Bobby Bare Others Sing About Bad Times-"Hard times Hungry

Bobby Bare

Hard Times Hungry album by Bobby Bare
Hard Times Hungry album by Bobby Bare

Depression era

Album "Brother can you spare a dime" is also a theme of hard times and being hunry
Album "Brother can you spare a dime" is also a theme of hard times and being hunry

Hard Time Hungrys

Are today’s times harder than during previous recessions and or depressions? If you are one of those out of work it probably doesn’t matter too much. For you it’s hard times, whether it is for others or not. During the 1970’s I found myself out of work and about every industry shut down and not hiring, at least not in our Twin Cities. I was out of work, discouraged, competing for jobs with what seemed like all the baby-boomer plus the newly “liberated” women just getting out of College. When I did get back to work I was starting from scratch in my forties, having to learn new skills and relationships.

Being born near the end of the Great Depression and growing up during and after the Second World War. The war created an atmosphere of shortages, rationing, thrift, Victory gardens, patched clothes, hand-me-downs and general lack of consumer goods, although during the war years people were making lots of money. They had to save the money because there wasn’t anything to spend it on. New cars were not available. If you had a car it was hard to get gas or tires. My brother who is a bit older than me said that people got around gas rationing by using something called “white gas”. He explained that it was something like dry cleaning fluid. Tires, he told me, were the problem. I do remember seeing rationing coupons that people had to use for buying gasoline and other things. Today’s recycling is nothing compared to what was done then. Even with something like toothpaste you had to turn in the old tube in order to buy a new one. I believe much of it was to extract the lead content. Think of the lead content we personally absorbed in those days. I also remember that saving was encouraged in the form of “War” bonds. Even as schoolchildren we had a day for buying war “stamps” which I believe cost a dime each. These were pasted into a book and could be later redeemed for a war bond. Later it became “bank day.”

After the war, when our industries turned to consumer goods I think the country went on a spending spree. They didn’t think there would ever be “hard times” again. By and large I don’t think there too many serious depressions until the 1970’s.In 1975 Bobby Bare, a country singer recorded an album titled “Hard times Hungry.” Most of the songs in it I would call folk songs although they are not traditional songs. Whether or not something is a folksong is a matter of judgment. Oscar brand in his book “The Ballad Mongers’ included in recognizing a folksong that it has”…a kind of simple noise…the result of an artless, unselfconscious quality in the music and lyrics.” That’s a quality I think many of these songs contain.

Another interesting album of folk and popular music, which was largely about the “Great Depression”, was called “Brother Can You Spare A Dime,” which is also the name of a song recorded in 1932 and sung by Bing Crosby. I know it was recorded later (possibly in the 1970’s by Chad Mitchell, without the Chad Mitchell Trio. The album is subtitled “American Song During The Great Depression” It has extensive liner notes and was produced by New World Records as part of the recorded Anthology of American Music.Inc.

One observation from the notes is that society was less homogenous than in our times. In the depression many affluent and middle class families found themselves hurting. “…the depression has swallowed up working girls and is now reaching teachers, college graduated and trained office workers…”from the liner notes.

The popular music industry of white urban America was large… dedicated to the proposition that Americans turned to song and amusement, entertainment and escape from bad times. This is probably exemplified by the selection “On the Good Ship Lollypop” sung by Shirley Temple An interesting song which, at first” appears to support the concept of escape is Rudy Valley singing “Life is just a bowl of Cherries “ But I’ve read that the song is really satirical. However, the difference can be shown in the quote from Bob Dylan:” Rudy Vallee. Now that was a lie that was a downright lie, Rudy Vallee being popular. What kind of people dug him?…If you want to find out about those times and you listen to his music you’re not going to find out anything about the times.”

Vallee probably did represent what some people wanted, but one might have to turn to Woody Guthrie in a song like “I ain’t got no home in this world anymore” to reflect some others. Or Gene Autry in the “Death of Mother Jones” dedicated to Mary Harris Jones who was a hero to unions and a social activist. She died at the age of 100. This song is one of those “true” folk songs that have obscure origins. Autry said he learned it from his agent William R. Callaway.

Yes, I think the country is going through hard times again. Not so much for me now, but I think I paid my dues and hope I’ve learned something from it. The only advice I can give others is to “hang in there. Try not to be discouraged, keep trying and above all seek support in others, friend, relatives and others. One has a tendency to avoid people when you are out of work beause of embarrassment. However, that’s the worst thing to do.

© 2009 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 14 comments

Bill Kinghorn 7 years ago

It's interesting, pleasant and reassuring. Now I remember the savings stamps and white gas. My grandmother tried to make wallpaper cleaner by mixing white gas with some kitchen ingredients (flour? eggs?) and cooking the mess on the kitchen gas range. The result was what you'd expect and what she expected so she was ready to smother the inferno. The ceiling was blackened. I wish I knew the source of the recipe. Maybe they were murdered.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

A more exciting reminiscence than my own.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is so very interesting! My mother was born in 1925 and has related many of the same things to me regarding the gas rationing, savings stamps, lack of new automobiles, victory gardens, etc.

Did you know that Wisconsin led the way in many things like the victory gardens...teaching people how to sew, cook and other things? I had a book from my grandfather that I read with great interest and have now passed on to another book lover that pertained to many of these things. The ways of thrift that started in Wisconsin spread all across the nation according to historical references. The book was filled with names and dates of people involved.

As you said, if one is out of work, the name doesn't matter. is all relative. Statistically we have not hit the bottom as happened in the Great Depression, and hopefully we never will.

Great hub!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Peggy W

I am glad you found it interesting. I did not know that about Wisconsin. Actually, until I moved here I never heard of Wisconsin Rapids and expected to retire in Minnesota. It was only that my son decided to move out of Minneapolis to Wisconsin that we moved here. I guess I still have not come to realize the degree of affluence that a lot of people learned to take for granted and that recycling is something we have to learn again.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

People sewed and patched clothes; resoled shoes; not only gardened but preserved the food and shared what they had with others. Many "so-called" tramps rode the rails hitching rides from one town to another picking up odd jobs here and there.

Now we have gotten so used to an entitlement mentality and have gotten so far removed from being self-sufficient that it is amazing.

A man that came from South Africa and who worked for my husband years ago in the paper industry was totally AMAZED at what is commonly thrown out on garbage pick up days over here. Apparently there is very little waste over there and if anything like a used tire would be set is taken and made into something else. We could learn a few lessons!

It saddens me to see things thrown out on garbage days that could at least be given to charities and used again. I have actually been known to have salvaged things from people's yards and then given the goods to charities. Having worked as a volunteer for so many years, I KNOW that many things are happily used again...and even if sold, raise much needed money to help people in other buying prescriptions or helping with electric bills.

Good and timely hub.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Peggy W

I've observed for many years that in places people discard things but often leave them so others can claim them. One year we lived in an apartment building in a college community and somebody left a Christmas tree out by the dumpster. It was just before Christmas so we took it in for ourselves. I think it was probably a student who went home for the holiday that left the tree.

Often people here in Rapids put stuff out by the curb--sometimes with a sign that says free.

Thanks for commenting.

By the way I've done a hub on Nauvoo. Illinois that we discussed a while back.

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

dahogkund , I have been recycling for twenty plus years, and still amazed at how many don't do anything . Oh well. Nice info.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Recycling used to be a way of life. somehow it get rediscoved every once in awhile. thanks for reading.

Online Tutor 6 years ago


I really enjoyed your hub, and I must say that depression or not, it is really good to have the skills of recycling and making do with what you have.

We are a family of 8 and have been living off a low income for years and years. You bet we know how to stretch a dollar as far as it will go! You bet we know how to cook dry beans and make something healthy and yummy out of it. You bet we mend holes in our socks.

I think it would do everyone a load of good to learn and practice these skills.

Thanks again for your tidbit of history, I really enjoyed it.

KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

dahoglund, I can remember the song "Buddy can you spare a dime". One thing a depression can do is cut down on waste. If more people would save, reuse and recycle we'd all be in better shape.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

KoffeeKlatch Gals

I had a friend at work who was younger than me and somewhat fanatical on recycling and such. I told him if his generation hadn't invented all the throw away stuff there wouldn't be a problem. Thanks for the comment.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Online Tutor

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.I used to think I was fairly thrifty but until I got really broke, I didn't realize how much more I had to cut out. Hopefully never reach that point again.

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Great point of discussion ! I think there is far less of a depression now! Obviously our economic Base is far greater than any other time in history , There are more jobs , more people , more resources for help!......Hopefully dahoglund, it won't get any worse. But the 50s and sixties are no more! {crossed fingers].....:-}

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

As the saying goes, who's counting when one of them is you.I'm retired so it isn't really my problem now. You are right that it is probably not as bad as the Great Depression but they are doing many of the same wrong things.Thanks for the comment.

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