Sunday, October 2, 2011

Genealogy - My Son's Story About Grandma Helen

In the collection found within the tub of Grandma Helen was a story written by my son Daniel for his high school history class December 7, 1998 entitled, "My Great Grandmother's Life During the Depression, Helen Haynes." In preparing to write the story he conferred with me for information and then interviewed Grandma Helen. Today I am retyping the story, as it is no longer found in my computer files. Somewhere in the change over of one of our early computers some things mysteriously disappeared. Just as mysteriously they sometimes show up, as I freely shared copies at the time of the things that were written.

     "My great grandmother Helen Haynes was born on January 1, 1910 on a farm in Brunswick, Nebraska. Her grandfather got the farm by homesteading. She lived there all of her childhood and during the early part of the depression. Later she would move to Oregon and live there for the rest of her life.
     Her family lived on the farm that my great, great, great, grandfather built. He got the land and built a house, barns, and cold cave and established a prosperous farm. They had no running water or electricity. They heated and cooked with a wood stove. Her family ran the farm by themselves, fattening cattle and raising pigs, chickens and other animals that you find on farms. Her father had been taught well by his Danish father who got the land from the government. His father taught him how to grow crops and how to keep the farm. They did pretty well during the depression because their farm was debt free. They would always have a vegetable garden and the animals that they raised to feed their family. All eleven children were born on the farm with the help of Aunt Ella who was a nurse. Her mother made all the clothes for all of the children. Her mother said to her once that, "We have to Hooverise with Hoover, can't hardly get enough flour to make bread." Hoover was thought to be the cause of the depression though he just didn't do much about it when it happened.
     Her father lost a lot of money to the banks, but the cost of living was not very much for them. Whatever they needed they would always use the money they got from selling eggs and chickens they raised on the farm. At the little country stores they would sell eggs for 3 dozen to the quarter. The eggs were in crates of 8 dozen and they would take two crates in a trip. They would go by buggy to Brunswick or Royal for bigger stores. Later they bought a small car. When Ma and Pa went to town they would take two of the children and the older ones would be left to take care of the others. At the dry good store they would get any thing that was a household good. They also shopped through Montgomery Ward's catalog. They stored food in the cold cave and did a lot of canning.
     While Hoover was president they raised and lived off of food on the farm. The only thing they missed was flour and sugar because they could not make either and the store didn't have it or it was closed. The people in the city had a harder time, live in the city because they were unable to get a job since the business were closed and they did not have the ability to grown their own food. People set up commissaries in the cities to help the people who were unable to care for them self or their family. Volunteers such as PTA and teachers operated them. The people could get whatever they needed there and were not expected to pay.
     Life was a challenge, but their parents helped them enjoy what they had. The children always had played simple games and spent a lot of time outdoors. The family had five ponies and the children enjoyed riding them. They played croquet and baseball. They all had chores to do. The girls did the housework and the boys took care of the woodshed and the cows.
     Whenever a storm would come they would go down to the cement cave that was on their farm where they had a stove and food stored away. They could eat down there and had things there to help them pass the time, like games to play. They didn't have dust storms very often, but when one would come it would cloud over for the whole day. It was like total darkness. In the evening the wind would die down, the dust would settle and at that time they could come out of the cave. All the farms had a cave on their property. During the drought the corn that they were growing burnt and dried up. They had to have feed imported from other states to feed their cattle. The corn that dried up was used as feed. They would take it and grind it up into fodder. They would plant wheat, barley and alfalfa as they did better during the drought. The heavy rains still came but not as often. On the farm they had two wells, one by the house and the other out near the barn. They had a windmill on the one by the barn that was used to draw the water for the animals. All the farms had a windmill. Their neighbor's were very close friends. They would help each other out whenever someone needed help with something. It was like one big happy family.
     The year before the depression she graduated from high school. During the depression she moved into South Sioux City and started to do house keeping with her aunt. While she was living in town she met her husband. They got married on September 17, 1930. They went over to Elk Point, South Dakota and did not tell her parents. Her parents found out when a friend told them they had read it in the newspaper six months after they got married. On September 5, 1931 she had her first child. That same year they moved into a nice home they bought in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Her husband worked for the Swift Meat Packing Company. Two years after she got married her mother died.
     When Franklin Roosevelt became the president he changed things. He put people to work on WPA, which was for people with out farms. Roosevelt was respected because Hoover said that it would end soon and sat back and did nothing, waiting for things to change on their own. Everyone was expected to work. Four years after her mother died her father sold the farm because it was too much to handle when trying to raise six children. With no one reliable enough to be a farm hand and his older children leaving home, he could not do all the work and keep the farm prosperous. Not being able to produce enough to afford to live on the farm he moved into a large house in Neligh, Nebraska. It was a larger town and they enjoyed living there. He didn't get much money for the farm, but it was enough to move on. He started to work for the WPA and worked there until he retired. The children still home were able to get jobs also. He taught all of his kids how to save money and to provide for them selves.
     In 1940 Swifts meat packing company went on strike. They weren't sure how long the strike was going to last, so they chose to sell their home and moved into a trailer. Before the strike they had bought a new car. One day Helen wrote her sister in Oregon about their problems. Her sister wrote back that they should come to Oregon with them. So they packed up all their belongings in the car and drove to Oregon. They lived in a house across the street from her sister. Her husband really missed Nebraska and wanted to go back. When the war broke out they moved into military housing and her husband worked in the shipyard where he met many people who were from Nebraska. That made it much easier to stay in Oregon. They lived there until the end of the war and then moved to a nice new home in the St. Johns area of Portland."

Thank you to school teachers who encourage our youth to write their family stories. While the text is not perfect it is well done. This opportunity strengthened the bond between my grandmother and her great grandson. Look for these types of manuscripts in your family keepsakes or in community resources. Encourage youth everywhere to participate in family history and genealogy. They are our future history keepers.

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