Great Depression VS Current Recession

Kit & Ruthie, American Girl Dolls starring in AG's new Movie--Kit Kitteredge

American Girl Dolls Kit & Ruthie star in a new movie set in the Great Depression-Kit Kittredge, An American Girl

Sometimes I like indulge in a little bit of armchair sociology. Lately I’ve been thinking about parallels between our current social and economic situation and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Back then society was dirt poor, literally, living in dirt, fighting the dirt in dust storms.  Sadly the dirt wasn’t even especially good for farming, so there was a lot of hunger and poverty. Big time hunger and poverty. Currently, things are bad, compared to what we’re used to, but not as bad as things were back then, at least not as far as I can tell.

Even though the situation is better than it was then, for us, it’s still kind of scary and there are lots of “What If’s” roaming around willy nilly without answers. For instance, what if we run out of oil and can’t use our cars any more, what will happen, how will we cope? My kids and I were chatting about this very subject this weekend. I thought about it and came up with some ideas.

Running out of oil is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over a period of years, and possibly decades. In the mean time, we will do what we’ve always done, we’ll adapt. Most of us are adapting to the oil shortage and price-hike already. Car-pooling, only driving when necessary, putting off errands until a lot of them can be done at the same time, not running the air conditioning, visiting with distant friends and family less frequently, talking on the phone instead of in person, walking and biking when possible, parking SUV’s and using smaller cars that get better mileage. All sensible ways of dealing with the current gas situation.

If these conditions persist then people will fuss at local governments to provide more public transportation, and the governments will have to oblige us or economies will take an even bigger hit than they’re currently taking. Another thing is that small neighborhood communities will grow. When we don’t have the gas to drive to the big supermarket, it’s easier to walk down to the corner store to get a dozen eggs or carton of milk. This is really good for local economies. Some of the old neighborhood stores that have shut down over the past 25 years, may open back up. Those which haven’t shut down, will be doing better business.

During the 1970’s there was a sewing and craft resurgence. Partly due to the Spirit of ’76 and our country’s bicentennial. The other part though, was in reaction to the plastic MOD look of the 1960’s. All of that plastic, chrome and futurist themes that pervaded every aspect of our lives, got to be too much. Hippies went “Back to the Land” and those who couldn’t actually move physically experienced a similar spiritual change, if not a geographical one. Instead of sleek, hard and smooth–textures became soft, nubby and old-fashioned. Primitive homemade gifts became more desirable than shiny Store-bought gifts, Home sewing and crafting experienced a resurgencethat satisfied our society’s need for homemade instead of store-bought. Homemade bread, homemade dresses, homemade scarves and hats, gardens and chicken coops. Making things at home helped us deal with the deprivation we experienced because of the recession in the 1970’s, and helped us get back in touch with our own simple skills, which can be very empowering when everything costs too much and what we’ve got is all we’re going to get. Creating, in any form–sewing, cooking, carpentry, crafts, engineering–is the best way to manage a lack of resources. We don’t have something we need. We can’t buy this thing we need. So instead we create this thing we need, using supplies we already have. It’s my favorite part of being poor.

I see parallels in what happened then, to what is happening now. In my own home, nearby family is dropping by more often, letting the kids hang out together while the grownups talk and laugh and help with the dishes. Our one set of neighbors has been chatting with us over the fence and sharing a good laugh over pets and children. Since it’s easier and cheaper to cook than going out to eat, we’re eating better–saving gas, resources and cash. Plus getting better nutrition in the process. More people are gardening now too. Like the Victory gardens people had during WW II. Even growing a few herbs or baby tomatoes on a balcony or windowsill saves a little bit of money.

If things continue the way they’re going then things are going to get worse. I admit to that. But some things are going to get better too. Unable to rely on the crutches of money, cars, fast-food, and buying more stuff, we have to look deeper within ourselves, both individually and as a society. We must adapt, stretching outside of our comfort zone and redefining it as something new, which better suits current economic and social circumstances. We have the opportunity to witness the creation of The Good Old Days, a mythical time that we and our children will be bragging about to generations to come. The Good Old Days always come about during times of adversity and trial. Times when our society is forced to look beyond physical goods, beyond more-more-more, beyond the economics founded upon covetousness. We get to look past all the physical and watch the spiritual reawakening of our society–a change that I predict will be for the better.

P.S. After this flowery speech from atop my soapbox, I must admit that consumerism still has me in it’s grip. I really like the new Ruthie Doll by AG. She’s the first one with curly brown hair and no bangs. So she’s the first one with hair like me. Actually one of the dolls has hair exactly like mine, but otherwise she doesn’t look like me. I don’t own any AG dolls, but I find myself contemplating whether or not Ruthie should be my first. Not that I have the $90 that she costs, far from it. But one day we will feast again, and when that time comes, I may want Ruthie. Then again, I may not. I wonder how she would look in a snood?



Filed under Crunchy Con, doll clothes, Rants, Recession

26 responses to “Great Depression VS Current Recession

  1. Holy moly! Gluten free & discussing peak oil? Miss Maggie, you are writing my new favorite blog! We are another family eating gluten free (I have celiac, two of my four children have gluten-intolerance) and trying to keep grocery costs down. Your old website was such a help to me, I am very excited to discover your new one.

    My two older girls (ages 8 & 10) have three American Girls dolls between them. The first two were purchased by my grandmother for their eighth birthdays and the third was purchased by my daughter herself with a combination of 1/3 her chore money, 1/3 her gift money from first communion and 1/3 by us. They do play with them a lot now, but take up a lot of room. I do wish they were more interested in the historical dolls that I love, but my oldest prefers the AG doll of today and my younger has one AGtoday doll (which she chose) and one Emily doll (the gift doll)–she looks very much like Emily! But they are salivating over the new Ruthie doll too… 🙂
    I am keeping track daily of my car trips & purchases on my blog. One of my goals is to make one tank of gas last the whole month fr my minivan. Tomorrow is pay day and we’ll be scouring the freezer cupboards trying to figure out dinner tonight.

    “Lentils & Rice” is another GFCF blog you might like. She has a LOT of inexpensive food ideas there. I see you already read “Gluten Free Frugal” which is one of my favorites too.

  2. Well, duh, now I see “Lentils & Rice” in your general blogroll. But I guess she’s only recently gone GFCF too.

  3. Hi LeeAnn, I am a doll Junky. I have all of the Faith and Friends dolls by Mission City Press and all of A Life of Faith Dolls, also by Mission City Press. I have a few Riley, Alexanderkins & Ginny dolls too. I love dolls. I’ve avoided purchasing AG because they aren’t faith based, but some of my small dolls aren’t faith based either, so I don’t knwo what I’m waiting for.

    As for Robyn, I adore her. Lentils & Rice is my favorite blog (besides Frugal Abundance). Robyn has a perspective on food that refreshes my mind and helps keep me on the right track for both my budget and my writing. She and I have been chatting for a couple of months and we’re getting to be good friends.

  4. Hi Maggie,

    Fun post! This is the part that makes me hopeful too, the possible coming of stuff like this: “Instead of sleek, hard and smooth–textures became soft, nubby and old-fashioned. Primitive homemade gifts became more desirable than shiny Store-bought gifts…we create this thing we need, using supplies we already have. It’s my favorite part of being poor.”

    I also get fasicnated, totally fascinated, with depression era cooking. Have you seen these videos for example here?

    Such simple basic ingredients as were focused on so much then (and other times), they just make me feel more creative, give a “palette” to work with rather than a bunch of confusing ingedients….i just love this stuff. I came accross (and got) a depression era cookbook that has me excited too, called Magic Chef cooking….so nice and simple. I guess thats a reflection of the inner shift that happens in times like this…a getting down to basics in all areas. And that is such a good thing.

    A down side i do admit fearing though is a lack of compassion that can happen with some. Its mega empowering to be resourseful with what we have…but we dont all have the same strengths or skills to create with and need to be careful of judging what another may not be able to do. That said though….go creativity : )

    Btw, i m so glad i’m not the olny one obsessed with these period dolls. I have more pictures in my files of Molly and Felicity and their accessories that i’d care to admit, lol. Its the world they remind me of that calls so much…

    Hope alls well with you and that your week will be peaceful : ) Wendy

    PS Did you get the note about the new blog link? Its now at

  5. Maggie,
    Thanks for the musings. I feel like people often forget about the past too quickly; I like it that you’re savvy enough to compare today with a different time in history.

    Also, I’ve always wanted an AG doll, but, yes, they are quite expensive! For now, I’ll continue to just look.

  6. cbrunette

    Living in Oklahoma has given me a perspective (as a history student) on the dust bowl. The lesson of history is that they shouldn’t have been farming here. Period. They still try…and get bailed out every year from the government. This land is meant for LIGHT grazing only. In reality, the government keeps the state of Oklahoma populated so the rest of the nation can get some measly barrels of oil. That’s all I can see as the reason.

    My pocket change. 🙂


  7. Raven

    Thanks for the encouraging post, Maggie– it’s what I’ve been saying when people whine about gas prices: people lived for thousands of years before petroleum, and we can do it again. 🙂 You’ve also encouraged me to keep at it with my first garden this year. Things are producing, but my! There’s a lot of weeding and chopping and preserving to do.

    Oh, btw, check Ebay for your AG doll. I have a friend who’s obsessed with them and she got a Samatha for $25 that way.

    You’ve been my favorite blog for a long long time, since you were HBHW (I like your most recent incarnation best).

  8. This was an awesome post! I loved it! Being poor (I’m poor by America’s standards ) has caused me to be more creative in every area, & it allows me the opportunity to reuse things….making something old new again. Being poor gives you more opportunity to learn new things & more opportunity to rely on God and be truly satisified. Although I do have to agree that we are far from poor compared to those that lived during the great depression or by those that live in third world countries. We are actually very rich.

    This summer we bought a 23 year old used above ground pool from someone. He payed $9000 for it new in 1985. We took it down and reused everything that we could & did have to buy somethings new for it. We worked hard as a family putting it back together . We cleaned it up and we now have a beautiful pool that looks brand new! There is great satisfaction in working hard : )

  9. Roxanna Meiske

    As always, love your posts. I find them to be very insightful.
    I brought an American Girl doll for my one and only grand daughter last Christmas. I have made all of her doll clothes. The clothes sold on the American Girl site (and from the cataloge) are just way too over priced for me. My sweet grand daughter is 9 now, will be 10 in March, and she plays with her doll most every day. She has a close friend who also has a doll so that makes it nice. I am happy to keep both dolls supplied in plenty of clothes.
    I hope this country can pull out of this ‘recession’ soon. I am near retirement age and I see my IRA and my husband’s 401K plan losing money every quarter. Very scary for me.

  10. Thanks Maggie,
    Great post. We have been learning how to cook with less, and finding things we can cook on our wood stove. While hoping for the best.

  11. My daughters AG doll arrived today. Her 8th Birthday is around the corner and the deal has always been, “When you are 8…”. I was THRILLED to open the package… being able to give my daughter this is even better than if I had been given them.

    K2 picked Mia The Girl of the Year 2008 as her doll, so much for grabbing some history along with it!

    Now I have to sit on the package for 10 days! Sheesh! I wanna play. 🙂

  12. Those AG dolls are so tempting! Especially the one that comes with a horse. But I don’t spend that much on toys. My rowdy crew are pretty hard on toys.

    I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts online to help us save in the grocery area. The kids and I so enjoy the hillbilly housewife recipes! We do magic milk shakes and “orange jubilee” all the time! Thank you!

    Probably somebody else has already mentioned this, but I have been saving *big time* with CVS’s Extra Care Bucks program. I think Walgreen’s has something similar (CVS is closer, for me). I learned how to do this at I’ve never been a coupon clipper, because I couldn’t get coupons to work for me. I thought they were a waste of time and effort.

    But with a little bit of guidance, I am getting toiletries, t.p., diapers, medicines, laundry soap, occasional treats, and even gifts for a fraction of the cost. I’m even doing better at the grocery store.

    I subscribed to the Sunday paper for the coupons at only $1 a week. They help tremendously. Sometimes I can get the total down to less than a dollar.

    Though it won’t help much with food, especially when you’re on a special diet, it’s definitely worth the time invested for non-food items, and helps ease the food-side of the budget a bit.

  13. As for a recession, I honestly do not fear one. I’m old enough to remember the last one; it was tight for our family back then, and my dad was in real estate at a bad time economically. I can say with full honesty and confidence that *God provides*!! He really does. Always keep Psalm 37:25 in mind.

    There’s good advice along those lines at the website I mentioned above. One thing she advises is to read a biography of George Mueller and follow his example. 🙂

  14. It’s always good to plan today for a better tomorrow. And there is such a good feeling in doing a job well done yourself. With all the rampant consumerism in this country, a back to basics change may be just what we need to get our country’s values back again. Hard times always seem to bring people closer to God. And like you said, the oil won’t just stop suddenly. It will take a few years at least when prices soar and we all whine and change our habits because things are no longer easy. Eventually we’ll adapt and life will go on. Different from today but still go on.

  15. Leta

    This is one of the better posts you’ve written. Keep up the good work.

  16. Anne

    How funny…my mom was my age in the 70s and a lot of our old Christmas ornaments and decorations are things she made/crafted herself. Now I’m her age, and I find myself doing the same thing. (I just made a purse for a friend’s birthday present yesterday, and I’m debating whether or not I should add cheese to the list of foods I’m learning to cook for myself…)

    btw, Ihad a Samantha doll growing up…AG was the coolest thing ever when I was little! 🙂

  17. Anne

    Oh, and awesome post, btw!!

  18. I have always loved your blog. Even when you were HBHW. I have always loved the AG dolls but never could afford them. I would love to get one for my daughter for Christmas though, and do love the ebay Idea. I also prefer the Historical dolls, expecially the depression era ones. I have always learned so much from your sight. It always inspires me. I have been ever so slowly been trying to teach myself the basics. I learned to garden when i was young but the state I live in now is very different, so it’s learning all over again. God Bless & I hope you have a wounder brake.


  19. hello! i am brand new to your blog ( i cam e over from prairie homemaker) and have to say i just *love* it! i also have children with special needs including my oldest dd who has asperger’s.

    i sincerely hope you enjoy your blogging break.. meanwhile i’ll be enjoying looking around at your “vintage” posts;)

  20. I found your post interesting. One thing I see different from the Great Depression and now is that the Dust Bowl contributed to the depression. We as now we can all have “Victory Gardens”. I really enjoy learning about the Depression and often compare it to the present. I think times may get tough but I think we have some resources that are to our benefit such as fertile soil and the knowledge to make compost.

  21. AGs are wonderful. I would suggest buying a doll on ebay and then joining a fan community where some of the more avid doll collectors can help you restore/modify the dolls. You may even be able to find a nice knockoff 18in doll and buy a separate doll wig to (fight with) modify.

    When I’m out of school and have enough spending money I would love Felicity and Elizabeth. I adore the American Revolution.

    (And that was an excellent post about the Depression and the current Recession.)

  22. Rennis Garigin

    The economy will fall. The Great American Empire will be no more. This only one of the signs of the return of Jesus. Read the Bible people. The time draws near and it is sooner than you think. Glory to God in the Highest !
    The truth will set you free.

  23. Pingback: Money..Money….Money

  24. Marge surviving in New York

    Hi Miss Maggie – I haven’t seen any posting since September – it keeps me thinking about you and hope everything is alright.

    Love your website – Hillbilly housewife hasn’t been the same since you left though.

  25. Elle


    Just discovered your blog. It’s great to see a mom out there who is willing to do whatever it takes to take care of her kids properly (gfcf). I have a friend(?) whose kids have some of the same issues as yours and they would rather drug them than consider something that would inconvenience them.

    Anyway, as far as the recession goes, here in the midwest we have been dealing with it for several years. The rest of the country is just catching up. It’s a really difficult thing. We have always lived quite frugally; don’t go out to eat much, try to make as much as we can from scratch. And I never did understand a mentality that says you must go out for a $4 coffee every day! What a waste! (even when times are good) We don’t really have a lot of extravagances, but in this economy, I guess you just find even more frugal ways.

    I hope you realize how lucky you are to have good people around you. That’s something that’s very hard to find. We have lots of family, but even now, people are too busy to just stop by & chat. Maybe someday. . .

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