We could all learn from those learned their lessons of value in the Great Depression era.
“Dad,” I said over breakfast the other day. “I couldn’t help but notice there is brand-new belt on the dresser – but it doesn’t have a buckle. I’m just curious, why’d you by a brand-new belt that didn’t have buckle on it?’
Without missing a beat, he replies as if everyone should know the answer.
“I’ve lots of buckles at home, but it was a good quality belt for one-dollar.”
His words seemed so odd to me as I’m sure would be to most anyone of my generation. The idea of buying a belt that would require me to go home, strip the buckle from another, reattach, would simply never cross my mind.
But to those who grew up in the Great Depression, there a lessons for us all to learn.
Work, value, and self-reliance all seemed to underscore a generation who brought with them tools and instincts not typically found in those of a great many of my peers.
I grew up in what could be called the “Great Disposable Society” – a world where everything would quickly find itself worn out or replaceable in a very brief time. Even an item as simple as shirt might find itself disposable after a single season in my generation. My grandmother, on the other hand, would sew buttons, stitch patches on rips – anything to prolong the life of an item of clothing. And when a shirt finally did reach the end of it’s life, she’d recycle the cloth into patches to make a quilt.
Very little, in the end, was fully disposable to those who experienced the Great Depression.
But they were not alone. The other day a friend shared with me her a family heirloom of which I’d never before laid eyes upon: a ration book from the second world war.
“Look,” she said, “this is his signature.”
The brown, weathered booklet was issued to her father when a young boy when even the most basic of supplies were restricted.
“If you don’t need it, don’t buy it,” said copy on the back cover in an effort to encourage careful consumption. Further along it even boldly stated to be wasteful was to essentially steal from others in the war effort – and therefore, you’d be helping the enemy.
These lessons forged under great economic duress, helped shape a strong, successful society.
But today there is hope. I see more and more younger people who are actively relearning their consumption habits from growing and canning their own vegetables to learning to recycle items most in my generation might consider useless. The movement, under the banner ‘green’, is truly a breath of fresh air and one I know those of earlier generations would applaud.
But after a lifetime of being schooled in the lessons of the “Great Disposable Society,” these changes just might prove harder to learn for some of us than others.
As for me, I’m still trying to wrap my head around why my dad would purchase a belt without belt buckle.
– 30 –