Note to readers from Kristina Gray, Comp. I instructor: I want to showcase the writings of incoming UMC freshmen students who have arrived on campus from as far away as Hawaii and California. I also have a student from the East Coast, specifically Massachusetts. Besides Minnesota towns, some hail from as close as Wisconsin or North Dakota.
I simply asked my 31 students for a first assignment to write about their grandparents in 500 words. That certainly limited what they wrote and what I had to read. Some of these grandchildren have many stories to tell while others not so much. Of course, my historical interest is anything from the early days such as one hundred years ago to the 1930s.
I realize now I should have asked for “great-grandparent” stories if I wanted to learn about earlier stories from this millennial generation. I asked for a show of hands and some of these young people would not have been able to fulfill that assignment on writing about their ancestors. However, what came through loud and clear was the love and respect these grandchildren have for their grandparents. From 31 entries, I am only highlighting 19 students’ grandparents; I wish I could include them all.
Their stories fell into five categories. I am showing the first about the Great Depression, then next week is titled “Hard Work.” The following week will showcase “Farming and Traditions” and the fourth week will be “Discipline – Military and Sports.” Finally, I will end this grandparents’ stories series with “Good Addictions and Bad Addictions.”
Also note: One student author included in this installment asked that his/her name not be published with the piece.
I. The Great Depression
“The Greatest Generation”
by Kiley Miller
My grandparents have played a big part in my life. They have always been there to guide me as I grow up. They both grew up during the Great Depression which has helped make them who they are today. My grandmas’ name is Yvonne but we all call her “Bunny.” She was born on November 20th 1934 and lived on Lyndale just off W. Broadway in Minneapolis. Family is very important to my grandma. She is full blood German; her grandparents came from Germany to New York in 1884. Both sides of her family ended up in Minnesota and she doesn’t know how her parents met but they were married in 1920. My grandma always said, “There was never any self-pity or complaining. If something is wrong, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, be quiet about it. To me, they (her parents) were the greatest generation.” When WWI started, her father joined the army and was part of the “lost battalion.” He later died from pancreatic cancer which the doctors said came from the mustard gas poisoning he had gotten in WWI.
Page 2 of 4 - My grandpas’ name is Vernon. He was born in 1928 on a farm two miles outside of Crookston. After they lost their farm in the Depression his family then moved to a house in town in the early 1930’s. Vern joined the Army as soon as he turned 18 and was sent to a small town in Japan named Sasebo. While he was away, his sister’s husband passed away. He was sad that he never got to say goodbye. My grandpa died a couple of years ago in 2010 and my grandma still lives in Crookston today in the same house.
“Two Outstanding People”
by Josh Watts
There are mainly two of my grandparents who come into mind when I write, Grandma Doris and Grandpa Del. They come into mind because they are two adults that have most influenced me besides my parents. Del and Doris lived through a lot as children. An example is my grandma had to live in a preventorium for over a year because her mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis. From the tragedies they have encountered in the past my grandparents became two outstanding people.
Grandma Doris started her childhood with her three brothers in a small town called Baldwin, Wisconsin. After her father died her mother had to sell all of their tools and the farm. They began renting a small farm to make money. My grandma said, “It was not a lot of money but we got through the Great Depression.” They got through it the only way they could which was working on the farm as hard as possible and not having extra toys, clothes, or candy.
A few years later Doris’s mom was diagnosed with tuberculosis. My grandma was put into a preventorium which was a gymnasium for children that were at risk of getting the disease. Doris really never saw any of her family. She said, “I was lucky to see my brothers across the gym.” Her mother was in a sanitarium, which was like a big hospital, where they collapsed one of her lungs to cure tuberculosis. After a little more than a year her whole family was released and her mother lived with one lung and tuberculosis for another 25 years.
Everything my grandma went through was tough. The one quote that she said was, “This too shall pass,” which means that things like these happen but in time everything will move on. This quote was so true because everything was starting to get better. Although there was one other rough patch in her life, and that was when her brother Marv was drafted at the age of 17 into World War II. He got through the war alive and well.
Page 3 of 4 - After World War II my Grandma Doris met my Grandpa Del. My grandma compared him to the greasers from the movie “Grease.” My grandpa loved his car and shop classes. My grandma and grandpa met at a dance and they both loved doing the jitterbug. They were married for 52 years and the one very good quote my grandpa said was, “Being married is like being a team of horses, one cannot get too far in front of the other or the wagon will crash.”
My grandparents are two outstanding and influential people. Although I did not know much background on my grandpa Del, he taught me a lot like: hunting and fishing, why I need to go to college, and he also influenced me on my major. They both went through big struggles but they also went through a lot of happy times together. My grandpa Del died about six years ago and he will always be remembered by our family. I am so thankful to have had grandparents like my Grandma Doris and Grandpa Del.
“Very Hard Times”
My grandparent that I decided to write on was my mom’s mom and she really had no good stories to tell me so she told me a story that her mom always told the kids. I asked her how well she knew the story and if she would mind sharing with me and all she said was October 29, 1929. I looked at her in astonishment and said, “What happened back on that day?” And she replied with the quote my great grandma always said during the story which was, “It was a very hard time and you lived if you lived and you died if you died.” I then again replied with “What are you talking about?” She than finally decided to tell me it was the great depression and we went on to talk about how it didn’t just make farm life hard but rather everyone’s lives.
She told me times were hard enough the way they were before this happened and that day on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed it was pretty much a riot. People were trying to get rid of their stocks so they would have more money to live and so that they would get as much money as possible at that time. The only problem was that no one was buying. Also the farmers were not the only ones that were affected by this but also the banks and industries started on a downward fall.
The next thing we talked about was all the people that were out of jobs so they either hopped a train or if they had cars they would drive until they were able to find work. The only problem with this was the high numbers of people on the trains. Once work was found everyone would be applying for that same job so it was still really hard to find work.
Page 4 of 4 - Another thing she told me about was the dust bowl. She said that during earlier years farmers were not always too worried about these little depression times but this one was different. Because of all the years of combing and leaving so much topsoil exposed once the wind picked up it made the sky fill with dirt and dust which made life a pain. The final thing she told me about was how easy it was for Franklin Roosevelt to win the presidential election. She said that the current president at that time who was Herbert Hoover was the person everyone blamed for the Great Depression even knows it was not entirely his fault.
I n conclusion, the Great Depression was a very hard time for everyone not just the farmers. On that date October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed everyone knew they were in for a long ride and it was going to be very hard to survive. The thing that made me really realize that times were very hard was after hearing the saying my great grandma went by back than “it was a very hard time and you lived if you lived and you died if you died.” I would never have expected to hear this quote from my grandma just from the little bit I knew about her.
by Jared Racette
January of 1933 my Nana was born in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. She was the middle child of eventually five siblings growing up in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and a suburb 30 minutes away. She lived a happy childhood in which she was well fed and clothed despite growing up in the midst of the Great Depression. Her family was not rich, but they had enough and were just getting by. They would often walk down the street to her grandparents’ home and enjoy the assortments of fruits and vegetables that her grandparents would grow. In her free time she enjoyed listening to shows such as Inner Sanctum and The Shadow along with some of her favorite singers like Rosemary Clooney and local boy, Jerry Vale on the radio, but she especially loved to spend her time reading. Just a couple of her favorite books were the Sam Spade series and Little Women.
At the age of 52 my Nana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is an ailment that slows you down and affects the nerves in your body making it harder to walk and do physical activities. Therefore people with MS do not always get to do what they want, but to this day my Nana has not let it change the level of joy in her life.
She told me that, “Anytime you have something you have to fight for, it makes you a better person. You have to overcome it and not let it take you.” She also said that “taking one day at a time and doing everything right” is how she approaches it all. She is still fully able to interact and spend quality time with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchild. She loves them all and is a great example of how a grandmother should look after her family: always with their best interest in mind and a great amount of love.