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We were just poor folks when I was young

By Bob Stickley

Being the youngest of nine children growing up, things weren’t always the best — these were the days just after the Great Depression.

We fuss today about the hard times we have in 2010 with unemployment at a record high and a new administration in Washington trying every angle that might bring a spark to turn things around for our country.

But during the days of my youth we were on welfare as were many families. Daddy, like many people, had lost his job and the government started a program called W.P.A., where Daddy was able to earn a little money.

It wasn’t embarrassing to live under these conditions, as many families were in the same situation.

Most the nation’s banks were trying to recover from the collapse of the Great Depression and many people lost everything they had financially. They were forced to start life over again.

Most of the schools I attended were one-room county schools, which housed grades kindergarten through sixth grade and we only had one teacher. We didn’t know what a school bus was while attending those grades, because we walked to school in all kinds of weather.

Daddy and Momma couldn’t afford some of the necessary things we needed like new shoes, so we got one pair a year — maybe.

I remember when the soles of my shoes would finally break loose. Those old Mason fruit jar rubbers did a good job of holding the soles in place, and you know what – there was no complaining.

By the time I made it to the fifth grade I was considered one of the teacher’s helpers and they sent me to learn how to build a fire in the school’s furnace. When the temperatures dropped, I would walk more than a mile to school and build a fire so that when the teacher arrived there would be a nice, warm classroom ready for her and all the students.

We didn’t have the great lunch programs then that kids have today. We carried a brown paper sack with a peanut butter sandwich and maybe a cookie or two that mom had made from the welfare commodities we had received.

My brother and I, after we got into the fifth and sixth grades, found a job helping our neighbor milk 32 cows every morning before school and when we returned home at night. We took milk for our pay and this helped Momma with her meal plans.

There was a sawmill on the corner of the road we lived on and one summer Momma took my brother, our oldest sister and I there to pile the bark that had been cut from the logs. At the end of the day she would load up our arms with bark that she took for pay and we would walk down the dirty, dusty, gravel road and stack the wood, which we would use for our cook stove.

There was also time we could play back in those days. After all the chores were done. If we needed a second baseman for our team, Momma was that person.

We didn’t have all the fine baseballs and basketballs that kids do today, so we made due with what we had and still enjoyed it.

There was love in those families back then — that’s not to say we were perfectly happy about everything, but we learned to accept it better.

We had an old type lawnmower that you had to push. My brother and I figured out how to mow the lawn easier by playing horse and driver. One of us would wear a harness we made out of rope and pull the mower while the other would act as the driver.

Them would reverse the procedure so we wouldn’t get so tired. Think you could get a child today to do that? I doubt it.

As we look back and reminisce about the old days and share those memories with our kids, the look at you and usually say, “Oh, Grandpa, that was way back in the olden days.”

If ever times were hard, there certainly were back in those days. Especially if we look at what we had then and what we have today.

I don’t think anyone living on this earth today should be more thankful to God for what He has done for this country during the past 60 or 70 years.

Our nation still moves on thanks to the grace of our heavenly Father — all the more reason we should show God how much we love Him and heed him to make things work in our country today.