which one of the Now Generation
Whenever I'm with my old comrades, Saucy and Dolly Catlett, they never fail to reminisce about their experiences in the Great Depression. No matter how I try to impress them with my Master of Arts in history rigamarole those two are quick to point out that I am a post-World War II baby and did not struggle through those tough times of 1929-45. I finally realize that my arguments are falling on deaf ears (I surmised that they were hard of hearing) and settle back and enjoy a few 'depression stories.’
I realize then how much the world has changed. 1945 becomes a kind of historical door which has shut out forever the past, except for holdovers like Saucy and Dolly. Petrarch felt this same way as he tried to make heads or tails of his existence at the end of the medieval world (or beginning of the modern, whichever you prefer).
One of Saucy and Dolly's best stories is a simple one, but one that radiates the flavor of the times better than most others. Saucy and Dolly were bone poor in the 1930s. They got married at age 17 - mostly to escape the poverty of 17 and 13-member families, respectively. Both of these post-flapper babies secured a job in their little mill town of Leaksville, North Carolina. They took a job at Fieldcrest Mills, just like all the other textile-mill people in that textile-mill town. One of the dilemmas of working in the mill was 'what do we do about lunch?' There were no elaborate lunch counters or soda shops such as the ones which now exist in most large plants for the industries' employees. Those mill workers of the thirties and forties had to carry their own.
Paper was as scarce as frog hair during the Great Depression. Many people, resourceful souls, used their empty syrup buckets or lard buckets, or whatever they could find (but as the singer Tony Joe White related in “Polk-Salad Annie”,… they did all right!"). You should hear Dolly tell it!
Saucy is a type of verbal proof-reader, ready with the accurate details. "Yeah, I used to take my dinner (lunch in Yankee talk) in a syrup bucket!" Dolly proudly exclaims, revealing a hint of sainthood as a result of her depression Spartan-like existence. "I never will forget one morning,'' she adds. “We were in a hurry to get to the mill---we got in late from a Y.M.C.A. basketball game. Cold 'Tater and Rache's car broke down,'' she enthused!
"No, we gave out of gas. You remember,'' reminded prooftalker Saucy. "Well, anyway, we cooked a dozen biscuits and our one egg for dinner." Dolly went on.
"One egg?", I interjected, believing that this story was getting unbelievable. ''That's all we had," Saucy and Dolly painfully and convincingly recalled.
"It was 6:45 a.m. and we had to be at the mill by 7:00. We threw on our clothes. I got the biscuits cut open and divided the egg into twelve pieces," Dolly explained. I, without thinking about the results, asked sarcastically if she had ever divided any fish or loaves---without breaking stride, they ignored the question and proceeded with their story.
"Usually I let the biscuits cool before putting them in the bucket," she said. “But we were in such a hurry that I just didn't have time," she explained further. I always lined the bucket with newspaper, usually the funny paper (also known as the comics}," she went on. "When we got to the mill, I sat the bucket beside the pot-bellied stove, as always,. and went to work. When lunch came, guess what we had?" she asked in rather amused fashion (I knew that she and Saucy had probably not laughed in 1932).'We had some of the prettiest, humorous biscuits that I never ate!" yelled Saucy. “I liked to read Orphan Annie then, but not on my biscuits, not after five hours of breathing cotton fiber," Saucy recalled. "If it hadn't been for Lee and Nina sharing their dinner with us, we would've had to eat Annie, her dog, and all of our other favorites.
"I suppose that you would have suffered from a case of ink-digestion," I replied. Their watermelon smiles reversed and I knew that they liked my pun about as well as Orphan Annie biscuits.
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