Friday, December 12, 2008

Depression-The Double-Entendre

I was out doing some errands today and my mind wandered onto the subject of the gloomy economic situation because I saw a billboard advertising for patients suffering from depression for a medical/drug study. I thought about how a year ago I probably wouldn't have associated the word depression with the economy. I was particularly thinking about the impending bail-out of the American auto industry. A few short weeks ago the financial sector got the bail-out. Now the Auto industry is asking, and who next? I understand that government intervention is needed under extreme circumstances. If you listen to the news you hear the extreme desperation everywhere. But you all can watch the news and make up your own minds.

As my mind was wandering, I thought about my two grandmothers who weathered the depression while raising families. They had diametrically different political views. My Grandma Bullock was a true blue democrat. I have seen her tear-up at the sound of Ted Kennedy's voice. She would have been for the bail-out. In her personal life she was one of the most charitable people I have ever known. During the Great Depression the down and out were always knocking on her door. She had very little but she could always prepare a sandwich and a drink for anyone who knocked on her door and asked. At her funeral I spoke, and noted how she did the work of the Savior by feeding the hungry. She never wanted to turn anyone away. What if she turned someone away and he happened to be John the Beloved or One of the Three Nephites?

Unfortunately, during a time of need in her life she was turned away. This was in 1938. She and my grandfather had just moved to Mesa, Arizona from Ogden, Utah. Grandpa Bullock had been sick for about a year with a lung ailment. Back then, if you had a respiratory problem the doctors sent you to Arizona for the dry, warm climate. He had a job lined up but he had not been paid yet. The move had cost them more than they had planned, so they were out of money. My mother was still a baby and they had no milk for her. Grandpa Bullock went to the grocery store and asked if they would give him some milk for his baby daughter. He explained the situation and offered to pay them back the next week when he got paid or when his family in Utah sent them an emergency loan. The owner of the grocery store told him to get out of his store and to stop begging. Basically saying, "Don't come back unless you have money. We don't want beggars in our store." Grandpa had to go home and tell Grandma that there would be no milk for the baby that night. Grandma was pretty resourceful though. She had a little white flour so she browned it in a pan and added water to make a really thin Mormon gravy. She put that in the bottle and gave that to my mother. The next day, Grandpa went to a little Chinese grocery store/restaurant. The owner had compassion and gave him milk. They were able to get by with the milk and what they had until they got paid. My grandfather was able to pay him back the next week.

The funny part of this story is that Grandpa Bullock's new job was the Health Inspector for the City of Mesa. He told me that the grocers who turned him away ran the filthiest meat and dairy department in town. He was constantly writing them up for infractions. He witnessed them putting water in the cottage cheese to bump up the weight. He noticed evidence of rodents. He was a thorn in their side from 1938 until 1972 when he retired. He also told me that the Chinese Grocer ran the cleanest store/restaurant in town. So maybe he wasn't John the Beloved, but you never know who you are turning away.

Grandma and Grandpa Stockam were staunch Republicans. It is almost as if Self Reliance was their religion. They would rather starve than ask for or receive help from the government or anyone. They came to Arizona from Oklahoma in 1932. This was at the time of the dust bowl when immigrants from Oklahoma were going to California. Think Grapes of Wrath.Grandpa Stockam suffered from a respiratory ailment also. So they would always distinguish themselves from all of those poor Okies who were relocating for economic reasons, because they were relocating for health reasons. They sold everything they had in Oklahoma and bought a truck. Grandpa had to teach himself how to drive. Evidently it was pretty scary. Grandma had little faith in the car and probably less in Grandpa's driving abilities because when they got to the top of a hill Grandma took herself and all of her kids out of the car. Grandpa would drive down the hill while the family walked. He would wait for them at the bottom of the hill and prepare lunch or set up camp, whatever the time of day required. Then all of the family would pack into the car to go up the next hill. At that pace it took them over a year to get to Arizona. They picked crops along the way. They broke down in New Mexico for several months until they could raise enough money to fix the truck.

They raised 11 children by picking cotton and raising dairy cattle. This was where the 11 kids came in handy. They milked by hand and picked cotton by hand. They had few material possessions and life was hard. But this is the way they thought it should be. I haven't heard of Grandma Stockam feeding the hungry except for those 11 hungry kids who ate beans and biscuits almost every night by the sweat of their brows and the labor of their hands. Maybe the down and out knew that if they came knocking on the Stockam's door the best they could hope for would be cold beans on a cold biscuit sandwich.

My father and his twin brother were the 9th and 10th children. They were born about 3months early and weighed about 5 pounds between the two of them. Chances of success in 1936 of that small of babies was pretty low. Fortunately they were able to afford Borden brand sweetened condensed milk which they mixed with water and put in a bottle. If any of you are familiar with sweetened condensed milk you know how much sugar those babies were getting. The babies thrived on the high sugar diet. The Borden company heard about the success and sent out representatives to try to use the twins in a advertising campaign. They were trying to offer my grandparents thousands of dollars to take pictures of the twins and tell their story. Grandma Stockam got really angry at this. She kicked them out of her house and told them that she didn't need their charity. Obviously, she had never been to business school. She couldn't imagine anyone giving her money if she didn't have to work like a pack mule for it. She could not envision the reality of intangible assets. I think I can safely say that if she were alive today she would be drastically opposed to the bail-out.

Last Saturday we rented the movie Kit Kitteridge American Girl. This is a movie about a 10 year old girl who gets to make it through the depression. She and her family have to do things they would never have imagined just to keep up with the mortgage payment. I know it sounds like a kid's movie but I really liked it. Joe liked it too even though he is a boy, so the message seems to transcend age and gender limits. If you see this movie you will have to notice Kit's friend Ruthie. Joe thinks she is hot.


Deanna said...

Thank you for sharing some family memories. It was fun to remember our grandmothers through these stories. I think you have both of them pegged just right. I admire both of those wonderful women for the lives they lead in such difficult times. I often think of what they would do in certain situations that I encounter.

Chris said...

Nice post! I never liked Basha's growing up. Now I know why!

Megan said...

It is interesting to think of how different life was during the depression. Even though now we think that the times are very difficult, it is not nothing compared to the depression. It is fun to hear stories about my great grandma's points of view. I never knew that Grandma Bullock cried to Ted Kennedy's voice. Now I know where you get it from.

Bonnie said...

If I ever cried when Ted Kennedy spoke it was out of exasperation not admiration. I remember tormenting her for her plan to vote for Ted Kennedy during the 1980 election even though he lost the primary to the sitting president, Jimmy Carter. She was not influenced by my logic nor could she be moved to the right when I tried to explain the benifits of Reagonomics.

Fisher Family said...

Thanks for sharing some family history! Your kids and grandkids will treasure information about their ancestors. I found it very interesting. Hey I liked the movie about Kit Kitrigde too. The next time I see it I'll have to pay more attension to the girl Joey thought was hot.

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I am a stay at home mom but the clock is ticking. My husband and I only have one child left at home. I enjoy shopping and finding great bargains.