Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The family History Project: An Interview With Grandma Margaret


Grandma Margaret 14 yrs old.with siblings, baby Esther, Edythe (Pie) and Johnny.

Many years ago,  my oldest daughter came home from school and told me that her class was doing a  family history project and she had to interview an older relative that had lived during the depression of the 1930's. She chose to interview her great-grandmother, my grandma Margaret. I was beyond excited! At the time she was 12 years old and was so excited. She is now 32 and has no interest what so ever in family history. Sad to say, neither do my other two children. I keep hoping that maybe it just hasn't manifested itself in them yet. Only time will tell.

When I told Grandma that her young great-granddaughter wanted to interview her, she was excited. She loved to talk, and talking about her history was even better. I started the kettle that day before she came in the door. My grandma was a die hard tea drinker. She loved a good cup of hot tea. When she came to visit, you would be wise to have the tea kettle on because that would be one of the first things she'd asked for. She would always ask. " Do you have any tea Honey? "   Makes me chuckle just thinking about that.



My daughter began by asking her when and where she was born?  What was it like when you were growing up and during the depression?

Grandma replied:

I was born on February 4,1916 in Danville, Illinois. Life was not easy. Papa and Mama worked so hard. My Papa was a Coal Miner. When I was very little, we lived in the coal mining camps. Sometimes we would move to different towns in Iowa. Before we had a car, Papa drove a wagon pulled by mules.We had to wash clothes by hand. Mama had a great big tub that she put on the fire outside to boil water in to wash the clothes. When I got older, It was my job to help with the laundry and look after my sisters and brother's. We washed the clothes outside in the warmer months. I always had to wash the diapers, which was a terrible mess! I scrubbed them on a wash board and then beat them with a rock.After that they were layed in the sun to dry. In the winter, they were still hung outside. The clothes would be hard as a brick. Eventually Mama got a winger washer, which made washing a little easier. Saturday night was bath night, everyone took a bath and got ready for church the next morning. Some mornings, my papa sent me to the butcher on the corner to get a slab of bacon. When the depression came, it was hard. Many people lost their jobs. Papa no longer worked in the mining camps, many had shut down. He did odd jobs and hauled things for people with his truck. Food was rationed. I don't remember us ever going hungry. We always had enough food to eat. Mama had a big vegetable garden. She would can vegetables, spiced peaches, apples and jam. The jars would look so pretty lined up on the shelf. She baked her own bread. There was no money for fabric. So mama made our dresses out of flour sacks. She used scraps here and there to make quilts. We had chickens in our yard. Papa would slaughter the chicken and mama would fry it up. Sometimes she made gravy and biscuits with it. My papa would  help the neighbors that needed food. He would take a box and pack up some vegetables, bread, a slab of bacon, what ever  he could spare and take it to them. My papa was a good man."


Grandma's father, Peter Doyle, siblings, Johnny and Edythe. Mary Doyle (in Car)

What did you do for fun?

"We didn't have Television back then. For fun we would have Taffy pulls, Pop popcorn, make fudge, We would play the piano and sing . In the summertime, we had picnics".

What was the cost of rent?

"Well, when I first got married and came to Minneapolis,MN we lived in what they called "Cold Water Flats" they called them that because there was no hot running water, only cold. You had to boil the water to take a bath. Rent was  $10 a month. That was about 1936. Bread was .10 cents a loaf. A good dress was $3.00. I would put my dress on Lay-A-Way. Every week I would walk downtown to pay .50 cents on it until it was paid off". Life was very different back then. People don't realize how easy they have it now compared to the old days.

My daughter put her project together. It came out beautiful. She had to read it to her class. That day she brought home an A!


Grandma and my daughter, Aiesha in 2006.




Denise


© 2014 Denise Muhammad

20 comments:

  1. What a beautiful story & you didn't leave out anything! I love it. I also enjoy learning about your Grandma Margaret's experiences. Thanks for sharing her with us!

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  2. What a wonderful story and the pictures are great! You gettin' it in!

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  3. Wow...a wagon pulled by mules with a family to get the next town to find work and adults today complain about driving 30-45 minutes to work on the freeway.

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    1. I know, I can't even imagine having to ride in a wagon.

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  4. Your grandmother sounds so sweet, reminds me of my grandmother, The pictures are treasures. I would have loved to visit your grandmother sit have tea and listen to stories.. You have a beautiful family as well..Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. She was very sweet and also very feisty.

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  5. Oh My! The hot tea reminded me of my sweet mother! What a beautiful assignment your daughter had, and now they live on forever. These were the days when times were hard, but at the same time simple. I could not imagine life without tv, and all the things we have today.

    I enjoyed your post and the beautiful pictures!

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    1. Thank you Yvette. I know, It's very hard for me to imagine what life was like back then. My grandma used to say that we didn't know what real hard work was.Washing clothes with no modern washing machine. We've got it easy..lol

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  6. Fantastic story ... I can relate to some of the things your grandmother shared. When I went to visit my guardians parents, they boiled their clothes outside in a large tub and hung them outside. Also had to boil water to take a bath on Saturday night. I lived through the depression and remember rationing but we too were never hungry either. I remember our first TV in the early 50's. We would gather around the radio to listen to the various stories, like Amos and Andy, The Green Lantern,etc.. Never missed a baseball game or prize fight. I could go on and on but this is about YOUR grandmother. Keep up the great work!!

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    1. Thank you Mary. Wow, I would love to hear you go on about your experiences..Lol. I enjoy hearing about past times, history, the depression era. It's so fascinating to hear the stories.

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  7. Beautiful story, reminded my of my grandmother who was from Danville, Illinois. I loved hearing her "voice" telling her story. That was great. The pictures are wonderful. Your writing make me feel like I'm right there. These are such great memories to have in your possession. Thank you for sharing Grandma Margaret's story.

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    1. Thank you Bernita. I had almost forgot that your grandmother was from Danville, Illinois too. I wonder sometimes what was in Danville. Why did my family go there. I'm still working on that one.

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  8. Really enjoyed reading your grandmother's story. Even if your daughter didn't immediately catch the genealogy bug, I'm sure she gained a new understanding of the Depression and her family's experience in it.

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    1. Thanks Dawn. Yes, I'm sure that she did. Life was so different back then.

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  9. These are the kinds of stories that make you tingle! So glad you have this. I could hear Grandma's voice in this story as well. Makes me wanna go call my Auntie and ask her about the Depression. Thanks for sharing her and your Daughter with us. Great POST!

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    1. Thanks True. I used to watch my grandma cook..she would scrape every single bit of food out of the bowl and was always talking about not wasting food. I'm sure that it had to do with the depression.

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  10. Denise...great story! Hopefully one day your daughter will want to know more about the family...and when she does, you will have a tree full of relatives to remember and get to know!

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    1. I sure hope that she will show an interest in her history one day. Thanks Delores.

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