by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 30, 2009
CALM DOWN, AMERICA!
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Actually, saying "pride goes before a fall" rings true to me, but we've always been aware of it and never really hit rock bottom. We've managed to be resourceful at home and too proud to crumble outside the home.
The first Depression we experienced - the Great Depression - was in my pre-teen years, and lasted from birth to age 12, when World War II was declared.
Within the next year, my five brothers in the Civilian Conversation Corps were in the Army, the Air Corps, and the Marines. Five healthy appetites were no longer eating at our table and, now, my mother got allotment checks to cover rent and utilities.
The next time the economy entered our family life was in 1974 when we had oil crises and a recession which was hardly noticed by our us. By then, John and I were raising our 7 children and already planning on college. We would have been on a tight budget with or without the recession. We were busy, so it was natural to economize, too.
President Gerald R. Ford announced via UPI Radio in 1974 that "We are currently facing three serious challenges: inflation, recession and energy - inflation, which is a deadly long-range enemy that cannot be ignored; recession, which is serious - which is a serious threat that already has hurt many, many citizens and alarms many, many more. Hopefully, it is a shorter-range evil; but neither can be ignored, nor will it be. And make no mistake. It is imperative that we fight both inflation and recession at the same time." And the Arab oil embargo was making life at the gas pump miserable.
Prudently, we lowered the speed limit to 55 during the oil crisis; we kept our thermostats at 68 at home and work. Some states were hard-hit by gasoline shortages, and we only filled up every other day. The lines were so long that many ran out of gas while inching toward the pumps.
We made the best of the worst of it. There's something about being "in this together" that keeps pride in tow and a head held high. As I look around me now, I see a particular spirit among my friends. None of us knows how the others are doing so we announce bargain prices to one and all, and we clip coupons while supermarkets sell buy-one, get-one - BOGO to the practiced shoppers.
During the Great Depression, mom 'n pop grocery stores would run a tab for families and you would pay when you could. Because of our pride, they knew we were not deadbeats. We would never take something we didn't earn. The grocer was proud of what he was doing and we swallowed our pride to accept it.
And yet, pride itself is the first deadly sin. As described in the scriptures of the world's great religions it is an excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with an individual's recognition of the grace of God. That was not our understanding, though.
We fully believed in the grace of God and had sayings for that faith, like "God fits the burden to the back," and, "You have to hit rock bottom before God will lift you up." And we took comfort, when we were scraping rock bottom, in saying, "I'll let go and let God."
Pride was never a negative. We didn't feel we had to muddle through on our own. But pride is what makes our girls sparkle and the boys greet people with a warm smile and a handshake.
The economists can analyze the difference (or sameness) of the Great Depression vs. the Recession in 1974 and later, in 1986, when many corporate offices downsized. Executives pulled the cords on their golden parachutes and took early retirement.
When I analyze the differences, I visualize what I remember. As a child, I saw the difference in what people wore. In mind's eye I see tweed caps on the men, thin. woebegone faces, hand-rolled cigarettes dangling from every lip, people waiting on food and unemployment lines. I was a little girl then, and this was all I knew about life. It was normal.
When Jimmy Carter became President in 1976, Rosalyn Carter kept the White House thermostat down and wore a sweater to ward off the chill as a model for all of how to conserve. We're doing that now, in most homes, to save the planet and guard against depleting our sources of energy. It doesn't matter whether we lived in the third decade of the last century or the first of this; when hard times befall us, we cope - it's the American way.
We are proud we are that kind of people. It is this pride that carries us forth, proud of our "can do" spirit, armed with the knowledge we've gotten through far worse and we will get through this.