Depression-Era Ingenuity

Anyone whose parents or grandparents grew up during the Great Depression knows that living during that time taught them to be thrifty and innovative. They repaired rather than throw away and buy new. If they had a car, they learned to fix it themselves, or they walked.

They did not go out to eat, they did not purchase expensive toys for their children, and they did not buy what they could not afford. When credit cards appeared on the scene, many shunned them and looked on them with distrust, preferring to pay with cash or not purchasing at all.

Knowing that his parents suffered so much during the early years of the Great Depression, my father was never one to squander his money. We rarely went out to eat, I don’t recall Dad hiring anyone unless he absolutely could not do the job himself, and I don’t believe we ever had a new car.

So years later, when both my father and mother were ill, I visited them at their home to help them through that time. My sister and I were down in the basement doing a load of laundry. When we looked up at the ceiling, we saw the pipes that Dad had insulated with some old newspapers. Next, one of us  looked behind and above the washer and began to laugh, noticing the evidence of more of Dad’s handiwork.

A window had been broken—how long ago, neither of us knew. But Dad had fixed that window in a way that only Dad could do. Dad’s recipe was as follows:

Take 1 lid from a Tupperware container

Add a piece of cardboard

Secure firmly in place with duct tape

            Voila! Window is broken no more!

That was my dad! I wish I had taken a picture.


About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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