SELF-RELIANCE 101

Valu­able lessons learned from the Great De­pres­sion

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Dana Ben­ner

While we can never change his­tory, wise peo­ple learn from it. A good ex­am­ple of this is the Great De­pres­sion of the 1920s and 1930s. The stock mar­ket col­lapsed, and banks, fac­to­ries and busi­nesses closed their doors. What lit­tle money peo­ple had been able to save was gone.

It sounds fa­mil­iar, doesn’t it? Many peo­ple lost ev­ery­thing they had. Farms and homes were fore­closed on. Droughts and poor farm­ing prac­tices turned valu­able pro­duc­tive farm­land into dust­bowls, and prices for food and other items soared. What lit­tle money that was avail­able wasn’t enough to pur­chase what was needed. Jobs were lost, and there were no so­cial ser­vices avail­able to fall back on as there are to­day. Peo­ple had to learn to be re­source­ful and fru­gal ... or per­ish.

Al­though times have changed—with some changes for the bet­ter and oth­ers not so much—this calamity could still hap­pen to us to­day. These days, we rely too much on so­cial pro­grams to see us through the rough times. We are overly de­pen­dent on tech­nol­ogy to do our work and on the gov­ern­ment to get us through when things go badly.

The good news is that the prin­ci­ples learned by our fore­bears al­most 100 years ago still ap­ply to­day ... that is, if we are will­ing to learn from them.

My par­ents were chil­dren dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, my fa­ther be­ing born in 1919 and my mother in 1920. They came from two very dif­fer­ent back­grounds, two dif­fer­ent sets of cir­cum­stances and two dif­fer­ent ways of deal­ing with them. My mother came from a fam­ily of four, and her fa­ther hunted and fished to help keep food on the ta­ble. My fa­ther came from a fam­ily of six, and, al­though no­body in that fam­ily hunted or fished, they were re­source­ful in other ways.

What both fam­i­lies had in com­mon was that they used their de­ter­mi­na­tion, wits and skills to make it through. The lessons they learned the hard way were in­stilled in me as I grew up. Those lessons have served me well, and I con­tinue to use them to­day.

THE SIM­PLE THINGS

What would you do if your money were worth­less? How about if you lost your job and had no money to pur­chase food, cloth­ing or keep a roof over your head? How would you deal with the is­sues that we con­sider mun­dane to­day, such as darn­ing a pair of socks or patch­ing the holes in your pants or shirts? Could you make your own clothes if you had to? Could you whip up a meal out of al­most noth­ing? These are all things my par­ents learned to do and, thank­fully, they taught me to do the same.

My fa­ther’s mother taught him how to sew and cook, and while nei­ther one was “his thing,” he could do them if he had to. My mother made it a point to teach me how to sew and cook;

AL­THOUGH THE TIMES HAVE CHANGED, AND THERE ARE MORE SAFE­GUARDS IN PLACE, BAD THINGS STILL CAN, AND WILL, HAP­PEN ON A LARGE SCALE. IF HIS­TORY TEACHES US ANY­THING, IT IS THAT SOME PEO­PLE WILL BE PRE­PARED, AND SOME (PROB­A­BLY MORE) WILL NOT.

this is knowl­edge I have ben­e­fit­ted from more than once. I don’t sew with a sewing ma­chine. She taught me how to use a nee­dle and thread, be­cause what would you do if you didn’t have a sewing ma­chine or the power to run it?

When I was grow­ing up, I would watch my mother darn my socks and patch my clothes. We did not have much money, so she made sure she got the most out of the money we did spend. Her way of think­ing was, Why spend the money to re­place some­thing if it can be re­paired?

Why is some­thing as mun­dane as sewing im­por­tant? In to­day’s throw­away world, many of us have lost this skill. If we get a hole in our socks, we throw them away and buy a new pair. What would you do if you had no money to spare on new socks, or there were no store? When all the money you do have has to go to keep­ing a roof over your head and food in your stom­ach, you will have to fix what you have and make do.

The abil­ity to sew is ba­sic, but it has many other im­pli­ca­tions be­sides fix­ing cloth­ing.

Your skill with a nee­dle and thread could help in an emer­gency sur­vival sit­u­a­tion. Per­haps the strap on your pack lets go, or your sleep­ing bag gets a tear. Maybe you need to make a fish­ing net or sew up a wound. The prin­ci­ples of sewing ap­ply in all these cases, and you just never know when this skill will come in handy. This is why I keep a small sewing kit in my bag at all times ... just in case.

TAKE AD­VAN­TAGE OF OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES

Never waste an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire food and other im­por­tant sup­plies, be­cause you never know when you will get an­other chance. My fa­ther’s fa­ther worked at a lit­tle gro­cery store dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. It didn’t pay much, but at least he had a job. One thing that he could do was take home fruit and veg­eta­bles and some­times, meat, that were about to go bad and couldn’t be sold. He had no ve­hi­cle, so he would walk

home car­ry­ing these items.

My grand­par­ents would go through the food and sal­vage what they could. Meat would have to be cooked right away, be­cause there were no re­frig­er­a­tors as we know them to­day. They had an ice­box, but it only kept things cool when they could af­ford, or even get, ice. Fruit and veg­eta­bles that couldn’t wait an­other day were made into breads or were eaten right away. Any­thing left over would end up in a stew or soup for the next day.

That was a rare op­por­tu­nity my grand­fa­ther had; he took ad­van­tage of it, and my grand­par­ents made sure noth­ing went to waste. Com­pare this with how much good food we throw away ev­ery day be­cause we have had our fill or don’t like left­overs.

As men­tioned be­fore, my mother’s fa­ther hunted. Us­ing an old shot­gun, he would shoot grouse, rab­bits and squir­rels. He also taught my mother how to hunt. In turn, she taught me. Be­cause shot shells cost money, and they couldn’t af­ford to buy shells, they had to make ev­ery shot count. Ev­ery op­por­tu­nity was ex­ploited to its max­i­mum. My grand­fa­ther would get more shells when he could by ei­ther buy­ing them—or, more of­ten than not—by trad­ing a nice, fat rab­bit for a hand­ful of rounds. A few more rounds meant

WE ARE OVERLY DE­PEN­DENT ON TECH­NOL­OGY TO DO OUR WORK AND ON THE GOV­ERN­MENT TO GET US THROUGH WHEN THINGS GO BADLY.

an­other meal or two.

To­day, just as then, we need to take ad­van­tage of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that is pre­sented. Un­like dur­ing the 1920s and ’30s, we have refrigeration avail­able to us. I hunt and fish as much as I can, stock­ing my freezer with game and fish. I barter for those things I can’t get on my own. I keep my pantry stocked with canned goods and emer­gency food, such as Pa­leo Meals to Go, Moun­tain House and MRE Star. I pur­chase them when I have a lit­tle ex­tra money. Buy these items when they are on sale, and keep them on hand. You never know when you will need them.

AC­QUIRE A TRADE

Dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, your own skills were what got you through. You couldn’t af­ford to pay a roofer, plumber or a me­chanic, so you needed to be able to fix things on your own.

My fa­ther learned very early how to fix any­thing me­chan­i­cal. He learned the hard way—by tak­ing things apart and then putting them back to­gether. He soon be­came pretty good at it and was even able to make a lit­tle ex­tra money for the fam­ily by fix­ing other peo­ple’s things.

In an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, you will need to rely on your own skills to get things done. To­day, we have the ad­van­tage of many ways to learn how to do ev­ery­thing from elec­tri­cal work to weld­ing. There are lit­er­ally tons of in­for­ma­tional books, videos and on­line in­struc­tion on vir­tu­ally ev­ery topic. I have a book­case full of them in case I need them. I pre­fer books over re­ly­ing on tech­nol­ogy, sim­ply be­cause books are go­ing to

MY FA­THER’S MOTHER TAUGHT HIM HOW TO SEW AND COOK, AND WHILE NEI­THER ONE WAS “HIS THING,” HE COULD DO THEM IF HE HAD TO.

be avail­able and func­tional, and ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy might not.

MONEY

We all know that "money makes the world go around." But money, es­pe­cially pa­per money, is only as good as the gov­ern­ment that is back­ing it. Those phys­i­cal dol­lar bills are not re­ally “money”; in­stead, they are prom­is­sory notes backed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment for the value printed on them.

What hap­pens if there is a gov­ern­ment fail­ure? If the econ­omy col­lapses, the value of that “money” drops, be­cause the tan­gi­ble things you need to buy be­come more valu­able.

THE PHYS­I­CAL DOL­LAR BILLS ARE NOT RE­ALLY “MONEY”; IN­STEAD, THEY ARE PROM­IS­SORY NOTES BACKED BY THE U.S. GOV­ERN­MENT FOR THE VALUE PRINTED ON THEM.

That is what hap­pened dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. Those who got by didn’t do so by amass­ing huge amounts of dol­lar bills. They did so by us­ing gold and sil­ver coinage. “Hard cur­rency” is what it is called. It has its own value that is based on the me­tal it is made of. In a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, gold and sil­ver (from any coun­try) will have more value than pa­per money.

In to­day’s world, this means we should all be in­vest­ing what we can, when we can, in gold and sil­ver. I’m not talk­ing about pur­chas­ing gold and sil­ver stocks. I’m talk­ing about pur­chas­ing hard

NEVER WASTE AN OP­POR­TU­NITY TO AC­QUIRE FOOD AND OTHER IM­POR­TANT SUP­PLIES, BE­CAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU WILL GET AN­OTHER CHANCE.

... TAKE A LOOK BACK AND LEARN FROM THE PEO­PLE WHO CAME BE­FORE US. WHILE THE TIMES AND SPE­CIFIC CIR­CUM­STANCES HAVE CHANGED, THE PRIN­CI­PLES AND RISKS HAVE NOT.

coinage. You can buy gold and sil­ver coins, spe­cialty coins or even bars on the open mar­ket. Stay away from “clad” coins, be­cause they are made from an­other me­tal and then plated in gold or sil­ver. Pur­chase items made from as much gold or sil­ver as pos­si­ble.

Af­ter you make your pur­chase, don’t run around brag­ging or show­ing them off. Flash­ing your as­sets will make you a tar­get—if not now, then later—when the SHTF and peo­ple be­come des­per­ate. Store your gold and sil­ver in a safe place, and then leave it there un­til you need it.

We have all heard about peo­ple who have dug up jars of sil­ver coins buried by peo­ple look­ing to keep them safe. They did this be­cause they didn’t trust the banks (re­mem­ber, banks went un­der dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion and dur­ing the bank­ing cri­sis 10 years ago). I don’t rec­om­mend do­ing that, but just keep them safe.

Al­though the times have changed, and there are more safe­guards in place, bad things still can, and will, hap­pen on a large scale. If his­tory teaches us any­thing, it is that some peo­ple will be pre­pared, and some (prob­a­bly more) will not.

In our age of com­put­ers, cell phones and gov­ern­ment-spon­sored so­cial ser­vices, it is very easy to get com­pla­cent and for­get the knowl­edge and skills needed to keep it to­gether when times get tough.

This ar­ti­cle dis­cusses just a few of these lessons, so take a look back and learn from the peo­ple who came be­fore us. While the times and spe­cific cir­cum­stances have changed, the prin­ci­ples and risks have not.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Right: Be­cause no one knows what to­mor­row will bring, now is the best time to ex­am­ine your fi­nances and skill sets to see where you can im­prove your chances to thrive in an eco­nomic bust.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Be­low: Dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, lines at soup kitchens were com­mon. Even as good as times are to­day, there is of­ten not enough food at soup kitchens and food banks.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Above: The Great De­pres­sion was a world­wide event, as can be seen in this photo of a food line in France.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Be­low: Tough times cause im­mense men­tal and emo­tional strains on fam­i­lies and chil­dren. Make hav­ing healthy, sup­port­ive and pos­i­tive per­sonal re­la­tion­ships a top pri­or­ity.

Left: When the credit cards are maxed and you're out of cash, you can still trade your wal­let. Bar­ter­ing, whether it's goods or ser­vices, is a key way for you to ac­quire ne­ces­si­ties.

Do what­ever needs to be done. In this case, it means gath­er­ing sap to make maple syrup.

Learn a trade that will be in de­mand— whether times are good or bad. Fix­ing cars and trucks could earn you some ex­tra money; al­ter­na­tively, you could barter your skills.

Left: Teach­ing her son to sew, this mother is giv­ing him a skill that is very likely to come in handy in the fu­ture.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Be­low, left: With the right tools, a lit­tle help from a ref­er­ence book and some pa­tience, you’ll find you can ad­dress most ba­sic plumb­ing, car­pen­try and elec­tri­cal re­pairs.

© GETTY IM­AGES

Bot­tom, right: Hunt­ing is just one way to put food on the ta­ble.

Be­low, right: Fruit doesn’t stay good for long. Learn­ing how to can and to make jam will make that fruit last much longer and broaden your menu op­tions. These are also great trade items.

Above: Never waste any­thing! This car­cass is be­ing boiled down to be turned into a soup or stew.

Be­low: Based on the me­tal it is made of, "hard cur­rency” has its own value. In a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, gold and sil­ver (from any coun­try) will have the same value. In to­day’s world, this means we should all have some in­vest­ments in gold and/or sil­ver.

Right: Even in to­day's "healthy" econ­omy, many peo­ple live pay­check to pay­check. Whether or not you are one of them, look for ways to re­duce ex­penses by do­ing things you usu­ally pay oth­ers to do or make for you.

Above: Learn now how to cook and bake from scratch. In tough times, one of the first ex­penses peo­ple cut is eat­ing out.

Above: Small gold and sil­ver bars are harder than coins to ex­change in com­mon trans­ac­tions, but they are a good way to pre­serve your wealth and can be ef­fec­tive for larger trades and pur­chases.

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