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The Great Depression: Life on the Farm


"There were times our whole family played together. Our favorite game was croquet. We always left the wickets set up ready for a game. We had to go out and gather them up when Daddy wanted to mow the grass. I remember everyone always played to win. Since I was the youngest, I don't remember winning very often. I still thought it was loads of fun. If we finished supper in time, we could even play in the evening. Otherwise, we always had time for a few games of hide and seek.

Sometimes I hid in the outhouse. You kids know what an outhouse is, don't you? People are always making jokes about them. Well, it was no joke for us! We did have one complete bathroom in our house, but with 6 kids in our family, that outhouse got a lot of action. It was really handy, too, since we played outside all the time. Instead of running into the house and then upstairs, our handy little outhouse was right there in our backyard!

When it started to get dark, quite often we would catch lightning bugs. Some people call them fireflies. We each had a bottle or a cocomalt tin can with holes punched in the lid so the bugs could breathe. We didn't want to hurt them. They would just flicker and flicker! If we caught enough, we took the bottle with us when we got ready for bed. We sat it on our bedside table and fell asleep watching those flickering lights. Later, Mom would come in and take the bottle back outside to let the lightning bugs fly away. I don't think I've seen any since my childhood.

I saved that old cocomalt tin in my box of mementos. That's how important it was to me. Would you like to look through my box of mementos, to see what else I saved? I brought it out of the closet all ready for you."

"That looks like a box of junk to me, Grandma. Look at that poor old doll. It's falling apart."

"Oh yes, but that's Judy - my favorite doll. I guess I did love her to pieces. She brings back wonderful memories. I got her for Christmas when I was 3 years old. Here's my old piggybank."

"Is it full of money? It's awfully heavy."

"No, that's just because it's made out of iron. You're used to plastic. Here's my little iron - it's even heavier than my old piggy bank. I bet you can't even lift my Mom's old iron. No wonder she was tired when she finished the ironing. This funny looking thing is a curling iron. You heated it over the stove, too, like all the irons. If you got your curling iron too hot, it would burn your hair. Oh look - I even saved a lock of my hair!"

"That's not yours, Grandma. It's not grey - it's red!"

"Well, when I was a kid, I was a red-head. Here's our old wooden butter paddle. I told you some days ago about making our own butter. This is what we used to smash out the last of the buttermilk. And here's a wooden toy my big brother made for me. The three bears stand there there with a hole between their legs to shoot marbles through. I've even saved a bag of marbles! You can play with that if you want to. But I'd rather you didn't play with this big metal bell. It's loud! We used it to call in the cows when it was time to milk.

So you see, this isn't a box of junk. It's a box full of memories. I've had a lot of fun sharing these memories with you. Why don't you ask your Mom to start a memento box for you. I bet you have a favorite teddy bear or toy that you don't play with any more. That would make a good start. Then years from now, you can sit down with your grandchildren and share memories just like we have been doing.

"It's fun to hear your memories, Grandma!"

"I've had a lot of fun sharing these memories with you. Someday, when you have grandchildren of your own, I'm sure they would enjoy hearing about your childhood, too. You have learned that mine was different in many ways to yours. I'm sure the same thing will be true for your grandchildren. Seems like new things are discovered every day. I wish I hadn't waited until I was 79 years old to write to share my memories. I'm sure I've forgotten a lot.

You know, I'm rather surprised to realize that my most important memories are about simple things!"


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