Life in the 1920s

I’m having a guest blogger today writing from beyond her grave. This is life in the 1920s as my grandmother knew it in the words of my grandmother.
Eleanor Virginia Webster
By Eleanor Virginia Webster

It was 1927, a year or two before the crash in 29. My father was a coal miner. He had many good jobs but always wound up fighting with someone and quitting. Jobs were getting very scarce. It didn’t matter to him, if he got mad at someone, he quit. It made it hard on his wife and family: my mother, my sister, and I.My mother was brought up in a good home and had most anything she wanted. This life with my father was really hard on her. We lived in two rooms at the time, and had little to eat at times. Dad was always complaining at one time he thought he was sick. He believed that he had heart trouble, even though the doctor told him it was just nerves. My mother never complained.

One day mother was talking to a neighbor and dad didn’t like it, so he pulled a sick spell. He yelled as loud as he could, “Lizibeth, come here. I’m dying!” Everyone for several blocks could hear him. When mother came in, he seemed all right again. All this took place before the real trouble began, and Mother had to live like an animal, and so did my sister and I, but we were young and it didn’t bother us as much.

Soon after dad’s so called sickness, we had to move from the two rooms and go out into the country to a shack. Dad loved it. He didn’t have to pay any rent. We were squatters. The house was only a shell, with no electricity, no water in the house, and no gas. We had a good spring, with really good water to drink, but to cook and wash clothes, it was carrying one bucket after another for about the length of a city block. Of course, Dad wouldn’t do this; it was up to mom and us kids.

We used oil lamps for our light, just like about fifty years before. For heat, it was coal stoves, one in the bedroom which we all shared, and one in the kitchen which was used also for cooking. Its funny but I don’t ever remember hearing my parents make love, and as I grew older, I thought that they never did. I wonder?

Even though we had everything so rugged, my mother was an excellent housekeeper and nearly killed herself keeping us and the house clean. She scrubbed wood bare floors on her hands and knees, and scrubbed our clothes on a board. We had to walk to school each day about six miles. Many a morning in zero weather my hands were nearly frozen. We walked through mud, snow and anything that came along. Of course, there were the beautiful days in spring when the sun shone and everything was green and smelled so lovely. I’ll never again be able to smell the beauty of the country unless I make a special trip in the spring for this purpose. But city life keeps us so busy that we do not have time anymore, and all you smell in the city is smog.

Well anyway, by planting a garden and canning, we were able to survive that first and second winter there. Then came the crash in 29 and Dad was out of work. There was a day that year that all we had was potatoes, and mother cooked them and mashed them and we ate them plain without salt or butter, and they tasted really wonderful. We got milk once in a while from a farmer just straight from the cow. It was really terrible, but we drank it anyway to keep from starving. To this day, I can’t drink milk. Anyway, we didn’t starve. Finally dad got a job in a two bit coal mine, working from dawn till dark for one dollar a day. This bought bread and a good many things in those days. This was before the unions and before Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President.


I never saw this woman drink milk a day in my life.I also remember hearing stories growing up, “When I was a kid, we had to walk miles in the snow with broken shoes to get to school…” I thought that was hyperbole. It wasn’t.
This was my great grandma's favorite picture because when my grandma and her sister (Betty) would walk to school, they had to cross a bridge like this in the middle of the holler and it gave my great grandma peace to think of an angel protecting them.

This was my great grandma’s favorite picture because when my grandma and her sister (Betty) would walk to school, they had to cross a bridge like this in the middle of the holler and it gave my great grandma peace to think of an angel protecting them.

Stay Tuned for her Tips to finding happiness in motherhood.

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