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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Heritage - February 2010

"There Were No Soup Lines in Our Barnyard"
Submitted by Willa B. Stanforth, age 93, Hillsboro

The Great Depression - I confess it took a while to realize and to feel the impact. From one's perspective as a farm person, it was just more of the same. Money had always been a scarce commodity. "Stock" to farm folk meant four-legged bovines, not paper certificates denoting ownership in companies. Owning one's land was a goal feverishly sought after and, once gained, was its own reward.

There were four of us born to William and Jeanette Bare: three ladies and one male (youngest). We girls had finished eight years at the one-room New Market School and, at different levels, were furthering our education at Hillsboro High. It was here that we heard news of the stock market crash (having no radio at home) - and that was how our parents first learned of this startling event.

For a while, our lives remained just about the same: we worked, went to school, ate and slept.For a while, our lives remained just about the same: we worked, went to school, ate and slept. But when our prime source of income, the fattened pig, was hauled to market and went for $3 per hundred pounds, we felt a mighty pinch. Then, later, when an acre of tobacco baled and trucked to Ripley Market, representing a summer's labor, went for $27, that was a real blow. This was especially disappointing to our mother, who had hoped to replace the kitchen linoleum. Instead, the money was applied to the farm loan. That was the priority.

For us girls to attend high school, we were on our own, transportation-wise. There were no yellow school buses picking up and delivering kids. After much female persuasion, my dad grudgingly permitted us the use of the family car, a 1922 Model T sedan. My older sisters both had mastered the art of wheeling around the countryside. I recall that every Friday on our way to New Market and home, we pulled into a gas station and had $1 worth of fuel poured into the Sedan's tank. This amount would carry us to and from for an entire week.

Furthering our education had become just another sacrifice for our parents to bear. Money was very tight with no relief in sight, and there were always the farm loan payments hanging over our heads. Fortunately, we were all pretty healthy and all were reminded of that when we grumbled. We all graduated from Hillsboro High School, and due to penny-pinching and doing without, the farm was not lost.

Although farm folk have been poked fun at, called hicks, etc., the farm blessed us all in many ways. But we all had to pitch in. Due to our planting, sowing, weeding, cultivating (no tractor, horse power only), canning, drying, butchering, hens laying eggs, cows giving milk and butter, our bellies were satisfied year 'round. In summer, we picked, shelled and canned, and made jellies and jams, preparing for the winter months. Our meat came from hogs raised. Game appeared on our table during hunting season. We may have looked "hickish" at times, but there were no soup lines in our barnyard, no men and women waiting for pails to be filled.

Clothing ourselves was a different matter, especially for us girls. The men folk wore bib overalls, patched and re-patched. Socks were darned, rips and tears mended and shoes re-soled. The girls' underwear was made from bleached feed sacks; hose were ribbed cotton or lisle and, later, rayon if it was affordable. Our dear Grandmother Lewis gave, on special days, lengths of material, which Sister Marmo, an excellent seamstress, stitched into fashionable apparel. Also, occasionally a cousin who held a postal position in Norwood, cleaned out her closet and sent outmoded dresses, etc., our way. These, Marmo re-styled and re-sized into very nice dresses and blouses.

There was no radio to connect us with the outside world. Not always a paper. News came second-hand from Walker's General Store. The owners kindly allowed us to use their wall phone for local calls.

During these bleak years, we depended upon our own creativities often. We did not have allowances or spending money. Church, school, and 4-H made up most of our social life. Through 4-H arrangement, we occasionally saw a picture show. There were taffy pulls, card games and play parties. In the summer, croquet; in winter, sled riding on our hills and infrequently traveled roads. In our parlor, a handsome piano furnished music courtesy of my two sisters.

I married my high school sweetheart in 1935. We were na´ve, but eager to try our wings. Walter was employed by his uncle at Cappel Furniture in Springfield, where we set up housekeeping. This industry-based town was deep in the throes of "hard times." We were not prepared for the difference in lifestyle. In the heat of summer, I longed for the cool shade provided by the maples around our house and missed the goodies that came from the country garden.

We managed to keep our heads above water. We were accustomed to living frugally. Stretching our meager income ($15.00 per week) required ingenuity many times, but we hung in there. Fortunately, no health problems existed and we never tired of cornbread and beans and fried mush - Good ole country fare.

Story collected for the Ohio Department of Aging Great Depression Stories Project 2009.
(Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.)