt that the 1930s represented a simpler time that some people were nostalgic about.  “There seemed to be closer bonds between family, neighbors, and friends.” My thinking on Ady’s comment is that people might want closer family bonds but they certainly wouldn’t want to lose their jobs and money like most did during that era.

Here are some memories from my mother who was a child in the 1930s: Gail and the Great Depression. Please, share in the comments any family stories that you might remember that go back to that era.

Dreaming of Ireland

I wonder if my mom (Gail Lee Martin) would have liked to visit Ireland? After working on the family history for years, I imagine she would have liked to see the land of our ancestors. Our research and my own DNA show a strong Irish inheritance. My ethnicity estimate from Ancestry is 27% Irish and Scottish.

farmhouse-irish cottage pixabay

Wouldn’t you like to stay in a cottage in Ireland for a week or two?

I’ve always dreamed of staying in a cottage in Ireland and experiencing village life. What fun to travel around seeing the area and really get a feel for Ireland and its people. A stay of several weeks would allow you to visit places where your ancestors once lived but still have quiet time for relaxing in the wee house.

It turns out that it’s really possible to do this. Here are the steps for making your dream of Ireland into a reality.

Renting a Cottage in Ireland

Start by looking at the listings on the internet. Search for these using the terms “Irish cottage” + “rental.” Here are some examples that I found:

Rent a Cottage
Irish Cottage Holidays

Browse through the listings, looking at locations. Visualize yourself staying in the rustic cottages. Do you want to be in a village so you can walk down to the market for a loaf of bread and to the pub in the evening for a pint?

Would you rather be in the country with a hillside of sheep for company? Think about the setting that fits your dream vacation. Are long rambling walks with skylarks swooping overhead what you want? Would you love puttering with the flower garden and reading in the sunshine?

irish window pixabay

Window in Ireland (photo from Pixabay)

Compare the prices of the different agencies that offer cottages for rent. What amenities are included? Do you want total authenticity with a real peat fire in the fireplace and a thatched roof overhead? Maybe your preference is a cottage setting but one that has some modernized comforts as well? Read the listings carefully for these details.

Now, start saving your money for this idyllic Irish vacation. I’m saving what I earn from writing. It’s exciting to see the savings grow and my Irish cottage vacation coming closer to reality.

Not My Mother’s Beef Stew

(Post by Virginia Allain)

I browned some beef chunks and onions and placed them in the slow cooker with some water. After peeling and chopping the carrots and potatoes, I added those. Then it cooked all day and during the last few hours, I added fresh mushrooms.

This is the version I use to make beef stew these days. It’s not my mother’s beef stew, but it always makes me think of hers. She didn’t follow a specific recipe but used a chuck roast cut into cubes and then added whatever vegetables we had on hand.

potato-Image by congerdesign on Pixabay

Beef Stew from My Childhood

What my mother called beef stew was really a beef vegetable soup. It would have potatoes, carrots, and onions but much more. Mom would send me to the cellar where we stored our home-canned foods. I was to bring back jars of green beans, corn, carrots, and tomatoes.

beans-jar Image by Johan1127 on Pixabay

Those made a colorful addition to the basic ingredients and turned it into a wonderfully savory soup.

I remember now, carefully taking the few stone steps down into the dirt-floored cellar under what must have been the original farmhouse. Merely the outer wooden shell of that house remained, but the cellar continued in use. Around the walls of the dank area, were wooden shelves holding the efforts of Mom’s summer canning.

Gathering the requested jars of vegetables, I’d hurry back up the steps and across the snowy yard to the current farmhouse where we lived for eight years. Mom opened the jars and dumped the contents into the big stew pot. This would simmer on the stove top for hours. It was ready to eat once the potatoes and meat were tender.

Coming in from our evening chores of feeding and watering the chickens and rabbits, the blended smell of beef and vegetables promised a warming meal for us. We placed a plate stacked with white store-bought bread on the table with a container of home-churned butter next to it.

white bread pixabay

White bread – Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I loved dipping that buttered bread into the stew and then scooping my spoon into the hearty broth. It came up with bits of potato, beef, corn, green beans, carrots, and onions. After reheating for another meal, the stew thickened and the flavors blended even more.

Eight of us sat down to the old-fashioned round oak table. It was one that our dad inherited from his parents, Cora and Ren Martin. Dad grew up eating at that table, Grandma fed the harvest crews at that table, and now a new generation of Martins ate hungrily and when replete, we lingered there telling stories of the day’s happenings.


Trying the Rule of Five

I just read an article about how clutter affects women and can cause depression. Although I don’t think I’m depressed, I do have clutter. I know that my clutter sometimes makes me feel overwhelmed and pressured.

Here’s one suggestion that I want to try. They said: Adopt the Rule of Five.
5 five pixabay

How the Rule of Five works:

“Every time you get up from your desk or walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour.”
Since my desk is one of my worst clutter spots, I’m going to try applying the rule of five to it. I’m ready for a break and want to go get a late evening snack in the kitchen. First, I’ll look for 5 things on my desk to take care of. Then I can have my snack.
How about you? Do you have a favorite clutter-busting technique?
Other articles by Virginia Allain on decluttering:

Photos of the Wagon Wheel Rugs

Post by Virginia Allan
My mom and dad tried out a lot of crafts after retirement. One that they revived was the almost-lost art of the wagon wheel rug. The metal rim of an old wagon wheel serves as the base for tying the strips of cotton cloth before you start weaving.

They used old sheets torn into strips and turned out many colorful rag rugs woven on the wagon wheel. Although these are intended as throw rugs for the floor, I’ve seen people use them on a round table or to drape across the back of a sofa or chair.

They even demonstrated this technique at various pioneer days and at local history museums. Mom and Dad would be thrilled that a growing number of people are taking up the weaving of wagon wheel rugs.

There’s now a Facebook group where those making these round rag rugs are helping others to learn the craft. The folks would be so pleased that the skill is being shared with new people. Almost 200 people have joined the Facebook group and are sharing tips on making the rugs.

Photos of Gail and Clyde Martin’s Wagon Wheel Rugs

I asked my family to send me photos of their rugs made by Gail and Clyde Martin. My sisters and nieces shared the pictures below. Thank goodness for email and digital cameras which made it easier for them to send these along to me.

It seems that family cats are also liking the wagon wheel rugs. They are just right to curl up on for a cat nap, it seems.


Nikki’s cat and blue rug

nikki's rug blue

A wider view of the blue rug

Here are some more rugs from the family.


orange and white wagon wheel rug made by Gail and Clyde Martin


Close-up of the weaving


Spokes of the wheel

I’m leaving the photos full-size so anyone trying to make these kinds of rugs can see the details.


Wagon wheel rug made by Gail and Clyde Martin


Detail of the center of the rug


Detail of the spokes of the wagon wheel rug

Even more wagon wheel rugs –


Cold Enough for You?

Living in Florida, I have to depend on family members in Kansas and Kentucky to give me wintery updates. My dad, Clyde Martin, would usually just say, “Cold enough for you?” My mom, sisters, and aunt would get quite lyrical about it.

Cj Garriott (February 19 at 5:33 PM) “I was beginning to think the weather folk had completely blown it! But, at 4:30 p.m., it’s finally snowing. Update: 5:15 p.m., it IS coming down! Small flakes but thick and fast. Snow #10 this season.”

Cj Garriott, February 20, early morning –  Weather folks say El Dorado got an inch and a half of snow. Other areas got lots more. Kingman County, west of Wichita, has recorded maybe the most, at least in Central KS, a whopping 9 inches. Haven’t heard from nephews in North KS.
In shoveling/sweeping off my front steps, I discovered a bit of ice underneath, so be careful this morning!

Kansas snow map – Feb. 2019

Reading CJ’s posts about the current weather, reminded me of a poem that Mom (CJ’s sister) wrote.

2006 – The recent snow storm in our part of Kansas reminded me of a poem I tried to write several years ago. I’m not satisfied with my results, so if anyone has suggestions, I’m open for comments. I think my feelings of the winter beauty is there but I don’t like the word breeze. It doesn’t come close to describing our winter winds, but it seemed to fit the space besides I never claimed to be a poet. Gail

Ice Storm

Winter bequeathed its glittering jewels
Upon the resistant prairie land.
Tree tops and bushes were ruled 
By a cold and frigid hand.

The prairie glistened in a gleaming mass
And with every movement of the breeze
Stately stalks of Bluestem grass
Shattered into icy shards with ease.

Those two accounts made me think of the winter that Kentucky had so much snow. Karen kept me updated on that in 2015.

Lots of snow in Kentucky in 2015.

Kentucky Winter Storm 2015

A snow storm like this meant our country school would be closed when I was a kid. All six of the Martin kids would have been out playing in the snow until we were sodden and frozen. We’d come in and huddle around the wood stove to thaw out. Mom would already have hot homemade cocoa ready for us and we could look forward to potato soup with bread and homemade butter or pancakes and eggs for supper.

Today I’m content to watch the snow coming down from the warmth of my home. The TV news indicates that’s a really good idea. #NotGoingOut

What’s Your Best Feature?

Back in 2013, Virginia Allain wrote, “Most of us are critical of our own looks. We easily compliment others but brush off the nice things others say about our own looks. Sometimes parents felt they had to discourage children from becoming vain and tried to instill a sense of modesty in us.
Now even when we are hard on ourselves, there’s usually one feature you think is your best. Maybe it’s your eyes or your mouth or your high cheekbones. Perhaps you think your hair is what’s special about you.
My niece's eyes
The eyes above are my niece’s. She has equally lovely lips, nose, teeth, and hair. Actually, she’s pretty stunning. If you asked her, she would probably start telling you all the things that are wrong with her face and figure. I think we’ve gone overboard trying to suppress vanity in young girls.
As for me, I do like my big blue eyes and my blonde hair, though it used to be thicker and more reddish which I liked. I wish my nose wasn’t so stubby and that I didn’t have freckles. My eyebrows don’t contribute much to my face as they are too pale. See how easy it is to start tearing yourself down? Let’s start over and appreciate our own looks.
Ginger Allain - selfie

Taking a selfie – Virginia Allain

Here goes: I like my big blue eyes. They probably are a legacy from the Tower family line. Someone told me about my great-great-grandfather, Abraham Bates Tower, having the biggest blue eyes, even as an eighty-year-old.”
I know my mother, Gail Lee Martin, avoided the camera later in life if she hadn’t had her hair styled recently or if she was just wearing her comfy around-the-house clothes. I wrote about how pretty she was in her eighties. She was uncomfortable with my doing that. Here is that post: Beautiful Octogenarian.
Gail Martin and Ginger Allain (2)

Here we are together. I actually don’t have that many photos like this. Usually, I’m the one with the camera in hand. (One of the folks’ wagon wheel rugs is in the background)

What do you consider as your best feature? Eyes, smile, cheeks, hair, ???
My friend, Kathryn, commented on Mom’s pictures, “Your mother was beautiful 60 years ago, and she is beautiful today. As I round the bend of middle age, I am inspired by so many older women whom I meet. I certainly count your mother among them!”