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Baby Boomers and The Great Depression

Updated on September 5, 2016

The Way It Was

My grandparents raised their family during the Great Depression in the early 1930s.

They had a two bedroom home with one daughter and four sons. Most of their food was grown in a garden next to the home. They would harvest crops and keep them in an underground dugout during the winter.

Much of their food was canned or pickled. My grandmother made all the needed clothing, as they couldn’t afford to buy them. She was an excellent knitter and her fingers could fly!

Being the oldest, it must have been hard for my mother to help her parents with her little brothers. Grandpa was often sick, and had several odd jobs. He ended up being the janitor in the high school where my mother attended. My grandmother was always cleaning, cooking, gardening or knitting. Her hands were always busy making something. She baked delicious potato rolls, and she was very positive around me. My grandfather obviously didn’t feel well, as he was grumpy most of the time and quite a worrier.

My Dad

My mother often talked about rich families in her town who did well despite the Depression. She often compared what she had with them. One of her best friends committed suicide which had a profound affect on her. I’m sure it was a very difficult time to come of age.

My father says he found the girl of his dreams when he met and married my mother. He always tried to give her everything she had missed growing up. Dad worked several jobs, including night jobs to provide for our family. His constant absence from home (trying to give Mom all she wanted) became a strain on our home. He did it solely for her, but she not like being home without him. A conundrum. She nagged, and complained and he continued to buy her gifts and gave her money to decorate her home the way she wanted to.

Mom and her brothers

Sunday evenings were spent driving up in the hills where the big mansions were. With lustful eyes, we would spend our family time together dreaming how we wanted our own mansion to look. Mother choose different aspects of the homes she admired, and then Dad drew up the plans for her dream home. Brick by brick, he manually laid each one. There were two amazing fireplaces he put together by hand in the home. Mother had most of her drapes custom made for the four-level home. It was a sight to behold as it neared completion. In the elaborate entryway was a chandelier, which was the crowning glory of the home and one of Mom’s dreams.

It was a stark contrast to the little shanty that my mother and father had both been brought up in. You would assume there were would be much gratefulness and happiness in such a beautiful home. Instead, there was bickering, crying and a sense of disappointment. There was always a neighbor who had something newer, bigger or more beautiful. No matter how hard my father tried, it was never enough. But, he never complained about working hard. He just kept trying to meet her expectations.

I had two aunts who would not even walk into the home Dad built. They were so jealous of all that he had done for my mother, and they would stay out in the car, rather than hear about her latest addition to the home.

Our extended family was divided into the haves and have nots. Instead of helping out those that had less, my mother made a penchant out of belittling others. My uncle came down with multiple sclerosis. His wife worked and took care of all of his physical needs as his body deteriorated. Her own health finally succumbed, and she died one month before he did. Not much support and comfort was given from our family to ease their burdens, as I recall.

My Dad’s only sister was not fond of mother and her ostentatiousness. This air of contention and constant comparison was a continual struggle as I grew up. It never let up, and was interspersed with bouts of deep depression where my mother would go on long drives in the car. I am sure it was hard for her to reconcile the life she had grown up with and the one Dad provided for her. No matter how hard Dad tried, there was always someone who had more. She surrounded herself with trinkets, lace curtains, and chandeliers, which were meant to boost her self esteem, but instead it gave her a false sense of security.


Do you think The Great Depression still affects us today?

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Is it any wonder that so many of the baby boomers are on anti-depressants. The Great Depression in the 30s affected many of our parents and grandparents, and it has had a ripple effect. Now we think we must work several jobs to get ahead. Family unity has been dealt a heavy blow. Many people choose to live off the government since programs have been put in place catering to the poor started during the Depression.

The dramatic effects of the Great Depression made important lasting changes to our economic system. Many economists draw parallels between the Great Depression and the 2008 housing crisis. It continues to foster anxiety and fear lest it should happen again.

Here is an impressive effort by four students to learn about the Great Depression in Utah.

© 2014 Elayne


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Howard Schneider 

    5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

    Excellent Hub, Elayne. My father was extremely affected by the Great Depression. Every penny was saved in our house and every light turned out when a room was left. He also had no trust in the stock market and credit. I learned those lessons without the extremism of his measures.

  • Hackslap profile image


    5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Interesting hub ... yes I believe too that the depression from 85 years ago still haunts us today ..

  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you Jaye! I'm sure the Great Depression affected people in different ways. Many gave up completely. Some forged on to be better and stronger, and some could never reconcile the differences. I'm not sure how I would have done had I been alive then, but I hope I would be one of the strong ones. What a very hard time for those with no jobs and ill health.

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 

    5 years ago from Deep South, USA

    I can recall my grandmother telling me stories of how poor they were during the Great she had to put cardboard and folded paper inside her shoes because of holes in their soles and no money to buy more shoes. Although she and my grandfather lived on a farm and were able to grow everything they ate (therefore, never going hungry), my grandmother overcompensated after their financial condition later improved (in her fifties and beyond) by buying the pretty clothes and other nice things she couldn't afford when she was young.

    By the early 1940s, my grandmother was owner and only employee of a country store located on their property. She actually made more money from this endeavor than my grandfather did from farming and his part-time work as a blacksmith, though he still furnished all vegetables and meats for their personal larder. All-in-all, they prospered for their time and place so they were able to give my mother more than they'd had by the time she was in high school.

    My mother didn't seem to have been affected adversely by her early years during the Great Depression since she was adopted and reared as an only child. I think my grandparents made certain she was never in dire need, and she was too young to understand the country's economic crisis.

    However, it was my grandmother whose later attitudes and actions were definitely influenced by her experiences during the Great Depression. She was determined to never be so poor again in her lifetime...and she wasn't. Although she didn't have a college education, she was very good in math. This helped her build and grow her small business, save money, make safe investments and--oh, yes--spend money in her middle and older years as she wanted to do.

    Since her attitudes toward money seemed conflicting to me--on the one hand saving and investing, on the other spending as though there were no tomorrow--I think it's safe to say the Great Depression indirectly affected my own attitude and behaviors toward money. I wish I could say that I chose her saving behavior to emulate, but spending looked so much fun! It took a crisis of a different type in my life to make me embrace a thriftier lifestyle. If there's another Great Depression, I should be prepared for it because I've been practicing for the past decade.

    Voted Up++


  • elayne001 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks, billybuc! So true. We have short-term memory problems and do not learn from history!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    My parents grew up during the 20's and there is no doubt the Depression affected them; by extension it affected me. We evidently did not learn some lessons based on our economy today.


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