Wednesday, August 03, 2005
All Dressed Up
The photo in this haiga is the official class photo of one of my mother's first grade classes during the Depression era, taken well before I was born (as a surprise). This and other photos she kept rend my heart. Many of these children only had one pair of shoes, which they saved for winter (for as long as they fit) and stuffed them with paper or cloth, the soles were so thin and filled with holes.
Many children came to school with no breakfast in them and carrying no lunch. Mother tried to bring food to share with the poorest of the group, but my parents were also paying rent and buying some food for my paternal grandparents. My grandfather, first farmer,then a master carpenter, had cut off all of the fingers on one hand in an accident and could then only get occasional rough carpentry jobs, since one handed carpenters weren't in demand in days when ANY job was hard to find.
My father, born into a poor farming family to uneducated parents, had planned to get his Ph.D. in Chemistry. The Depression stopped that dream for him, too. He had worked his way through school to his Masters and there also were no part-time jobs for college students, when grown men with families needed work. He was lucky enough to be hired on as teacher at Richburg, South Carolina, and the next year be promoted to Principal. As Principal, he hired a beautful young first grade teacher, one who had been voted 'Most Attractive' in her senior college class and had enough sense to marry her at the end of that first year.
The Depression changed many lives. It destroyed my father's brother, who had made it through college at the time. His attitude was different from my father's, who always tried to make the best of a situation and not dream about what might have been. My uncle found small jobs here and there before he eventually turned to drink, dying when I was still a teenager from liver problems caused by it. He lived with my grandparents and so was supported thus by my father, too.
I learned a lot about endurance from my parents. My mother lost both parents by the time she was 18. In years when most women married as their security, my mother also finished college and made a career for herself, becoming the most loved first grade teacher in the small town of Pageland, where we settled for the duration, my father now Superindendent, when I was three years old.
And that's today's blog.