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Chuck Hinman IJMA No. 092: Borrowing Stuff

Chuck Hinman. It's Just Me Again No. 092: Borrowing Stuff
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By Chuck Hinman

I don't remember how many times I heard Mom call her best friend, Allie Dillow, and say "Allie, may I borrow a cup of sugar? I started to make a one-egg cake and forgot I am out of sugar. I'll pay you back when I get sugar next Saturday night."

That kind of conversation was common place in the stressful economic times of the 1930s. A combination of the Great Depression with the drought-dust bowl days caused mid-western farm housewives to scramble to make ends meet. Pantries held only bare essentials. I can remember when everything Mom had in the ice box was on the first shelf. The other shelves and door were empty. Nothing fell out on the floor when you opened the door like now or "I know it's in there somewhere" talk. In those days, what you were looking for was on the first shelf or you were out!

The main cash flow to purchase food not raised in gardens was the money Mom got from the eggs sold on Saturday night to the produce man. Many times there was not enough egg money to buy all the things on Mom's grocery list -- things we were out of, and I am talking staples like sugar, not frivolous things like olives and powdered sugar. Incidentally Moms grocery list included the estimated price. She had a pretty accurate handle what she could bring home with the egg money.

A common sight on Saturday night at the grocery store was a woman who had more groceries than she had money. Embarrassed and holding up the line of shoppers she was frantically deciding which groceries to put back on the shelves of the grocery store. It was sad but everyone was in the same boat and understood. "Making do" was a way of life mastered by housewives in those days.

I have seen Mom, when she needed a little sugar for the week ahead empty sugar from the sugar bowls. Or if she was out of salt, chip some salt off the block of salt the cows licked on in the barnyard. Gross? Not when you're hungry.

Many times Mom sent me with a coffee can to get the cup of sugar from Allie. I knew she was going to kiss me on the forehead -- I didn't know when it would happen but I liked it.

Mom never forgot her promise to pay back the cup of sugar (or whatever) and I would get another kiss and some times she gave me a home made cookie to munch on as I skipped all the way home. Incidentally, I don't believe kids skip or go barefooted anymore. What a shame. I bet they can't whistle or spit between the gap in their teeth. How sad!

Those tough economic times for my Mom and Dad didn't seem all that bad to me. I'm sure they sheltered us from a lot we didn't need to know about.

"Hey Merle, this is Allie,

This story was posted on 2010-08-15 08:13:01
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