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A vivid depiction of the great depression
#1
I read this old newspaper article the other day from 1936. It's by the famous author John Steinbeck about what the migrant camps of the great depression looked like. I think for me it puts a lot of things into perspective as to what we have today, and what lengths people were driven to during the depression and what we may return to if we go through an economic collapse. It also makes me wonder whether its possible for the people of today to survive in this way as these people in our very recent past did...

Here it is:

Quote:Article II

The squatters' camps are located all over California. Let us see what a typical one is like. It is located on the banks of a river, near an irrigation ditch or on a side road where a spring of water is available. From a distance it looks like a city dump, and well it may, for the city dumps are the sources for the material of which it is built. You can see a litter of dirty rags and scrap iron, of houses built of weeds, of flattened cans or of paper. It is only on close approach that it can be seen that these are homes.

Here is a house built by a family who have tried to maintain a neatness. The house is about 10 feet by 10 feet, and it is built completely of corrugated paper. The roof is peaked, the walls are tacked to a wooden frame. The dirt floor is swept clean, and along the irrigation ditch or in the muddy river the wife of the family scrubs clothes without soap and tries to rinse out the mud in muddy water. The spirit of this family is not quite broken, for the children, three of them, still have clothes, and the family possesses three old quilts and a soggy, lumpy mattress. But the money so needed for food cannot be used for soap nor for clothes.

With the first rain the carefully built house will slop down into a brown, pulpy mush; in a few months the clothes will fray off the children's bodies while the lack of nourishing food will subject the whole family to pneumonia when the first cold comes.

Five years ago this family had fifty acres of land and a thousand dollars in the bank. The wife belonged to a sewing circle and the man was a member of the grange. They raised chickens, pigs, pigeons and vegetables and fruit for their own use; and their land produced the tall corn of the middle west. Now they have nothing.

If the husband hits every harvest without delay and works the maximum time, he may make four hundred dollars this year. But if anything happens, if his old car breaks down, if he is late and misses a harvest or two, he will have to feed his whole family on as little as one hundred and fifty.

But there is still pride in this family. Wherever they stop they try to put the children in school. It may be that the children will be in a school for as much as a month before they are moved to another locality.

Here, in the faces of the husband and his wife, you begin to see an expression you will notice on every face; not worry, but absolute terror of the starvation that crowds in against the borders of the camp. This man has tried to make a toilet by digging a hole in the ground near his paper house and surrounding it with an old piece of burlap. But he will only do things like that this year.

He is a newcomer and his spirit and decency and his sense of his own dignity have not been quite wiped out. Next year he will be like his next door neighbor.

This is a family of six; a man, his wife and four children. They live in a tent the color of the ground. Rot has set in on the canvas so that the flaps and the sides hang in tatters and are held together with bits of rusty baling wire. There is one bed in the family and that is a big tick lying on the ground inside the tent.

They have one quilt and a piece of canvas for bedding. The sleeping arrangement is clever. Mother and father lie down together and two children lie between them. Then, heading the other way; the other two children lie, the littler ones. If the mother and father sleep with their legs spread wide, there is room for the legs of the children.

There is more filth here. The tent is full of flies clinging to the apple box that is the dinner table, buzzing about the foul clothes of the children, particularly the baby; who has not been bathed nor cleaned for several days.

This family has been on the road longer than the builder of the paper house. There is no toilet here, but there is a clump of willows nearby where human feces lie exposed to the flies—the same flies that are in the tent.

Two weeks ago there was another child, a four year old boy. For a few weeks they had noticed that he was kind of lackadaisical, that his eyes had been feverish.

They had given him the best place in the bed, between father and mother. But one night he went into convulsions and died, and the next morning the coroner's wagon took him away. It was one step down.

They know pretty well that it was a diet of fresh fruit, beans and little else that caused his death. He had no milk for months. With this death there came a change of mind in his family. The father and mother now feel that paralyzed dullness with which the mind protects itself against too much sorrow and too much pain.

And this father will not be able to make a maximum of four hundred dollars a year any more because he is no longer alert; he isn't quick at piece-work, and he is not able to fight clear of the dullness that has settled on him. His spirit is losing caste rapidly.

The dullness shows in the faces of this family, and in addition there is a sullenness that makes them taciturn. Sometimes they still start the older children off to school, but the ragged little things will not go; they hide in ditches or wander off by themselves until it is time to go back to the tent, because they are scorned in the school.

The better-dressed children shout and jeer, the teachers are quite often impatient with these additions to their duties, and the parents of the "nice" children do not want to have disease carriers in the schools.

The father of this family once had a little grocery store and his family lived in back of it so that even the children could wait on the counter. When the drought set in there was no trade for the store any more.

This is the middle class of the squatters' camp. In a few months this family will slip down to the lower class.

Dignity is all gone, and spirit has turned to sullen anger before it dies.

The next door neighbor family of man, wife and three children of from three to nine years of age, have built a house by driving willow branches into the ground and wattling weeds, tin, old paper and strips of carpet against them.

A few branches are placed over the top to keep out the noonday sun. It would not turn water at all. There is no bed.

Somewhere the family has found a big piece of old carpet. It is on the ground. To go to bed the members of the family lie on the ground and fold the carpet up over them.

The three year old child has a gunny sack tied about his middle for clothing. He has the swollen belly caused by malnutrition.

He sits on the ground in the sun in front of the house, and the little black fruit flies buzz in circles and land on his closed eyes and crawl up his nose until he weakly brushes them away.

They try to get at the mucous in the eye-corners. This child seems to have the reactions of a baby much younger. The first year he had a little milk, but he has had none since.

He will die in a very short time. The older children may survive. Four nights ago the mother had a baby in the tent, on the dirty carpet. It was born dead, which was just as well because she could not have fed it at the breast; her own diet will not produce milk.

After it was born and she had seen that it was dead, the mother rolled over and lay still for two days. She is up today, tottering around. The last baby, born less than a year ago, lived a week. This woman's eyes have the glazed, far-away look of a sleep walker's eyes.

She does not wash clothes any more. The drive that makes for cleanliness has been drained out of her and she hasn't the energy. The husband was a share-cropper once, but he couldn't make it go. Now he has lost even the desire to talk.

He will not look directly at you for that requires will, and will needs strength. He is a bad field worker for the same reason. It takes him a long time to make up his mind, so he is always late in moving and late in arriving in the fields. His top wage, when he can find work now; which isn't often, is a dollar a day.

The children do not even go to the willow clump any more. They squat where they are and kick a little dirt. The father is vaguely aware that there is a culture of hookworm in the mud along the river bank. He knows the children will get it on their bare feet.

But he hasn't the will nor the energy to resist. Too many things have happened to him. This is the lower class of the camp.

This is what the man in the tent will be in six months; what the man in the paper house with its peaked roof will be in a year, after his house has washed down and his children have sickened or died, after the loss of dignity and spirit have cut him down to a kind of sub-humanity.

Helpful strangers are not well-received in this camp. The local sheriff makes a raid now and then for a wanted man, and if there is labor trouble the vigilantes may burn the poor houses. Social workers, survey workers have taken case histories.

They are filed and open for inspection. These families have been questioned over and over about their origins, number of children living and dead.

The information is taken down and filed. That is that. It has been done so often and so little has come of it.

And there is another way for them to get attention. Let an epidemic break out, say typhoid or scarlet fever, and the country doctor will come to the camp and hurry the infected cases to the pest house. But malnutrition is not infectious, nor is dysentery, which is almost the rule among the children.

The county hospital has no room for measles, mumps, whooping cough; and yet these are often deadly to hunger-weakened children. And although we hear much about the free clinics for the poor, these people do not know how to get the aid and they do not get it. Also, since most of their dealings with authority are painful to them, they prefer not to take the chance.

This is the squatters' camp. Some are a little better, some much worse. I have described three typical families. In some of the camps there are as many as three hundred families like these. Some are so far from water that it must be bought at five cents a bucket.

And if these men steal, if there is developing among them a suspicion and hatred of well-dressed, satisfied people, the reason is not to be sought in their origin nor in any tendency to weakness in their character.

Here is the source:

http://newdeal.feri.org/steinbeck/hg02.htm
The forum poster formerly known as Emoticon...
#2
IMO this is the most realistic thing people should be prepping for.
The law? The law is a human institution...
#3
Emoticon;120434 Wrote:I read this old newspaper article the other day from 2013...
Fixed it for ya...
[Image: picsay-1358258813.jpg]
#4
Mr_Gixxer;120446 Wrote:
Emoticon;120434 Wrote:I read this old newspaper article the other day from 2013...
Fixed it for ya...

Maybe in 2016. We're not there yet because people still have their credit cards. When all the creditors and banks pack up and move to greener pastures when Americans can no longer make those minimum payments then we'll fall to this level again and there will be no recovery.
The forum poster formerly known as Emoticon...
#5
No, I don't see this happening unless there is some cataclysmic event.

A slow and gradual decline? Yes, absolutely...but unless the nation is torn apart by war with no clear sides then this is unlikely to happen.

Even our poorest of the poor in this country do not live like this unless they refuse to seek assistance. Even "tent cities" right now are paradise compared to what it was back then.
Vampire pig man since September 2012
#6
Camper;120504 Wrote:No, I don't see this happening unless there is some cataclysmic event.

*Snip*

Even our poorest of the poor in this country do not live like this unless they refuse to seek assistance.

Why not? What makes you think there can't be a time where there is no assistance available? We're 17 trillion in debt and it's quickly becoming clear to the world that we'll never be able to pay it off and we'll probably default on it. Why would another country lend us any more money for all these social programs that are destroying our country if they know they'll never see that money again? Once a competing stable (probably the Yuan) world reserve currency rises from another country the world could very easily bail on the US dollar and once that happens when the Fed tries to tax the world by printing money out of thin air all it will do is keep moving the decimal point over in terms of the actual purchasing power of a dollar.

America is GOING to fold if we maintain this current track, and it's probably going to be sooner than later. When it happens a standard REI tent won't last a month of a family living out of it on a daily basis. Beyond that, I imagine it will be REALLY bad because most people can't even wipe their own asses anymore without involving the government in the procedure. Maybe not Mad Max bad, but seeing the rise of tent cities again I think is certainly a possibility.

By the way the other day I was listening to the radio KYW while driving to work and they were interviewing Chinese tourists at the Liberty Bell. They were fucking openly laughing at us because of the incredibly inept and incompetent government we have that we can't even pay somebody to stand next the the Liberty Bell to keep people from touching it. They were sitting there saying about how these sort of things don't happen in China. I was utterly disgusted and ashamed of the failure that is my government.
The forum poster formerly known as Emoticon...
#7
Be aware of what currency oil is traded for. Right now it is the U.S. dollar. Except for some deals that Russia and China have been working together on. Oil trade is one of the things that keeps the U.S. dollar afloat in value.
LostCyborg, proud to be a member of pa2a.org since Jun 2013.

You wouldn't be able to run as many people over with that car if it didn't drive as far. It should only have a 10 gallon fuel tank.
#8
Emoticon;120549 Wrote:Why not? What makes you think there can't be a time where there is no assistance available?

Because poor now and poor then are two totally different things. You can buy a burger for under a dollar today, whereas there was no food equivalent like this back in the early 1900s.

Poor people today are fat, poor people back in the 1900 starved to death.

That, and things and people are vastly different. There is greater wealth in the nation per capita now than then. Our rich aren't just 'rich', they're OBSCENELY rich compared now to then.
Vampire pig man since September 2012
#9
Camper;120893 Wrote:
Emoticon;120549 Wrote:Why not? What makes you think there can't be a time where there is no assistance available?

Because poor now and poor then are two totally different things. You can buy a burger for under a dollar today, whereas there was no food equivalent like this back in the early 1900s.

Poor people today are fat, poor people back in the 1900 starved to death.

That, and things and people are vastly different. There is greater wealth in the nation per capita now than then. Our rich aren't just 'rich', they're OBSCENELY rich compared now to then.

The how come a few hours from here in places like in WV there are people living in shacks with working outhouses. The "wealth" of regular people today is a lie. I agree with you that people do live better now in general and have access to greater amenities, but American families today have very little in terms of value. Most people's houses today for example are full of CRAP, things that if the SHTF would have almost no value at all as in things you could actually sell that people would want to buy. Think about it. If you were to say sell an average table and chair set on craigslist you might get what? $50-100 for a fiberboard IKEA piece of crap that will fall apart eventually. If you went into a person's house from the first half of the century what would you find? You'd find a table and chairs made of solid wood that would cost a fortune today by comparison even if it wasn't an antique. American families have pretty much no savings and are leveraged beyond their means. They own NOTHING, they don't own their cars, they don't own their houses and in some cases people don't even own their own furniture. If the system collapsed tomorrow, inflation went out of control and we had to end up dropping some zeroes from our currency most families would be set back to square one. That's the idea of our consumer culture. We just consume endlessly, we don't actually generate wealth for ourselves at all, if that we'rent the case our economy would have collapsed already. The $1 burger does you no good if you need a brick of $100's to pay for it especially after government services have been shut down for a while. If food stamps & welfare ended the people out there who do nothing but collect social programs would be out on the street starving or stealing. Very few people today have any real useful skills in the event of a societal collapse I can still easily see a scenario where people like that will suffer more than the people did in the past.
The forum poster formerly known as Emoticon...
#10
Emoticon;120915 Wrote:The how come a few hours from here in places like in WV there are people living in shacks with working outhouses.

And those people--when the speculated 'collapse of America' comes--will continue on as if nothing happened whatsoever. That's not falling into the depth of despair and necessity, that's a way of life that they have either chosen or simply are comfortable with.

Quote:The "wealth" of regular people today is a lie. I agree with you that people do live better now in general and have access to greater amenities, but American families today have very little in terms of value. Most people's houses today for example are full of CRAP, things that if the SHTF would have almost no value at all as in things you could actually sell that people would want to buy. Think about it. If you were to say sell an average table and chair set on craigslist you might get what? $50-100 for a fiberboard IKEA piece of crap that will fall apart eventually. If you went into a person's house from the first half of the century what would you find? You'd find a table and chairs made of solid wood that would cost a fortune today by comparison even if it wasn't an antique.

You're comparing quality of product, while ignoring that value is subjective. In a true "SHTF" scenario, empty bags of chicken feed would have far more value than a solid oak coffee table, because the bags are waterproof and can be lashed together to form a tent.

Not every item is something that you'll want to sell during a SHTF scenario, some of it would be things to repurpose and reutilize for something else. An ikea bookshelf may not be needed to house books, but taken down and cut to use for a wall partition or something else--but regardless, necessity will dictate the value of an antique armoire or an ikea nook thing, and the value may or not favor the solid furniture.

Quote:American families have pretty much no savings and are leveraged beyond their means. They own NOTHING, they don't own their cars, they don't own their houses and in some cases people don't even own their own furniture. If the system collapsed tomorrow, inflation went out of control and we had to end up dropping some zeroes from our currency most families would be set back to square one.

If the economy fell completely apart and the system completely collapsed, it's a safe bet that what the bank 'owned' vs what the consumer 'owned' would become a moot point as possession would dictate ownership.

IMHO, part of the reason why the depression couldn't happen today is because banks lack the manpower and resources to 'come get' their stuff. Seriously think about this: There are people who have been living in their houses for YEARS without paying a penny on their mortgages because the banks are unable to take possession of the property because it is not worth their time. During the depression, they came and took it within 1 or 2 missed payments.

Quote:That's the idea of our consumer culture. We just consume endlessly, we don't actually generate wealth for ourselves at all, if that we'rent the case our economy would have collapsed already. The $1 burger does you no good if you need a brick of $100's to pay for it especially after government services have been shut down for a while.

Again, you're talking about a cataclysmic event resulting in the breakdown of society. That is the only thing that can happen which would result in needing a stack of $100 bills to buy a McDonalds burger. IN which case, a person living in a McMansion with all the bells and whistles and all the fancy crap, clothes, etc but owes everything to everyone would be in a FAR better position than someone who lived simply, is debt free, and had a bunch of money saved in the bank because they would have far less to barter with.

And if a stack of $100s was required to buy a McDonalds burger, than the person who earns 4x's that amount flipping them would be getting 4x's the stack of $100s for doing so. If McDonalds was selling a cheeseburger for $4,000 than they would have to pay a worker an equivalent proportional wage, otherwise those burgers wouldn't get flipped.

Quote:If food stamps & welfare ended the people out there who do nothing but collect social programs would be out on the street starving or stealing. Very few people today have any real useful skills in the event of a societal collapse I can still easily see a scenario where people like that will suffer more than the people did in the past.

As I said, it would take an unprecedented cataclysmic event for the above to happen--but if it did, I agree completely people today are not as capable to handle it like they could then. Most people then knew how to cook their own food, today they do not. And any kind of cataclysmic event would render money, gold, or other forms of wealth essentially worthless--food and water would be a far greater commodity then.

I do believe that there will be an event like this that will make a loaf of bread worth far greater than a bag of gold, but that will be something that nobody has ever seen--but something like the depression story you posted above? I do not see that happening. It won't get to that point, unless it bypasses it completely because the event is cataclysmic in nature.
Vampire pig man since September 2012








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