My cousin, Melba, and I talked last night about our parents. Her nephews are asking their grandmother questions about their grandfather of family history. Melba mentioned to them, they needed to ask about their grandmother’s history as it is very different and interesting. Melba’s mother and my father were siblings. They were born into a very poor family at the beginning of the Great Depression.
My dad told me a story he thought was humorous about when he was a small child. His family was picking fruit or vegetables in southern Texas. He heard on the radio the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the men in charge were worried and upset. He ran to his dad, “Dad, we need to hide the Japanese are coming!” His dad told him to calm down, and asked a few questions, then started laughing. “Son, the Japanese are not going to bomb us, Texas is a very long way from Pearl Harbor.” My dad thought the planes were going to bomb him and his family at any moment.
Melba shared when her mom was little she loved to go grocery shopping with her mother as she picked out the flour, based on the color pattern of the sack. Her dresses were made from flour sacks. As a teenager, her mom no longer wanted to go shopping with her family, as they were really poor and she was embarrassed to be seen with them.
Melba could not understand her mother being embarrassed to be with her family. I reminded Melba to look at the situation from her mother’s perspective. Young ladies future was in who they would marry. There were not job opportunities as today. Her mom and my mom were restricted to being a teacher, nurse, or secretary as jobs for descent respectable women. If her mother wanted to get out of poverty, the best way was to marry a man with more money than her family. If she was seen with her poor family, her chances of getting a young man from a middle class or higher economic status to look at her as a potential wife would be less to zero.
Our mothers had very different pressures on them, than we did and our children have. The primary goal for our mothers was to find a man to be a husband, someone to provide a comfortable life for them and to have children for the man. Our mothers told us that was what was expected of them when they graduated from high school.
My father started working at age 12 to help support the family. He and his older brother would work in the crop fields and orchards in California up to Washington. Her mother would watch the young brother while her mother worked in the fields. In the winter they would return to New Mexico, and attend school. My dad and his brother would miss half of the school year to work logging or hunting or some other day labor type job to assist in supporting the family. Her mom was allowed to attend school daily.
My mom received piano lessons, not for cultural education, but for monetary reasons. Her dad and brother were a country band and they needed a piano player. After a few lessons, mom learned to play by ear. She was playing in the band at age 12 years every weekend. Her younger sister at age 9 years was singing. The money the band playing brought in helped support the family. The family band did start a family history of music through the grandchildren and great grandchildren. A legacy of my mother’s father.
My parents were adults when they bought their first televisions and have a telephone in the house. I grew up with a black and white television and a telephone attached to the wall with the receiver was connected by a short cord and party lines with four or six other families. On party lines you had to count long and short rings to determine if the call was for you or someone else. Long distant calls cost money, you could only call friends who lived in your small area of the town you lived in. I was an adult with children when we could walk around the house with a telephone in hand and you could call within the state before it was long distance. Today, I have a cell phone, with no long distance charges except out of country.
Grandparents are an important key in the history and genealogy of families. Grandparents remember the family stories, family history and have life experiences with actual historical events. My Uncle recorded some of their dad’s life experiences and songs he used to sing on a cassette. Unfortunately, none of us are able to listen to the tapes, as we do not have cassette players, but the tapes are still cherished. Today, we can record videos on our cellphones, saving the history and stories in digital form for future generations.