Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spending Money in the Great Depression

Much of the media coverage today is about how to spend our money. How do we get out and stay out of debt? This is a subject I heard and hopefully learned a little about early in life!

When I was a child, my mother, Ieula Ann Dick Baird, not only cooked all the food I ate but made all the clothes I wore. I have written about her "cooking from scratch " and about sewing in the 1930's.

As I have told in other stories, the Boll Weevil destruction of the cotton plant, the major money crop for Southern farmers, added to the general struggle to survive in the South continuing from the Civil War until after World War II.

My father, in failing health, made the difficult decision to give up farming, to take a job in a nearby textile factory and move his family from the farm to town. He died when I was nine.

I started to school in Porterdale Georgia, a Bibb manufacturing textile town about 40 miles Southeast of Atlanta in 1929.

At age 10, I was thrilled to become a member of the Girl Reserves! The Girl Reserves, a forerunner to Girl Scouts, was one of the efforts of Bibb Manufacturing Company to benefit it's employee's families.

The Girl Reserves provided many "firsts" for me. The first time I saw the Atlantic Ocean was on one of the annual trips with the Girl Reserves. The first train trip! The first time I stayed in a hotel! The first time I was given "spending money!"

The Girl Reserves were making a journey by train from Porterdale Georgia all the way down to Savannah!

My hard working , widowed mother gave me one whole dollar to spend for the week. I came home with presents for everyone in the family and sometimes had money left! I do not remember what I bought for my siblings, but I always bought four yards of cloth for a dress (at ten cents a yard) as a gift to my mother. There was no sales tax in those days so I had sixty cents left after buying Mama a present.

Mama always acted so pleased to get the cloth, it took me years to realize that yard goods were not the nicest present one could possibly buy for a woman. I remember when Charles and I were first married, I would always buy 4 yards of dress material for his mother when a gift was in order.

It took a few years for me to realize that cloth was not a suitable gift for every woman. Every woman did not sew. My mother-in-law did not sew.

Mama also made use of washed and bleached flour sacks to make clothes, as did many of the women in our neighborhood. These bags were cut and sewn into undergarments, slips and panties.

Flour was sometimes sold in patterned cloth bags as were feed sacks. These bags (especially the larger feed bags) were made into dresses and blouses.

In my earliest memory people bought flour in 25 and 50 pound bags and often made bread two or three times a day. My mother made 40 biscuits every morning for years for her family which included 5 boys. She also made cornbread and/or biscuits for the late afternoon meal, called "dinner." So these empty cloth bags were put into use for needed clothing.


Gena Louise said...

I read you were a Girl Reserve. Do you know anything about a sailor hat that had the words "Girl Reserves" printed on the side and then the young ladies signed it?
I have one, but can find no history about this.

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