Monday, February 8, 2016

Dad's Generation

My mind has been on my Dad lately.  Even though I was privileged to have him until he reached the age of 93 and even though he has been gone from us for eleven years, I still miss him every day.

What set him on my mind today was some articles I read about the current entitlement generation.  Those who think someone else should pay for their food, their housing, their medical expenses, ad nauseam.  Add to that the myth of white privilege.  I'll tell you just how entitled and privileged my Dad and his generation were.

Dad told me stories about when his family needed cash money.  Not just the Depression years, but all the time, for a farmer like my Grandfather on a sandy soil farm in northern Minnesota would never get rich.  Matter of fact, they would rarely get out of poverty.

When Dad was old enough to do the work of a man, in the summer and fall, he and one or two of his brothers would go to the nearest town and catch a freight train going west.  No comfortable passenger cars for them.  A person had to have cash to ride the passenger cars.  They found an empty boxcar and rode it to the wheat fields of the Dakotas or Montana - wherever they could find work on threshing crews.  It was hard, hot, dirty work.  This website tells a little bit about it.  Once they managed to get places on a crew, they stayed as that threshing crew moved from farm to farm, threshing the wheat crop.  They kept out just enough of their wages for their basic needs and sent the rest to their parents.

When threshing season was over, they looked for other jobs.  Most times they found jobs picking potatoes.  That was back breaking work, following behind the horse drawn machine that lifted the potatoes out of the ground, the men going after, picking up the potatoes, tossing them into buckets or baskets and filling gunnysacks.  This is a photo of a potato picker and although it is not my Dad, it could have been.

My grandmother kept this postcard in her Bible.  It was written by my Dad in October of 1934.

It reads:  "Dear Mother,  Got here at Helena today and are going out on a potato picking job in the morning.  Ken (Dad's brother) went out on another potato job to nite.  Don't write cause I don't know how long we'll be here.  As always, Ralph (my Dad).

Here's my point.  Dad's family needed money.  There was a little money to be made working in the woods in the winter, but no work in northern Minnesota in the summer and fall of the year.  The family raised chickens and hogs and milked a few cows.  They raised a big garden and foraged for berries and such in the summer.  But a large family still needed cash for what they couldn't produce themselves.

They didn't expect anyone else to give them anything.  Dad and one or two of his brothers went where there was work to be had.  Another brother stayed home to help their Dad on the farm and after their Dad's  death in 1936, they saw to it that their Mother could stay in her home and saw to it she was cared for in her old age.  The girls helped their Mother garden and preserve food and bake bread.  When some of the girls were old enough, they earned teaching certificates and taught school to bring in money for the family.

This life wasn't unique to my family.  Many, many other families across the country were working hard to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.  And they did it on their own, without standing in line for welfare benefits.  They would have been ashamed to ask for a handout.

Take a look at this picture.

That is my Dad at the top of the ladder.  That is his brother below him.  The picture was taken around 1920.   They are just oozing "white privilege," aren't they.  And yet, I never once heard Dad complain about being poor.  And I never knew him to turn down a job because it involved hard work or getting dirty or didn't pay a king's ransom.  He was just happy to have work.

I'm thinking that those who think they should have everything given to them should be introduced to the reality my Father's generation lived through.  His generation was comprised mostly of hard working, God fearing folks who did whatever it took to keep their families going.  They had pride in a job well done.  They considered a handshake as good a contract as any signed document.  They were the people who made America what it used to be.

We sorely need more like them.


  1. Amen, Vicki. You come from good stock!

  2. Thanks, Gorges...Dad didn't have much use for the hippies of the 60's - thought they should throw away their love beads and get jobs. He would be appalled at what is going on in our country today. And saddened.

  3. I enjoyed visiting. Gorges sent me.

    Dad used to follow the wheat harvest. It was a point of pride in our family that every thing was earned. Everyone "pulled their own weight".

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Gail. Gorges is good people.

    I remember my Dad didn't often criticize others, but when he did it was because, in his opinion, they were too lazy to work. He just would never have considered taking money he hadn't earned. And like your family, everyone was expected to "pull their own weight." Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost many of those values. Sad, really.

  5. This was the code of my past generations also and I've been blessed with and by their moral path. What has become of the world is not only sad but sickening. I see the future.

  6. A good dose of exposure to the realities of your Dad's world might be an excellent remedy for many of the things that ail my generation.

    I so hate to use words like "buttercup" and "pansy," but COME ON, GUYS!! Flowers are fragile little things that bloom in the spring and last for a few days each. You're PEOPLE. ACT LIKE PEOPLE!!

  7. Anon...I am old enough to remember a world where a mans word was his bond, where liars were held in contempt and where it was unthinkable to expect government or anyone else to feed our families. The future looks grim indeed if we as a people can not find our way back to the code of past generations.

  8. MC...You are spot on. There was a time when those of my Dads generation rushed to defend the country they held dear. Not the government, for governments will always be corrupt. But the America we knew and loved. They willingly paid the price to keep their families safe and free. Words like honor and duty and loyalty had meaning.

    Now it seems that "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings" are necessary to keep the current crop of hot house flowers from having their feelings hurt. I am not condemning an entire generation, for I know of many whose parents and grandparents have raised them to be productive citizens with a good work ethic and a working knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Sadly, those with a good moral compass seem to be few and far between.

  9. Am just carching up on the last few posts. Been off line the last few days.
    Enjoyed reading this post. It remnded me of my own family history. The story goes that my grandfather and uncle walked into the bank for a loan to start a business. They walked out the door with enough money just on their good character and a handshake. Changed days for sure. Oh, and the business they started did well enogh to support both their young families.
    SJ in Vancouver BC

  10. I love these stories and pictures! I have some memoirs my grandfather wrote and one of my favorites of his stories was when he and one of his brothers had to drive (as in walk, with sticks to herd) 100 turkeys down the road a few miles to a farm for processing. Can you imagine?!?

  11. Hi SJ...The experience of your grandfather and uncle is pretty much the same as many of my family members years ago. I guess at that time a person's word and reputation meant something. I was astounded at the hoops I had to jump through a couple of years ago when I had to open a bank account. Social Security quit sending paper checks and would only transfer funds to an account. By the time I answered all of the bank's questions, signed volumes of paperwork and produced several pieces of identification, I felt almost like they thought I was a criminal! This is a small, hometown bank. I have known the people working there for years. What a difference - then and now.

  12. Thanks, Lisa...I love the old stories as well. Good Grief! Driving turkeys must have been nearly as much fun as trying to herd cats. :) Whenever I remember another of my Dad's stories, I try to do a post about it. Most of his stories involve some shenanigans with his brothers. They never did anything mean, just funny.