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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Depression Days

Depression Days. Chuck says that during the depression the Hinmans had to learn a new way of life called 'making do.'
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Changing Oil

By Chuck Hinman

Depression Days

I was a seven year old Nebraska farm boy when the stock market crashed in 1929. It set off the Great Depression that severely disrupted the lives of most every one in the United States. It hit people where it hurt -- in their pocketbooks!

Following the stock market crash, there was widespread closing of banks. People lost all their savings in those banks. The Blue Springs (Nebraska) State Bank where my parents (Arley and Merle Hinman) banked stayed solvent through the depression. The bank was run by Floyd Patton and Arthur Krauss, long-time friends and classmates of my parents. Other banks in Gage County, Nebraska, were not so fortunate.

Natural disasters came on the heels of the stock market crash

The stock market crash and bank closings that followed had little effect on our family. But before the nation recovered from the economic turmoil of the stock market - bank closing saga, a series of natural (of nature) disasters struck Midwestern farmers. My parents as young farmers with a young family felt the full force of these natural disasters which continued for years in the 1930s.

Lives became so stressful that many wondered if the world was coming to an end. The good days had suddenly come to a screeching halt; everyone was scrounging around trying to find ways to hold their lives together and ride out these storms.

Drought, dust storms, and grasshoppers were heartbreaking

Of these disasters of nature, the drought and related dust storms combined with the grasshopper invasion were the most heartbreaking, especially for mid-western farmers. Crops were wiped out or reduced severely. Farmers were prepared to withstand one crop failure but not year after year. Something had to give.

In the first years of the depression, farmers paying for their farms did well to pay only the interest on their loans. Many lost their farms. Because the economy in the Midwest was tied to agriculture, every one was affected. A whole new class of people were seen walking country roads (like ours) knocking on back doors begging for food, sleeping under bridges or in vacant buildings.

Hinmans better off than many

The famous movie "The Grapes of Wrath" chronicled what life was like in the depression.

I was a kid, growing up on a farm in southeastern Nebraska (Gage County). If my parents were concerned about the harsh times, they never made it an item of table conversation. We were dirt poor but never in danger (not even remotely) of going hungry.

Hinmans learned 'making do'

Our parents had to cut back and learn a new way of life. It was called 'making do.' Mom became a master at making do. She was determined that a little old depression was not going to ruin our lives. She managed the weekly egg money so that we had some of the frills of rich people -- things like piano lessons, roman candles on the 4th, senior class rings, good books for Christmas gifts, etc.

So, by the grace of God and the resourcefulness of the human spirit we learned an important life lesson. The Hinmans can be knocked down but we refuse to be 'knocked out'!

Written by Chuck Hinman. Emailed Friday, 28 August 2009.

This story was posted on 2014-11-30 00:25:40
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