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.


Geoff Sanderson said...

Pris, that story is at once heart-rending and inspirational, and it explains a lot about your stubborn doggedness to carry on in the face of adversity. Had you been born to weak,stupid but wealthy parents, you would have been lapped in idle luxury and perhaps totally spoiled. With hindsight, how lucky you were!

My parents weren't educated, but had the same doggedness; during the depression here in the 1920s, my father - in common with many other out-of-work men - used to spend hours on the spoil-heaps of the local coal mine, seiving the dust to recover bits of coal to keep the fire burning at home.

Pris said...

Yes, it's one of those 'ill winds that blows no good' examples. I've always been grateful for the life events that made me stronger.

Michael Parker said...

Fascinating photo! The clarity is amazing. Great post, Pris!

Pris said...

Thanks, Michael
Good to see you have some respite from the heavy workload!

none said...

enduring past the point where your dreams are pulverized is something I am still learning to do; good post

Pris said...

Yes, so very true. I sometimes think of POW's as an extreme example of endurance/courage and at times when I think things are the very worst they can be for me I remember what they went through and survived.

Thanks for your post.