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Growing Up In A Frugal Society When Everyone Was Forced To Be Frugal.

Updated on August 21, 2015
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Mary likes to write about her life growing up in the country, and sharing all those good times.

My house was built in 1900.
My house was built in 1900. | Source
This is the clothes line I use instead of a clothes dyer.  It is low because I am so short!
This is the clothes line I use instead of a clothes dyer. It is low because I am so short! | Source
This old car with the wooden spokes is very similar to my Daddy's 1929 Dodge.
This old car with the wooden spokes is very similar to my Daddy's 1929 Dodge. | Source
My Mother taught me to sew with a Singer sewing machine very much like this one.
My Mother taught me to sew with a Singer sewing machine very much like this one. | Source
This wood stove is very similar to the one my Mother cooked on.
This wood stove is very similar to the one my Mother cooked on. | Source
Tomatoes and other vegetables are easily grown instead of purchasing them, and they certainly taste better!
Tomatoes and other vegetables are easily grown instead of purchasing them, and they certainly taste better! | Source
I raised backyard chickens like these.  I got fresh eggs every day.
I raised backyard chickens like these. I got fresh eggs every day. | Source
This is my Miniature Schnauzer on her walk.
This is my Miniature Schnauzer on her walk. | Source

My family lived frugally when I was a child. This was not an option. It was necessary for survival! We Americans have become a very wasteful society. Now, because of the economy, we are being told to live frugally. This amuses me. I was raised to be frugal, and that is a trait I have tried to instill in my children. I think I have been successful with that part of parenting. We just call it being thrifty (not cheap).

We are told that 40% of our food is wasted in American each year. Just go into a restaurant and look around at all the food left on plates to be thrown in the garbage! Look in your own refrigerator at all the leftovers that will never be used.

I get tired of hearing about all the overweight people in our country. I have a solution: EAT LESS FOOD.

I Am Not Suggesting We Go Back In Time

My article is not to suggest we go back in time to the "horse and buggy" days and how people lived then. This is make people aware of how wasteful we are as a nation, and to try to live more frugally.

Our 1929 Dodge

The experts tell us to drive our cars longer. No need to buy a new car every two years; just take care of the one you have. Change the oil every 2-3,000 miles, and maintain the proper tire pressure.

Our family automobile was a 1929 Dodge with wooden wheel spokes. It was at least 20 years old and ran great. My Daddy would straddle the car over a ditch and change the oil himself. He used a bicycle pump to inflate the tires.

We all try and conserve gas we have to buy for our cars. “They” tell us to make fewer trips to the store. Conserve gas by going the speed limit, etc. etc.

Daddy conserved the gas in the old Dodge any way he could think of. The three of us would push the car down the hill in front of the house to get it started so he could go to work in the mornings. He would put the car in neutral, open the driver’s door and help push. As the car started, he would jump in at the last minute, and off he would go! When he drove the car on the highway, he would throw the car in neutral and “coast” down the hill to save gasoline. We made one trip just on Saturdays to buy supplies from the stores downtown. We didn’t hop in the car just to run to the store once or twice a day as people do now.

I drive a 1997 Honda Accord. I care for it and hope it will last me for many more years.

We Are A Sedentary People

The health experts tell us we need to walk more and execise more.

I walked two miles each way to school every day (that is NO exaggeration) We all walked. There was only one family car, and if Daddy drove that car to work and we needed to go somewhere: we walked!

We need to exercise more. We are a sedentary people.

I totally agree with that one. We are SO lazy. Back then, we kids would run through the woods, swing from the vines, play in the creeks, plow the mules in the fields, and work in the cotton fields.

I walk my Miniature Schnauzer, Baby, at least two miles every day. It's good for her and good for me, too!

Americans Are Building Smaller Houses Now

Who Needs Big Houses And Large Lawns?

We are being told to downsize our houses. Who needs a “McMansion”?

I grew up in a two bedroom wood frame house that would be considered a shack by today’s standards. It never leaked because it had a metal roof. That house was home to us for many years.

I lived in a four bedroom house that was built in 1900 until it became necessary for me to downsize. I now live in a tiny apartment which requires very little to keep clean. I enjoy it very much.

Folks worry now a days because they don’t make enough money.

My Daddy worked in a textile mill. He took strands of cotton and wove them into cloth. His salary was $35.00 a week. We didn’t have credit cards. If we didn’t have the money to purchase an item, we waited until we did have the cash to spend. I remember my Mother proudly showing my Daddy the new chair she gave him for his Birthday. When he asked her where she got the money, she told him she had charged it. Well, he told her the chair had to go back! He refused to charge anything.

Too bad we can't resist charging things we think we just have to have. We should wait until we have the cash!

I agree with the experts we shouldn’t have huge lawns that have to be maintained, using valuable water and constant care.

We didn’t have a lawn to maintain. Our yard was just red clay like you find in the hills of South Carolina. My Mother “swept the yard” each day with what they called a “brush broom”. This was made by tying bunches of small branches from the trees. She was proud of the way she kept our yard clean.

Why don't we grow vegetables in our yards???

I would like to see people converting their lawns into gardens.

We Had No Electricity

The frugal experts tell us to turn off all the appliances that are not being used during the night or when we are away from home.

We didn’t have electricity until I was 12 years old. There was no vacuum cleaner to clean the house. Mother used a broom and swept the dirt out onto the ground. We all went to bed “with the chickens” because after dark, we had to rely on the kerosene lanterns to see. If I hadn’t finished my homework by dark, I had to read my books by this light. It didn’t harm my vision either, because I’ve always had 20/20 vision.

To conserve energy we are told to hang our clothes out to dry. We had a clothes line in the back yard to hang wet laundry. Of course there was no washing machine. Mother would build a fire underneath the metal washtub to heat the water. She used homemade lye soap to scrub the clothes on a washboard. I still have that old washboard. The clothes would be rinsed in fresh clean water that was in another tin tub, and then hung up on the line. I still remember how fresh my bed sheets always smelled!

Unless you live where clothes lines are prohibited, consider hanging your laundry instead of using the clothes dryer. I use a clothes line and save a lot of electricity by using my clothes dryer.

We Should Sew Some Of Our Clothes

We could save a lot of money by making some of our own clothes.

My Mother was a wonderful seamstress. She made my dresses from flour sacks. Back then we girls were not allowed to wear shorts or pants. All Southern ladies wore dresses. We bought our flour in floral bags.

The flour makers made these bags from sturdy cotton that would have to survive all those washings on the washboard. She added a pretty “peter pan” collar trimmed with her hand tatted or crocheted work.

I had four daughters and I made all of their clothes!

The frugal people tell us how to use our range for cooking. Use the oven to cook several dishes at once.

We had a wood burning cook stove. Even with no thermostat, Mother turned out wonderful cakes and pies. The stove had a warming oven built into the top so dinner could be kept warm to be eaten later.

We had no central heat, so that old stove served to keep us warm when we didn't feel like lighting up the fireplace.

To save money, the pet experts give us recipes for making our homemade dog food. This is much better for your dog’s health (they say), and is cheaper to use.

We never bought dog food. Our dogs ate the table scraps if they were lucky enough to get any. Our dogs lived very long and healthy lives.

I do not buy commercial dog food for my Miniature Schnauzer. I cook chicken and rice for her.

Americans spend an enormous amount of money on disposable diapers. We are filling our landfills with these plastic diapers that are not biodegradable.

We used cloth diapers, washed them, and hung them out on the line to dry. In cold weather, the diapers froze on the line.

My Mother would "turn over in her grave" if she could see all the water we buy in plastic bottles. We had clean, clear water from springs that just came up out of the earth. We had a well that we pumped water for laundry and our weekly baths.

Why don't we install water purifiers under the sink and stop buying all that water??

We never heard of paper towels when I was growing up.
Why can't we use cloth kitchen towels and cut back on paper towels?

We are told to grow our own vegetables. These are better for our health, of course.

It was unheard of to buy fresh vegetables when I was growing up. We grew everything we ate, including the meat.

We are encouraged to become vegetarians and not to eat the meat that is sold in the market. I have to admit, this will be a difficult challenge for me. I do love a great steak!

We raised our own hogs, cows and chickens for food. The cows had a large pasture to graze in. The calves were never put in small crates to fatten them like the practice is today. Our hogs had big pens to wallow in the mud and were happy with their living conditions. Our chickens were never penned. They ran free. They call that “free range” chicken meat now.

When I lived in my former big house, I had backyard chickens. They supplied my family with fresh eggs every day. Unless you live in a area that prohibits you from having chickens, they are wonderful to have. They make good pets for your children, too!

Kids Had Fewer Cavities Back Then

Toothpaste??? What was that?? We used baking soda to clean our teeth. It was a rare sight to see a child with decayed teeth.

Believe it or not, but we didn't have tooth brushes, either! We made ours from a twig from a soft wood tree. Every day I went outside to cut a fresh toothbrush.

We have become a “disposable” society. We use something one time and throw it away. The things we buy don’t last long because we people have not pressured the manufacturers to produce lasting products. The recession we are experiencing now in the United States has been good for us in many ways. It has caused us to rethink the way we live. It has forced us to live frugally and that’s a good thing.

We are depleting our planet’s resources at an alarming rate. We all have a duty to conserve what we have left for the next generations. In our world of bounty we should all practice living a frugal life.

Just remember: Waste not, want not.

Just One More Story

I will relate just one more story of how frugal I was as a child. I was allowed to buy one pack of chewing gum a month. Oh, how I looked forward to that treat!

I would chew a stick of gum, and I would take it out before going to sleep and carefully place it in an aspirin tin that had a hinged lid. The next day if I felt like it, I would take it out and chew it all over again.

I do believe we Americans are a wasteful society. We are fast depleting our natural resources. We need to all do our part in preserving those resources for the future generations. Think of ways you, as a responsible person, to learn to live more frugally.

Do you agree our society needs to live more frugally?

See results

© 2014 Mary Hyatt


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