They say it might be as bad as it was during the Great Depression. Some days when the wind blows hard and you can see the dust swirling across the fields and forming dunes in the dry, empty ditches you can almost imagine what it must have been like back then. The current lack of snow, coupled with the biting cold of the north wind only adds to the bleakness of the landscape and the feeling of foreboding that can come upon you in a moment like that.
If you pay attention, however, you will notice that the people who are likely to bring the Great Depression into it are never the people who were actually there. And if you do compare our current economic crisis to the crisis that was the “Dirty Thirties” when one of the elder citizens who lived through that era is present, be prepared to be scoffed at or snorted upon, or some such thing. Suffice it to say the response will be calculated to let you know that you are an idiot.
“We got a ways to go before it’s that bad,” said Andrew setting his coffee cup on the table. “Although some people would say everything is so different now that you can’t really compare anyway.” The other members of the family present, most of who were still finishing off their roast beef and potatoes, didn’t respond immediately.
“What was it like in the Great Depression Dad?” said Jennifer, who was in her usual spot next to her father.
“I wasn’t there,” said Andrew, “so I wouldn’t really know.”
“Oh come on,” said Jennifer. “Grandpa must have told you all kinds of stories.”
Andrew paused for a second. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Lot’s of stories.”
“Geez Jen,” said Randy, “did you have to ask? Now he’ll never shut up.”
“No butter,” said Andrew. “Dad used to tell me how they couldn’t afford butter so they’d spread a little lard on their bread and sprinkle it with salt.”
“Holy smokes,” said Randy. “You got your entire recommended daily dose of heart attack foods in one bite.”
“That’s one of the first things that happens in a Depression, sonny,” said Rose from her end of the table. “People don’t eat as well. My mother says when she was young she ate one orange a year. At Christmastime. The rest of the year the only fruit they had was crabapples and saskatoons and rhubarb.”
“Is rhubarb even a fruit?” asked Jennifer. “I always thought it was just a weed that you can eat. If you add enough sugar. And I thought nobody could afford sugar in the Depression.”
“Rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit,” said Jackie, who was sitting next to husband Randy, with little Allison in her lap. Allison held a piece of bread crust in her little hand, which she alternately put in her mouth and then waved happily in the air.
“A vegetable? Really? No wonder I don’t like rhubarb pie,” said Jennifer.
“Grandpa used to say eating rhubarb was like feeding your cows wild hay,” said Randy. “I guess Grandpa didn’t like rhubarb much either.”
“That’s not that surprising if it was the only fruit he ever got to eat and then he found out it was actually a vegetable,” said Rose, laughing.
“Well I don’t know how much rhubarb crisp it would take to turn me off of rhubarb,” said Andrew. “Quite a lot I reckon.”
“So if we do have another Depression at least Dad will be alright,” said Jennifer. “The rest of us might starve, but not Dad.”
“And I’ll be good as long as there’s ice cream to go with the rhubarb,” said Randy. “Without the ice cream though, it could be a problem.”
“I wouldn’t count on getting a lot of ice cream during a Depression, hon,” said Jackie. “At least I don’t believe ice cream was a staple of most people’s diet during the last one.”
“Now you’re scaring me,” said Jennifer. “I could live without oranges and apples, but I don’t know how long I’d last without ice cream.”
“Don’t worry sweetie,” said Andrew. “As long as we have a cow to milk, I can always make you up some ice cream if it comes to that.”
“Unless of course we run out of sugar,” said Rose.
“Or salt,” added Randy.
“We should be stockpiling,” said Jackie. “Hoarding the essentials.”
There was a brief silence.
“Wouldn’t make any difference,” said Andrew.
“Why not?” Jennifer wanted to know. “Your mother would just share it all with
the neighbours,” said Andrew. “Yes I would,” said Rose. “I believe it’s
even more important to share in the bad times than it is in the good times.” Jennifer jumped up from the table at this. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” asked Rose.
“I’m thinking I’d better go hide my clothes,” said Jennifer.