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It is no secret that prepper-types use the Great Depression as an example of what can and will happen when the stuff hits the fan. We do this because the possibility of a national or even a global economic collapse is something we prepare for.
Learning about life during the Great Depression has its value and the lessons we can learn will go a long way in helping us formulate our own plan for survival under such dire economic circumstances. That being said, life in the 21st century is much different than it was during the thirties.
This makes it important to toss some modern realism into the mix. Here are both reasons and facts why a second Great Depression will be different the next time around.
Reasons Why a Second Great Depression Will Be Different
The Second Great Depression, if there is one, will be much different than the depression my parents and grandparents experienced. This is because both society and the world today are not the same as it was in 1929.
The most obvious reason is that we are now far more urban and less dependent upon the land for sustenance. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some additional reasons why the next Great Depression will be different.
1. In 1930, 44% of the US population was rural. By 2010, the rural population had dropped to 20%. It is still dropping.
2. Dependency upon the power grid was more moderate than it is today. Power outages were common so families knew how to get by in the dark using candles and oil lamps for light. Many still cooked using a wood stove and had an icebox instead of a refrigerator.
3. Technology as we know it today did not exist. Communication was by mail, radio, and telephone. Home computers, smartphones, texting, and email that are now a part of daily did not exist and did not distract us from the business of living.
4. People took responsibility for their actions and maintained a high moral compass. Most people practiced their religion and regularly went to their place of worship.
5. Being thrifty was a way of life. Most people understood the value of having a budget and living within their means.
6. People were neighborly and participated in potluck dinners and community social events on a regular basis. They learned who to trust and who would watch their back if trouble came to town.
7. Walking, bicycling, and public transportation was used to get from one place to another. There was not the current dependence on automobiles, and the associated cost of fuel, insurance, and maintenance.
8. Wearing clothing and shoes until they were worn out was the norm. If children outgrew their clothing, it was handed down to siblings or the neighbor’s children.
9. People entertained themselves with card games, board games, puzzles, dancing, and other low-cost or no-cost activities. Children played street games such as “kick the can“.
10. Almost everyone had a skill of one type or another. Cooking, sewing, and various home arts were common among the women. Men could do plumbing and construction work, and the entire family tended the garden. Families from the oldest adults down to the youngest children did what they could themselves. If outside workers were called in, it was often on a barter basis.
11. Government aid was considered shameful and avoided if at all possible. Even then, reliance on government assistance was an embarrassment and a solution of the last resort.
12. Children pitched in and helped in any way they could. This was the norm and they did not feel put out when asked to do chores or take on odd jobs.
Relative to today, the following applies:
13. Today we are less dependent upon jobs in factories and on farms. Most workers today sit in offices or perform some sort of service; they do not make “things”.
14. Family farms have all but disappeared in favor of corporate farming conglomerates that not only control the food chain and related distribution systems but also grow unhealthy GMO crops and pesticide-ridden fruit, vegetables, and other food products.
15. The demographic of the middle class, or at least what is left off it, has drastically changed. With exponential increases in the cost of health care, housing, utilities, and food, more families than ever are barely getting by.
16. Baby boomers are either in retirement or getting close, yet retirement savings is at an all-time low. Within that segment alone, the “haves” spent their careers working for companies that had lucrative defined pensions. And the rest? They funded their own retirement through 401Ks, IRAs, and traditional savings. Those nest eggs have been stagnant for years as interest earnings have become all but non-existent. Many retirees or would-be retirees are still working or living at poverty levels.
11 Facts About the Great Depression You Need to Know About
As you read and learn about the Great Depression, keep in mind that there are a number of facts from the depression era that warrant a second look.
1. The Great Depression did not happen overnight.
2. The media created panic and chaos with their sensationalized reports.
3. Being poor was so common that being poor was considered “normal”.
4. Hard work and an enterprising attitude made a bad situation tolerable.
5. Investing time and energy in gardening and the raising of livestock (chickens and cows) had a huge payback in self-reliance.
6. Canning and preserving food was important if you wanted food to eat year-round.
7. The price of everything escalated on an almost daily basis.
8. Lawlessness was rampant. In addition to ruthless outlaws, neighbors stole from neighbors everything from food items to livestock to valuables such as jewelry and tools.
9. In spite of everything, “Robin Hoods” emerged from unexpected places to help feed the people.
10. Families learned to make do and to enjoy themselves with amusements and hobbies that took little or no money.
11. And perhaps the biggest lesson, Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do without!.
Although some may consider a few of these facts disputable, they are based on anecdotal evidence including the article below by Alice B. Yeager and the book, Growing Up in the Great Depression by Delores Mixer.
One more thing. It is interesting to note that when the Great Depression began, the United States was the only industrialized country in the world without some form of unemployment insurance or social security. Did that make people of the era more self-reliant and self-sufficient? That certainly is something to ponder think about.
The Great Depression: A Reminiscence
The following excerpt is from an article by Alice B. Yeager first published in Backwoods Home Magazine.
I was a girl of 8 when the stock market crashed in 1929. It was the Great Depression, and unless you were living during the Depression years, you can’t really understand how tough they were. Our parents knew, however, as they went about trying to raise families under the worst of economic circumstances.
The Great Depression didn’t happen overnight. There is no way you can select a certain day and say that’s when it began. It started coming on sometime during the late 1920s and lasted well into the 1930s. At its peak, approximately 25 percent of American workers were without jobs. Chaos reigned as banks and insurance companies failed. Worst of all, with no bank deposits federally insured, many people lost their savings unless they were among the first to draw their money out of the banks before they closed their doors.
Newspaper headlines didn’t help matters. In New York City and other hard-hit cities, some moneyed and distraught people were jumping from tall buildings and there was an endless list of businesses closing day by day putting more and more people out of work.
Even though my husband, James, and I were children, we were old enough to be aware of The Great Depression and the effect it had on our families and everyone around us. However, let me say from the outset that being in the same boat with many other Americans made it bearable.
We didn’t realize that we were poor as we were all trying to make ends meet and somehow survive.
You can read the of the article on the Backwoods Home Magazine website. Used with permission.
The Final Word
Will there be another Great Depression? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know is I trust my eyes and ears more than the mainstream media. In my neighborhood alone, most of my retired neighbors have mortgages. The smart ones have plopped a for sale sign in front of their home and plan to move to a more affordable location. The rest continue to compare notes about mortgage rates while driving around in a newer model Lexus or Mercedes.
Frankly, it scares me that so many of my peers are so unprepared financially. If we do have another Great Depression, those of us that have reduced our debt load or are debt free will most likely have to defend what we own. It will not be a pretty picture.
Let us all hope for a soft landing.
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Spotlight: If you would like to read an informative as well as a charming and uplifting book about growing up during the Great Depression, I highly recommend Growing Up in the Great Depression by Delores Mixer. The book is a testament to the all-American optimism and “can-do” spirit our country was built upon.
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Note: Portions of this article were first published on this website in 2013. This material has been updated and enhanced to include new information and facts.