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We Were Poor But Didn't Know It

December 3rd, 2009 at 09:39 am


The other day I was visiting my 93-year-old friend who loves to reminisce about her youth. My DF said she didn't realize how poor her family was until she was in about third grade. That's when some classmates started teasing about her threadbare, hand-me-down dresses. A lot of folks were poor back then, but it seems that with a large family, they were very poor. Her simple lunches consisted of rice with a few vegetables and sometimes a hard-cooked egg and a piece of fruit, taken to school in a little tin pail... an actual pail, not an insulated lunchbox.

Her mother prepared nutritious but economical meals that my DF loves to this day. Of course, now she knows the ingredients were more affordable for her family back then: rice, beans, oatmeal, potatoes, fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard garden, and bread baked at home. They ate a lot of soups, stews, and casseroles. Meat was a luxury and they ate very little of it.

My DF shared that her parents taught her to take care of her belongings and appreciate what she had, not covet what others had. And, in the midst of the Great Depression, they had very little. In the evenings, her parents read to their children, played cards, or the family listened to the radio. They seemed to focus on spending time together and enjoying being together as a family. All the kids had chores and if the older ones worked, they contributed most of their earnings to the family coffers.

I admire that my DF's parents raised their children to feel happy and positive about their lives, even though they were poor. While it's good parenting to educate children about money, it should not be done in a way that makes them anxious about "being poor." After all, a child is powerless to impact the family's finances. Kids thrive when they feel loved and safe, and it does not cost to provide these things. My DF is a prime example... not only did she thrive, she is a resilient and remarkable lady.

6 Responses to “We Were Poor But Didn't Know It”

  1. frugaltexan Says:

    Your post reminds me of a book/movie called "mama's bank account" (or something similar) about a family who really struggled financially, but every time a child needed something, mama would get out her tin bank and check the money. Then would say there's more where that came from - at the bank. The daughter who wrote the story learned the truth of the bank account when she was about an adult. But the family all pulled together through everything. Very neat story ( movie is b&w).

  2. Ima saver Says:

    I have that book, mama's bank account and still read it to this day. I have seen the movie many times and there was a tv series based on the movie. It was called "I remember Mama" There never was a bank account, but Mama did not want the children to worry that they might get put out on the streets, like other families. Money was never wasted in those days.
    My mother was in her 20's and 30's during the depression and I think I took after her!

  3. princessperky Says:

    nice story Smile

  4. Nika Says:

    I wonder if they would still feel that happy and content had they had a TV that constantly bombarded them with things they could not afford and created an image of how everybody else but them lives.

    Times have changed.

    "Kids thrive when they feel loved and safe, and it does not cost to provide these things."

    That is true. They also need good health care, dental care, safe neighborhood, quality child care. These things cost a lot more these days.

  5. John DeFlumeri Jr Says:

    They weren't really poor, because they didn't know. Same thing in my house. We skimped every cent and went without, but we thought all the kids did that!

    John DeFlumeri jr

  6. Broken Arrow Says:

    That's a very sweet story. Thank you for sharing it.

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