Are/Were Your Parents Frugal to a Fault?

Persnickety Mannerisms?

My answer would most definitely have to be a big resounding “YES!” To this day, the thermostat needs to be kept on 78 degrees because the gas company advised that this is the most economical setting–despite how much water and sweat is flowing from guests foreheads and armpits; keep all doors and windows closed and locked so the cool breezes, heat rays, or sunlight don’t affect the temperature inside–no need for that good ole vitamin D to perk up your spirits; ceiling fans were installed in every room of the house–but don’t turn them on because they’re never necessary; keep your living room lights off until the timer says they should be turned on/off; Buy paper towels and toilet paper in bulk to save money, but use them sparingly. You can rinse out used paper towels and leave them on the counter to dry to be used again; toilet paper is a luxury, too, and you must use only 2 sheets at a time (both sides, of course); if the parents are the only ones at home, no need for them to flush the toilet each time they use it–surprise, company’s here!; no need to wash your hands each time after you go to the bathroom either, because it’s an unnecessary use of water–so wipe any excess on your dark pants because it won’t show; if you freeze any food, it is good forever, regardless of its expiration date or the date imprinted on the label–yes, and the list goes on and on…

The Great Depression

To further explain, I was raised primarily during the “Fabulous Fifties” and the “Swinging or Psychedelic Sixties,” but my parents were born in 1927 and 1928, just before the 1929 Stock Market Crash that turned into America’s “Great Depression.” The timeline of the Great Depression was from August 1929 to June 1938. It was nearly 10 years before the market began to recover. In fact, in 1933, the unemployment rate was 24.9 percent–the highest rate ever for unemployment in the United States. This meant one in four employable Americans was out of work, causing families to squeeze in together as a multi-generational unit. My great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and their children and siblings lived in a row house on Morton Place in Washington, DC. My Great Aunt Rose, little sister (born 1912), of my Grandfather Roy, (born 1899), at one period during the 1930s, was the only person in this family unit who had any kind of job–working as a store clerk. Therefore, a common motto among families who lived through this depression era was: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Hence, it’s hard for me to juxtapose my parents’ lives who in 1941 would have just turned 13, to my turning 13 in the latter part of “The Fabulous Fifties.”


A major pastime before the Depression was going to see a movie. (Remember, the first television sets were available in 1947.) So, between 1929 and 1934, more than one-third of the cinemas in America closed. Some neighbors had radios which had begun broadcasting in the 1920s; while other neighbors got together to play cards, and board games like Scrabble and Monopoly which were introduced in the 1930s).

Church “Potluck Dinners,” became a popular way for people to share food and a cheap form of social interaction. Some communities converted vacant lots into “thrift gardens” where families could grow food.  My grandmother always had vegetable and flower gardens.  She even picked dandelion greens, mushrooms, and wild lettuce from our yard and served them up for dinner.  Our weekly fried chicken dinners came from my grandparents’ chickens, the eggs in the potato salad also came from those chickens, and we used pitchforks to dig up the potatoes and store them in the “cellar.”


Another Gathering of the Multi-Generational Family Unit

Needless to say, our family now includes grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren; a few of the oldest grandchildren might even describe their grandfather as persnickety and overly-particular about his home and surroundings, but the younger ones hopefully will be educated about the ways of life when their nonagenarian great/great-great-grandfather was growing up and trying to make ends meet as a young adult raising his family.  Once again, we’ll put this multi-generational gathering to another test, when we join “Granddaddy Frank,” at his house this “Mother’s Day.”  We’re also putting the guys in our family to a test–to see how they plan to feed and entertainment their mothers, wives, sisters, nieces, and female cousins.  Wish us luck and Happy Mother’s Day to all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s