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Published: Monday, 9/14/2009

Toledo-area residents share memories of life during Depression


Toledo-area residents' recollections of life during the 1930s are among those featured on the Ohio Department of Aging's Web site as part of its Great Depression Story Project.

The department last week posted the project's first results on its Web site, aging.ohio.gov/news/greatdepressionstoryproject.

In March and April, the department solicited stories about the Great Depression of the 1930s from Ohioans who lived through it. The department asked people to submit their Great Depression recollections so the sacrifices they made and lessons they learned could be shared with other generations facing tough economic times.

In total, the department collected 313 stories from people in 54 counties across the state, as well as six former Ohioans. The average age of those submitting stories was 85, with the oldest subject being 103 and the youngest being 64.

Topics included food and clothing, employment, home life, and differences between then and today. The most common theme was that people, families, and communities of that era seemed much more self-sufficient than Americans today.

A new collection of excerpts will be posted on the department's Web site each month through December.

Online recollections are divided into eight sections, including:

• Self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, and frugality, which includes an excerpt from Harry Moll, 92, of Wauseon: “We lived on a farm, and were already in the habit of buying only the necessary staples and clothing. My mother canned hundreds of cans of homegrown vegetables. We butchered our own cattle, so had plenty to eat all through the depressed years. We were among the lucky ones, as there were seven of us kids, all good eaters. We all had our jobs. As teenagers we did a man's work. That was the only way that we could exist.”

• The comforts of home, which includes the memories of Wallace Pretzer, 78, of Bowling Green: “Fortitude was a key concept of the family. For years, we made do with kerosene lamps. Through the Rural Electrification Act, however, farm homes began to get electricity in the 1930s; our family got its first refrigerator in 1942. We started to benefit from indoor plumbing, no longer having to use the outhouse, in which the old Sears and Roebuck catalogs had become standard toilet paper.”

• Food, cooking, and eating, with excerpts from Evelyn Peloquin, 89, of Genoa: “We didn't have storebought bread, my mom baked bread once or twice a week and if we ran out she would stir up a batch of biscuits. We didn't buy cottage cheese. Mom made it with sour milk by putting it into cheesecloth and hanging it on the clothes line.”

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