Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Letters From The Past - Number 3

Dear Family and Friends,
Well it’s been a while since I wrote to you and I know you’ve wondered what in the world I was doing. I’ve been busy here in Arkansas, making some quilt tops, going to physical therapy (arthritis you know), going to church, just regular stuff I guess. But it sure seems like there’s been more regular stuff lately!

I have to tell you about the most wonderful thing. Back in 1971 my Grandma and Grandpa A. (my daddy’s parents) were interviewed by someone from the University of Texas about the depression and how they lived during that awful time. Grandpa was 78 and Grandma was 71 when they were interviewed. I think the interviewers (there were 2) were maybe working on a doctoral dissertation or doing some research about the great cattle kill during that time but whatever it was they never published it. However, that interview was tape recorded on one of those little cassette tape recorders everyone used in those days and it still exists! One of my cousins discovered that information and the fact that the UofT Library would make a CD of the interview for $25. So of course my sister sent the money and we got that CD back pretty quick.

It’s so good to hear their voices! The main interviewer is talking to Grandpa but in the background you can hear Grandma answering the questions and elaborating on the answers to the other person there. She did that all the time – answered for Grandpa – and told lots of details about anything she was telling you. I remember that when I was growing up if you asked her a question you got a really long answer…and you didn’t even have to ask because she just loved to talk! My sister says that she is just like Grandma – she said that, I didn’t!

They got married when Grandma was 16 and Grandpa was 23. Her daddy didn’t want her to have anything to do with Grandpa so they ran away in the night (she climbed out the bedroom window and got in his wagon and off they went!) They lived with Grandpa’s Granny for a while. He was raised by his grandparents because his parents separated before he was born. When they got married they didn’t have even one thing to set up housekeeping so Granny helped Grandma make a mattress. They went out to the barn and got some tow sacks. Those are burlap sacks that cattle feed came in. They took those rough old burlap sacks apart and sewed several together. Then they went out into a field and pulled up sweet grass and filled up that mattress. And that was what they slept on. When the corn crop came in they took the grass out of the mattress and filled it up with corn shucks. I think the corn shucks made it thicker and they lasted longer than the grass. Tow sacks looked kind of like the ones in this picture that I found on Flickr.

They only had a little bit of money and they ran out of soap but didn’t want to spend their little bit of money on that! So Granny said she could make soap. Grandma wasn’t sure about that because they didn’t have anything to make soap with (you need lard). But Granny went out into the far pasture and gathered up old bleached out bones from cows that had died or been slaughtered years before. She put those bones and some lye and water into a wash pot and boiled them. It turned into a jelly like soap that Grandma said was the best soap they ever had. It cleaned up those clothes pretty and white! Here's a recipe I found on Flickr for lye soap.

During the depression the government was trying to drive up the price of cattle on the market, I guess to “stimulate the economy” or something, so they offered to buy cows for $25 a head. You put them in a truck and drove them to the designated place and the government man paid you $25 for any cow that was standing. If it couldn’t stand up he wouldn’t pay for it. Good cows, bad cows, sick cows, didn’t matter because the price was the same for all of them. Once they were counted you had to take them off the truck and shoot them. That’s right, shoot them. At first they would let you skin them and keep the hide which you could sell for $1. But later they wouldn’t even let you do that. And no one could have them to eat. They just rotted in the fields. I keep thinking of all the soup kitchens and the hungry people and they made them leave that good meat laying there to rot. I bet there were lots of bones in that field that Granny could have used to make her soap!

Well I’ve rattled on and on today and now it’s time to go. I’ve got some sewing to do today and bread to make and I need to clean out the refrigerator. A woman’s work is never done! Till next time…

Peace and Blessings,

Marlene

29 comments:

Rose Mary said...

Oh Marlene, this is just a fantastic post!! What a treasure for you and your siblings to have! I hope you will keep sharing your grandparent's interview with us! I'd love to know more about how people 'made-do' during the depression.

Living on the Spit said...

Yes, please keep on sharing this exciting remnant of the past that is a valuable lesson for our current situation!!!

I have been reading a lot on the net about these types of interviews from the depression. One was called a writers project from the people of the depression from all over the United States.

Salem Stitcher said...

What an incredible thing to find and how blessed you are to hear their voices again. The stories put everything we are going through with the economy now in perspective. One, it's been worse. Two, it will get better.

Amelia said...

So enjoy these "letters".

Are you printing them out for the grandchildren to read and know about in their later years? These stories are to be shared...

Have a God filled weekend...sing loud and full of joy tomorrow!

Needled Mom said...

How very interesting. What a thrill it must have been to actually hear the voices on the tapes. I hope that everyone in the family can make a copy of the tape to treasure forever.

Crazy for Primitive Quilts and Gardens said...

What a wonderful piece of your family history. I love your stories! You need to write a memoir book like Laura Ingalls Wilder :o)

Jan said...

How wonderful to hear the voices of your Grand parents again ,what a fantastic entry full of great historical information ..love Jan xx

Lisa @ Life with 4! said...

that's wonderful. my Dad just recently had an old recording of my grandma playing the organ put onto CD. She was already very sick with cancer but she made it through 4 hymns and then tried to play some "boogy-woogy" (which she loved to do). She struggled with it and got embarrassed. But listening to her play that organ and hearing her voice, made me miss her so much. I wish I had been able to know her more, she passed away when I was 4.

Christine said...

Oh I loved this post. What a priceless treasure that CD must be. I'd give ANYTHING to be able to hear my grandparents talk about those times. Anything.

mjnauert said...

Marlene,

Thank you for your wonderful stories. You are such a great story teller that I cannot even skip over words...even when you claim to ramble I am totally absorbed in what you are saying.

I didn't have family that talked about the 'old' ways, so I love living through people as thoughtful as you. Thanks again.

Monica

Phyllis said...

Hi Marlene,

With the economy the way it is now, I've been re-interested in the depression. My relatives grew up very, very poor in WVA. I did too but not as poor as they were. Your story rings so true. The tales my one grandmother told me!

Poor cows; I didn't know that. I wish they'd just shoot them today instead of skinning them alive.

Thank you for the post.

Milah said...

What a blessing to have this precious gift of your grandparents reminescing. I have some old reels of tape of my father talking and singing. The problem is I don't have anything to play them on. I so glad you shared this.

Jacquie said...

Another INTERESTING post, Marlene. I read it to my husband... who is "from these parts" and has deep roots in the Ozarks. Much of what you say... he nods his head through!

Keep 'em coming...

Lena . . . said...

What wonderful and interesting entries. Keep them coming.

Michelle said...

I love reading your letters. Keep them coming. You are wonderful with words. So very interesting.
Be blessed!
Michelle

Angie said...

Wonderful Post. Your Grandparents' story sounds so romantic to begi with - running away to get married - but there's not much that''s romantic about sleeping on a tow sack! You're right, we forget what extreme poverty really meant. Or, like me, never knew extreme poverty. Not really. Having chicken for Christmas instead of turkey doesn't even come near.

Don't ever stop your reminiscences, I love them.

love, Angie, xx

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Your letters home are something to look forward to.

Can you imagine how it was to live day to day in those times?

Carol said...

Well, I'll say it! S.L. is exactly like Grandma A. I would love to listen to the CD when I visit you in Ft. Smith (we need to settle on dates). I think I was 7 when I last heard their voices. How I loved Grandma A.'s Boiled Turnip Greens! I would sit in the kitchen at your house and help her wash the greens. Then I got to write on the steamed up windows, while anxiouxly waiting for the first bowl of Pot Liquor. No one could make Turnip Greens like she could.

Adrienne said...

What a treasure! For you and for future generations. Thank you for sharing a bit of your family history with us. I would love to have my grandparents' voices on a CD. ~Adrienne~

Veggie Mom said...

What wonderful memories! Hey, Marlene...did you see the quilt I posted on Friday? Yup, Aunt Julie just finished another one. Would really LOVE to hear what you think!

Janet, said...

I loved your post. I wish they had interviewed my grandparents, that would have been wonderful to have a tape of. That was awful about them having to shoot the cows, it makes you wonder about the people who run the government.

Sue said...

http://elliesquiltplace.web-log.nl/mijn_weblog/2009/01/ellies-quiltpla.html
This is Ellie's website for the Country Calendar BOM. Some of the blog is in another language, but if you scroll down it is also in English. Hope you enjoy.

Sandy said...

I love your memories. I grew up in a small city so don't relate to a lot of the things that took place in the same time frame, but in the country. It is fascinating to hear.

Elaine Adair said...

Very interesting post. What a treasure you saved. 8-)

Grammy Staffy said...

What a wonderful post. How lovely to get a CD with their voices on it. We really have no idea of how it was during the depression do we? I wish that I had taped my mom talking about it. Too bad that I didn't. Could you imagine what it would be like to not have the money to buy soap?... of course we would really be in trouble if we didn't because I don't know where we would find bones to boil.

Thanks for sharing this post with us. Have a good week. Love, Lura

Letters From Midlife said...

What a gift to have this.

Linda / Behind My Red Door said...

Good morning Marlene, Another wonderful piece of the story! I love reading them.

Are you familiar with the Country Register Newspaper? They advertise country and prim stores. Here is the link the advertisers in the latest issue for Arkansas.
http://www.countryregister.com/publishers/publishersites/arkansas/akadvertisers.html

Maybe there is a shop you didn't know about. Every time I get a new one for MA, there is another shop advertising that I didn;t know exsited. Many times they are worth the drive.

So true about a women's work...

hugs, Linda

tipper said...

Marlene-how super neat to get the cd!! The whole story you told about them is just amazing-and I know that is only a small portion.

limpingalong said...

Loved the story!

My question is . . . do wives/women ever get to retire?