A Poverty Memory

Watching the 1940 film classic of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is a truly ‘downer’ experience about how poor farmers were in the midwest during the Dirty Thirties Great Depression. Hard to believe times were ever so tough, brutal, and tragic for decent hard-working Americans (and Canadians, too).

And as I watched, I was immediately thrust back via memory to a Sunday about 1961 when my mother and I were the only ones living at home and we were down to something like 25 cents. I had complained about being hungry and my amazing hard-working, break-less, Ukrainian mother went to the cupboard and started pulling out things like flour, baking powder, and other basic ingredients to make me a facsimile of some store treat of the day. It was a miracle of sorts and reminds me of how she could manufacture/conjure something credible out of absolutely nothing. We did not go hungry that day which is probably why I remember this incident so well.

(my poor, stony-broke folks in 1950–not unlike millions of unskilled working-class Canadians–who started their marriage with next-to-nothing; there were many other hard times to follow, especially in the ’50s until both started working regularly in the hospital biz around 1964, when we moved out of our WWI house and into the new Billingsley Manor at Portage and Rita in St. James, the year of Beatlemania–the same year I met all my significant SHCI friends, and my life began to open up hugely. Although I would still have to get a student loan to get into the U of W, we would never be poor again. My Dad only finally learned to drive around 1970 and bought their first car about that time.)

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