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Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Waltons and the Great Depression

I read all the blogs I follow and more, occasionally getting off track and reading new ones. People on many blogs are talking about gardening, raising animals, keeping bees, killing wild animals and fishing in order to feed their family or keep expenses down. At the least, they, like me, have eggs or are planning to get hens. They are grateful for what they can do.

For the last three weeks I have been watching The Waltons. I am on Season 2. John Walton makes similar statements all the time about: catching fish, killing game, raising animals, and how rough it would be if he could not. They have a cow to milk and hens for eggs and eating. They are continually discussing how they are so much better off than people who don't have their advantages. Grandma said she did not know how people in the city managed. They discuss starving people in other places.

The Walton family was incredibly poor, living a hard-scrabble life that is not entirely or even quite borne out by the scripts of the TV series. They count themselves as wealthy in the food arena. Many people on blogs I read have the same ideas and feelings about their incredible good fortune for the opportunity to help feed themselves without always going to the grocery for every bite they need. Of course, some bloggers are straining to reach a certain level of self-sufficiency as far as food and other items they need, canning, sewing, raising a garden, and honing or learning skills that will make them capable of providing for themselves. The Waltons always cook from scratch and make and remake clothing for the large family. Quilts have old clothes and household textiles as their only basis for the pieces in the quilts.

Oh, to have seven children to pick berries for pies and jam! Of course, with the family of eleven members, it takes eleven times as much to feed them as it does to feed me. However, their combined agricultural and homemaking efforts produce more than eleven times what I produce.

Everything any one of the Waltons says resonates with me, echoed by bloggers, unknowingly. Watching these very old episodes reinforces what we may be going through in the short future. Some people actually are having the same hardships and level of deprivation that the Waltons experience.

The Walton family through John Boy's stories and narration values the closeness, family cohesion, and love. I know it is sappy, but I wonder if this economy will bring families closer or divide them further. No, I don't think love will conquer hardship.

Working together seems to be the key for the Waltons, along with mutual respect, and, of course, hard work.

And, I am in love with Ralph Waite (the father) all over again! He really does it for me. It is not just his "John Walton" persona. I like him anywhere I find him. Unfortunately, I have never found him in person, not that I have looked.

Your turn
Have you ever watched The Waltons? Do you see the similarities in the Depression and now? Would you like to emulate the efforts of the Waltons? Even if it meant giving up a few comforts? Remember, in the first episode, John Boy bought his mother, Olivia, a washing machine. We DON"T want to go overboard with the deprivation part. LOL What would be your greatest deprivation that was also their deprivation? Mine would be AC. Oh, yeah, the Internet and computer. They had electricity and an indoor toilet, so you cannot say those or the least we did not go back another 100 years to determine what we would miss.


  1. What a great post Linda!
    I loved the Waltons as a kid. At tne time, it was the family unity that I liked so much. I was young enough to never think that the same thing could happen to me. But in a way, it did. Two years of unemployement so far with no end in sight.
    We are not yet in dire straights due to some fore sight on our part and in that way, I feel like we are wealthy in many ways.
    What would I not like to give up? Cell phones. I like being able to talk to my kids where ever they may be. It makes feel better. I'd miss the internet. AC of course but once we move to the farm we won't need it.

    I think its a great thing that people are striving towards self reliance. I hope that it catches on at a larger scale :)

  2. LindaM,
    My mother graduated from hs in 1939, so she lived the lives of the Walton children. I wish I could watch this series with her and question her or hear her comments. I forgot about cell phones! That would be hard to give up. Yes, I like talking to my children. Since they all live a thousand miles from me, the cell phone is great for my situation.

  3. My mother also lived such a life, but in deeper poverty. She hates talking about it. But she loved the Waltons! I think that there was something sweetly romantic in the series so that it didn't remind her of her past.
    Do you ever watch that lady on youtube who cooks depression era food and talks about how it was? I can't think of her name at the moment.....Also the book, Little Heathens was great!

  4. Cooking with Clara? Or, something like that? i have never heard of Little Heathens. My father tells horrid tales of growing up during the Depression. My mother seems to have had an easier life because the lived on the Old Home Place with her grandmother, mother,brother, and sister. Her father died before she was born.They farmed and sewed and canned and milked and gathered eggs and dressed chickens. Both my parents were scarred by the Depression. It took me until I was 40 to realize that their problems and triumphs directly made me who I am today. I suppose we all have our scars.

  5. I've been watching the Waltons on some religious channel, and I love it. I love the family togetherness, the grandparents living with the younger generation, riding the mule to the store. As a friend who lived in the Virginia mountains is fond of telling me, they weren't that poor for the time and place. But it still is a great story.

    One of my teachers in middle school told of his life during the depression, eating the same thing, beans and cabbage, for both (yes only 2) meals of the day.

    I love Ralph Waite too! But I think ultimately the technology we surround us with seems to divide families, in spite of economics. It does however, allow me, in rural mid America to communicate with lots of interesting bloggers such as yourself.

  6. Thanks, Trish.

    The series does not adequately describe the depth of poverty in which the Walton's lived. The movie that led to the series was a little edgier and grittier. The series is the romanticized version of poverty. However, the series Waltons never has more than a few pennies in their can in the kitchen cabinet. Their life was much harder than the series depicts.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. I've never watched The Waltons, but it sounds like maybe I should. I love to read books that are on this theme though, Homesteaders, Amish, etc. I like the family togetherness and how useful and skilled everyone was/is (by necessity, no doubt). It is inspiring to me and makes me ever so appreciative.


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