Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magpie 94...

(Prompt Provided by Tess Kincaid)

Growing up in the Midwest during the period following WWII, I witnessed many people passing through our small town, people who were without the means to feed or care for themselves.  My Grandmother (my Mother's Mother) operated a small cafe and she would hand food out the back door to those who climbed the stairs to ask.  My Father said the hobos, as they were referred to at that time, placed a mark on the businesses and residences that would provide help.  I don't know if this was true, but they did come and they were always fed even though my Grandmother herself lived in a single room that she rented in a boarding house and had little herself. 

Our family had little but my Father's job and he worked hard to make certain that he kept it.  He had been born to a wealthy farming family, the third oldest of eleven children.  During the Great Depression his Father mortgaged his farms to acquire more land.  In the end he lost everything.  The family was set out of their home in the middle of a ferocious Iowa winter.  They were allowed a wagon, a few pieces of necessary furniture, a team of horses and because there was a newborn baby, a milk cow.  My Father related the story to me throughout my growing up years so I know the facts by heart.  Even so, I still cry as I think about the suffering of not only this family but of the hordes of people who faced the same desolation.  The family boarded up an old abandoned shack nearby the river and moved the family of thirteen into two rooms.  The baby, Ezra, caught pneumonia and my Father told of his Mother rocking the baby all night long trying to keep him alive.  Sadly, he did not survive and is buried in the Riverton, Iowa cemetery with a small marker made by his brother out of rocks.  

The oldest son left home and my Father was taken out of school in his seventh year so he could support the family.  He was also the one who had to walk the fourteen miles roundtrip to pick up what was called 'commodities' back then.  This consisted of beans, rice, cheese, whatever the government had available to help people survive.  The embarrassment of having to accept assistance lived in my Father to his dying day.  He raised his children, myself and my brother, to work hard and never accept anything we did not earn.  I must say those lessons were profound and I have lived my life trying my best to live as he had wished.  He worked at whatever jobs could be found, chopping ice from the Missouri River and transporting it many miles by horse-drawn wagon to the ice house was one such job.  My youngest son still has the heavy iron ice tongs he used to lift and move the blocks of ice.  When he finally  acquired a job as an equipment operator for Fremont County Iowa, he worked twice as hard as anyone else and in 57 years of employment never missed a day of work.  At the time of his retirement he had finally acquired a monthly salary of $1,000.  

I have been blessed to have been born into a loving family who taught me strong values and responsibility.  I have lived through the cold war and watched as our Nation changed from one that would sacrifice for it's fellow man into one of greed and corruption.  It seems appropriate that we now have morphed back into a Nation of people who need jobs and assistance.  I only hope that the people of today are made of strong enough stock to endure the hardships of today and tomorrow.


Original work of C Hummel Kornell.


  1. interesting...we have cycled back around and it will be interesting to see how people respond to it...esp since most calouses are gone from abundance...

  2. Powerful and moving. I am thankful you shared this!

  3. A tale of hard times that many could do with reading, and taking to heart. Thank you.

  4. A gritty, compelling tale. It's certainly true that in the UK such folk leave marks to guide those who might come after.

  5. A personal history of hardship, endurance and kindness. Thank you for sharing.

    Anna :o]

  6. You're a great narrator!
    The story about your grandmother and father and the hardships they went through is very moving.
    In those days there was no such thing as 'entitlement' was there?

    I'm afraid the present generation has neither the values nor the strength to endure hardships. May God help us all!

  7. Thanks to each of you who commented. Some stories are more difficult to tell than others. I believe that each of us are the sum of all our experiences. In my case, I am thankful for the family I was born into and I believe I am a better human being for having had their love and guidance.

  8. Beautiful Blog.