About gDonna
The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....
 

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Comments On Article: Busy With Research And Setting The House For The Study

1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 1:15 AM CST

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 2:16 AM CST

Katherine Minaker wrote

This will be so interesting to learn about the Depression! I belong to a facebook group Depression Era Cooking and there are some older people on there that will tell their memories and stories of family during then. Also there are some pictures that show the real poverty then. You can see if you find anything there if you wish. I plan to live more frugally in the new year as well. Using cash only is better and I have a little jar to save change in. In Canada here we have $1 and $2 coins so after shopping I can put those and quarters into this jar. I am already surprised at how fast it adds up and near month's end there is often enough to get some milk and basic things to tide over till pensions arrive. I also have a jar for dimes and nickles. We no longer have pennies here. i have several great old community cookbooks with simple recipes that use things up and are quite versatile I find. I plan to read and sew more as tv is so tiring at times. I will follow you and learn more! I have some books on that era about women and life then that gives insight to the struggles and despair that many felt. i am surely grateful for my life today! I have been very poor at times myself and that feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. I am content to have just enough to live good days here. Grateful also to you and your writings. Stay well.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 3:21 AM CST

Stephanie wrote

I have been thinking and thinking about this, and will do some more thinking before January comes, I'm sure. I figured out which things I wouldn't have in the thirties, like a dryer. That one will take some learning since it's winter and I don't have experience drying clothes inside the house. I do have a drying rack, though. It's a start. I'm going to have to keep my blender because I grind wheat for bread in it and don't have a manual grinder. The curling iron will be put away and I'll curl my hair with rollers, and I want to try pin curls and finger curls. My phone will become just a phone, and I won't use it for anything else but calling people. I only use the TV on Sunday afternoons, except when I use it as radio connected to my laptop. I have a small throw blanket to toss over the screen then and can listen to my 1930's music and radio shows in the living room and do mending. I'm cutting my computer use way, way down. Once a week on Fridays should be enough to do my "mail order" shopping and research and read Grandma Donna's blog.

I've been trying to think of how to recreate the deprivation of the thirties in my own life for the study. Being a long-time reader of Grandma Donna's blog, I've cut my electricity use way down, lower than I ever thought possible, and have been working on my water use. I already cook everything from scratch and every year grow just a little more of our food in our garden. We're saving and paying down our mortgage with extra principle payments. I can certainly learn to sew and I've been trying to cut hair. Those are areas I could improve on, but I thought that the area that could bring the most improvement is eating. People in the thirties were slim. If I ate to become healthily slender, that would be as much of a saving in not overindulging as cutting down my electrical use. It would certainly give me a feeling of deprivation. :) It makes sense to me, because if I cut back my overuse of electricity to save money and not be overly dependent, why wouldn't food be the same? I could certainly stand to lose a few pounds.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 5:10 AM CST

Mrs. White wrote

I am greatly intrigued by this study you are undertaking. The way you describe the last study, rationing gas, what your husband will decide to do for a job, based on the time period, is incredibly helpful. The way you are setting up your home and way of life so that you have a deeper understanding of the time period is amazing. I appreciate all your effort and look forward to reading along. Thank you. God bless you!

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 2:56 PM CST

Judi wrote

I have been doing some research too and was interested to read that it was very popular at that time to play cards of an evening, this is something that my parents and relatives did a lot when I was little and as they were both born during the Depression I wondered if they just carried on doing what they had always done. I wish they were still with us to talk to them but alas I shall have to rely on my internet research and books but would welcome suggestions if anyone knows of good books on the subject. I am really looking forward to the coming year and following Grandma Donna on the journey, thanks Donna.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 3:02 PM CST

Anna wrote

Regarding the ice blocks for ice boxes (pre-refrigerators), households had a card to put in the window to indicate how much ice was needed. I don't recall for sure, but I think there were two or three numbers on the card, and you put the amount you wanted on top and then displayed in the window. Ice was purchased by weight. No one locked doors in our small community and the ice delivery would be direct to the ice box. My mom hated the ice box because the drain tray was always overflowing, or she would spill it when emptying it. My grandfather's businesses included the ice production/delivery.

I was born in 1943 and I would guess most homes of older families I visited as a child were pretty much the same as they would have been during the Depression. Even into the mid 1950's home interiors were pretty simple and basic. Major changes would be refrigerators and gas or electric ranges although I recall a friend's family used a combo wood/gas stove for cooking. I suspect the wood part was more for heating. Most heating stoves were fuel oil and furnaces were still coal. Treadle sewing machines were more common than electric. Electric kitchen appliances beyond toasters and irons didn't exist at least I don't recall seeing any.

The poorest kept home I was ever in had a small pig running in and out of the kitchen and chickens on the kitchen table. Enough dirt on the floor to plant a garden. That "poor" was more related to trashy behavior than money.

I also visited my grandparents neighbor who had virtually nothing and their home was clean as a whistle. My mom commented on that home saying their niece, who lived with them, only had one set of clothing and it was washed, dried and ironed each night to be clean for the next day. Truly wonderful people to be that poverty stricken and still willing to take in the niece. I certainly recall them with fondness. They did not have bathroom or running water even though they were in town, but they had a well and all water was carried in and out and an outhouse was used. There was a town water system, but it wasn't the greatest. Most people still used their wells for drinking water. I recall going to the school gym and lining up with the rest of the community for typhoid shots. I think that was before I started school and I clearly remember how sick they made us.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 3:11 PM CST

Paula Alexandra Santos wrote

Hi, Grandma Donna!
I wonder if Bamby Bakery still exists today... Around here, in 2023 we are going to try to live more sensible and spend more wisely.
Since I started to read your posts and following your studies, we have started to pay more atention to what we spend; electricity and water usage included.
Also, like Stephanie wrote in her comment, the amount of food that people ate in the 30's was much less than today and in Portugal was the same. And I too, need to lose some weight!
I believe that 95% of the persons I see in photographs and documents of that era and I believe until the 50's, were slim.
And women an men dressed much better.
Have a blessed weekend, Grandma Donna!
:)

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 5:16 PM CST

Annemiek wrote

Dear Grandma Donna,
Thank you for your blog, I love reading it and I am looking forward to your new study next year. Seeing the Bamby advertisement is very special to me, as Wednesday November 18, 1931 was the day my mother was born! She is the eldest of 12 siblings. By the time WW2 started in our country (May 1940) she already had 6 younger sisters. My grandfather was a tailor, but also a bee keeper. They grew their own vegetables and had a pig. Growing up during the depression and war years made my mother a genius in improvising and making do. She was one of the first female trained fire fighters in our country (Holland) and I am very proud of her.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 5:17 PM CST

Kimberly wrote

I've been thinking about how I will approach joining in on this study. I know it will just be me, not my entire family, and that I will have to make compromises. But I am intrigued and inspired, and I know I have influence on many aspects of our home life even if I'm not asking the rest of the family to go all in.

My house was built in 1926, and when we first moved in I spoke with a neighbor who had been born in his house. He said this neighborhood was for the well-to-do middle class, such as the fire chief, police chief, etc. The people living here weren't the rich in the big mansions, but they also weren't the poor. The houses were built with electricity and indoor bathrooms, and even in 1926 our home was built with three bedrooms.

So I've decide to approach this project with a combination of my own history and the history of my neighborhood. In my scenario, I was raised poor (true) and have many frugal skills (also true). I am a homemaker (true). I am married to a man who has a solid career that he will not lose due to the Great Depression. We have grown children who will need to live with us during this time (true) and who will not be able to find employment and contribute to the household financially (since in real life they are college students). We own our home without a mortgage (true). But for this study, we will have lost our savings due to the failure of our bank, and my husband will have had to take a pay cut, but we still have an auto loan, so our finances are tight.

In other words, for our scenario I imagine us as people who did not become unemployed or homeless, but who did have to change their way of living. Frugality would be important to this family. Also, they are conscious of the suffering of others, and not being rich, they are careful not to appear showy or ostenatatious. I imagine many of their neighbors were in similar situations, with some having lost jobs or money in the stock market (even Laura Ingalls Wilder lost money in the crash!).

For myself personally, I already cook and bake from scratch, clean my own home, do handwork and mending, etc. I looked at 1930s hairstyles but decided that I will be one of those women who just stuck with what worked for them, since hairstyles for thin, fine, straight waist length hair aren't common, and as a middle aged woman I probably wouldn't have been following current trends. I'm looking forward to thinking about dressing more smartly when I go out in public, but I will be working with the clothing I already have or what I can sew. Sewing is one skill I need to improve on. For this study I would have been born in 1880, making me 40 at the beginning of the 1920s and unlikely to have taken on the modern flapper girl looks. I already wear an apron everyday, so no change there. I've been working on wearing hats when I go out and think that is something that would have been done in this time period.

The goals will be to simplify, slow down, use what we already have, economize, mend and repair, and to be thrifty in all things. I'll hang the laundry on my umbrella clothesline, which I tend to get lazy about when things get busy. I'll make many of my own cleaners (I made a beeswax furniture polish just last month). I'll combine errands and walk when I can, rather than driving. Coming into this as a more affluent middle class woman, I'll have things that we're stockpiled ahead, such as flour and candles (I haven't done a candle stock up in 2022 but am still doing well with what I purchased at the end of 2021). I also have enough skin care products for the year (used frugally).

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 09, 22 11:30 PM CST

Stephanie wrote

Kimberly,

I love your well-thought out scenario. You've inspired me to try my hand at one. I think I'll have to be a frivolous '20s modern who wouldn't listen to her older and wiser relatives who tried to teach me household skills to explain why I can't darn socks or dry clothes or can!

May I know how you made your beeswax polish? I've read about beeswax being used in the past and have wanted to try it. The beeswax polishes I find online have chemicals. Since we're going to the '30s, I'd be more than happy to make my own, as you are doing, if you're willing to part with your recipe.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sat Dec 10, 22 12:07 PM CST

Anna wrote

For examples of clothing for that era, go onto Etsy and search for sewing patterns for that timeframe. I was amazed at how many old patterns are available.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sat Dec 10, 22 12:14 PM CST

Sheri R wrote

I am so excited about this study and all we are going to learn together. I live a pretty old fashioned life already but I am looking forward to challenging myself with some of the 1930’s changes . I plan on writing letters to friends and family. Planning more picnics for my family. Cooking most all our meals from old cookbooks 1880’s-1935 and some of my ancestors recipes. I am really going to hunker down on food waste and try to use every scrap. I would like to can and dehydrate more and grow more food this year in my garden. I will make more of an effort to not let anything go to waste in our orchard as seeing so much fruit on the ground breaks my heart. I am going to push myself to be more social ( as I am very introverted) and maybe get involved in some sort of woman’s group as well as visiting my neighbors more frequently. I have been creating a budget and will cutting a lot of expenses ( no more Amazon, 1/2 of regular food budget, using less utilities, etc) Entertainment will be period appropriate books, music, movie once a week , puzzles, and games. I will also be learning to use my treadle sewing machine and keeping up on my mending pile. It is so wonderful to hear what everyone is doing. Thank you Donna for all your inspiration and hard work. And thank you to for everyone that is sharing. So many great ideas:) Blessings to you all!

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sat Dec 10, 22 2:19 PM CST

Jennifer wrote

Thank you Grandma Donna for all you and Charles do to help us 'see' the everyday and ordinary lives of those within certain eras.
I live in Australia, and when my mother died aged 21 I was just 3 and given to my Nana and Pop to raise. All through the 1960's we still used an icebox and had the ice-man deliver it, the bread was delivered by horse and cart, the milkman left milk at the door, and the Rabbitoh delivered fresh rabbits for 10c each as well because that was cheap meat for us.
We had to bathe in a shed outside, and the toilet was up at the end of the garden. Nana would boil water for the bath by lighting our old copper and then carry bucket after bucket outside to the bathhouse. She did this every weekend, and on the other days we would bathe from a basin. Nana would wash my hair under the tap just outside the back door once a week (only cold water) and she'd wash out clothes in that same old copper, then use the washboard to scrub them before rinsing and hanging on the line.
This was our life right into the very early 1970s, when we had to move out of the rented three room flat and into another one. Pop had saved up and bought her a twin-tub washing machine and it was amazing! She felt like a queen. :-) We still had an outdoor bathroom and toilet, but now she had a gas water heater for the bath and a shower over top.
I loved my life growing up with Nana and Pop, even though my bed was always the couch as we only ever had the one bedroom in the flat...I was LOVED and laughter was part of our life.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sat Dec 10, 22 11:23 PM CST

Anna wrote

Non-electric curling irons exist. I believe they were heated over an oil lamp. I got a couple in an auction box once and gave them to my sister-in-law who is a beautician.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sun Dec 11, 22 8:31 AM CST

Nadya wrote

I really enjoyed reading the book, Little Heathens, by Mildred Kalish. It is an autobiography about an everyday farm girl and how they survived and thrived during very hard times.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sun Dec 11, 22 5:00 PM CST

Kimberly wrote

Stephanie, it is a very simple polish of 1/3 cup beeswax and 2/3 cup mineral oil, plus I added in some lemon essential oil. Some people use olive oil instead of mineral and that would be fine too, but I already had the mineral oil for my cutting boards, and I also didn't want any hint of green in my polish. Mineral oil also makes a polish with a longer shelf life, since olive oil will go rancid. I melted together the beeswax and oil and then added in the essential oil. I used the microwave and a Pyrex measuring cup because I have the little beeswax pastilles and knew they would melt quickly without the oil getting too hot, but most people make the polish using a double boiler to avoid any fire risk. Also, some of the recipes for this type of polish use more oil to make a creamier polish, so really it is flexible.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sun Dec 11, 22 5:08 PM CST

Kimberly wrote

I've been thinking about this project today as I am having a rainy homemaking day. This morning I made chicken broth from a chicken carcass I had frozen, then made a simple creamy sweet potato soup for lunch. We ate it with homemade bread I baked on Friday. I have a pork butt braising, bought for 99¢ per pound. I fed my sourdough so I can mix dough before bed tonight and have it do the first rise while I am sleeping. I had caramelized a big bag of onions earlier in the week to avoid waste (I had bought them for Thanksgiving, which then got cancelled due to illness), so I frozen them in 1 cup portions to use in my cooking. There is soup for another meal, and the pork will be several meals. There is also enough chicken broth for another soup this week. I realized I should have bought more than one pork butt and frozen them, since I haven't seen that price in nearly a decade. But then that made me think about whether or not the scenario I am creating has room for bulk buying of groceries. So I've decided that my persona will be coming up with ideas to make or save money so that she can create room in the budget for bulk buying, which will make the grocery bill lower overall. She might bake bread to sell to neighbors, or take in washing for a bachelor neighbor.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Sun Dec 11, 22 5:23 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote

Kimberly, thank you for sharing your beeswax polish with Stephanie and the rest of us too.

Also what I have found is that people that live in larger cities or towns bought groceries more often but those further out purchased in bulk. They did sell larger amounts in the stores than we normally see in our average grocery stores today.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Mon Dec 12, 22 6:29 PM CST

Teri Pittman wrote

For what this is worth, I got new glasses this year. Hadn't seen the optometrist for at least eight years. He told me that he didn't know what I was doing but there was no change in the cataracts on my eyes in that time. I thought about it because I don't take any supplements for my eyes. Then I remembered my normal breakfast is yogurt with blueberries. Try to eat more blueberries. They are good for your eyes.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Mon Dec 12, 22 6:52 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote

Thank you Teri, maybe that has something to do with your cataracts not worsening. I for one will give it try, I love yogurt and Blueberries. :)

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1,649 posts (admin)
Tue Dec 13, 22 11:13 AM CST

Teresa Pittman wrote

couldn't post this yesterday, but if you are looking for ways to have less waste in the kitchen, Thrift in the Household is excellent:

https://digital.library.cornell.edu/catalog/hearth4301999

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1,649 posts (admin)
Tue Dec 13, 22 12:21 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote

Teresa, Oh my, I just read chapter one of this book you have linked below and I feel I have been to the principal's office. I'm guilty, I do try really! Lol I imaging the author of this book having tightly pinned hair with small round glasses and with very fitted black Victorian dress even though it is passed the time of the Victorian era.
However, I truly do understand what she is saying and if I had done even a fraction of what she has said to the point I have read, we would have never had debt at all "ever", and quite a nice savings. Now to learn more, but I would like to be able to accomplish what this book is suggesting with a more gentle and relaxed kitchen atmosphere. I do not have to concern myself about the feelings of the kitchen help. Lol I will also make sure to have the right amount of oranges so I don't have to worry about making the right decision. :)

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 14, 22 12:21 AM CST

Miriam in Finland wrote

Teresa, thank you so much for the link!

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 14, 22 3:20 PM CST

Pam wrote

Hello Donna, just qurious, do you and Charles celebrate Christmas in the same way as the way they did in the Current study you are doing? If you do, it would be very interesting to hear more about Christmas in the past. We are trying to simplify Christmas and focus on it's true meaning, namely Christ. The commercial Christmas is making many people feel inadequat and lacking. We nolonger want to be a part of it. Blessings from Norway to you both, Pam

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 14, 22 6:08 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote

Hi Pam, Christmas in the past was not as over the top as it is today, however the 1920s many things were over the top but we know what happened at the end of the twenties. During the Great Depression years it went back to more pre -twenties and much the same during the 40s due to the war.
Charles and I have had a very simple Christmas for many years, our studies have taught us much. The years we have been studying this year, 1943 and going into the early thirties I am finding that Church Cantatas and Caroling on Christmas Eve were what many people did. Gifts were fruits, Kerchiefs, Umbrellas, Children's Rain coats, Mufflers to keep warm, Pajamas, Girls wash Dresses in colorful prints. Gloves, pen and pencil sets, mostly useful items that were needed.
In our family we decided several years now, only give gifts to the Children and each year we make it more simple. Everyone is going to do what they want to do and really it is not up to us to change someone. We all need to do what we feel is right and not be guilted into following along with something just because this is how it has been for a long time.

I do enjoy changing things around the house for the seasons and decorating if we would call it that. Changing curtains and lifting up the joy in the house for spring. And acknowledging Fall with the colors of the leaves.

My mother would take me with her to take groceries to people that she knew were struggling we would take a pie or cookies to someone she felt needed a visit. Sometimes we would just visit with them to see how they were doing. I was taught to behave and be polite and always explained to me what we were doing. For Charles and I, Christmas is very similar to Thanksgiving only without the extra food.

I am not here to tell anyone how to have Christmas but I would like to say, Christmas is not a time to go into debt or overspend. There is no time that is right to do that.

Pam there are many people that feel like you are feeling, we should not have to try to simplify Christmas, we just need to do it if this is how we feel.

I did not understand when I was young the reason of my mother taking groceries to these people before Christmas and at other times in the year but I do now. It is a more peaceful place in our spirit when everything is not all about us. It does feel better to give than receive unless we are in need and then we feel loved.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Thu Dec 15, 22 1:10 AM CST

Sheryl wrote

Seconding Miriam's thanks to Teresa - it's a wonderful read and so timely!

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1,649 posts (admin)
Thu Dec 15, 22 12:53 PM CST

Pam wrote

I think, for me, Christmas is a lovely time to look away from onesself and focus on others. For me, Christmas is a good one if I can show kindness and bring joy, giving my time and homemade gifts if I can. My Father was a little boy in yhe 1920s. I used to love hearing him tell about their Christmas. He grew up with Salvation Army parents in Africa.
Pam in Norway

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1,649 posts (admin)
Fri Dec 16, 22 7:03 PM CST

Sallie Borrink wrote

If anyone wants to download a copy of the "Thrift in the household" book to keep (PDF, epub, Kindle, etc.), you can do that here:

https://archive.org/details/thriftinhousehol00hughrich

Just scroll down and look on the right side to see all the options.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 21, 22 5:40 PM CST

Lynne wrote

I have a book that was given to my grandmother when she married in 1924. It's called "For the Bride" and it has chapters on household management, menus and recipes, what items a basic household should have, cleaning advice, advice on decorating and choosing fabrics, how to choose cuts of meat, even a daily schedule for running the household. Plus, wonderful illustrations and advertisements -- many for using electricity - "Our Great Community Servant." Many of the ads are from local businesses - banks, millinery shops, lingerie shops, places to get coal. There is a section on how to cook on a variety of stoves, including a "fireless cooker." It is a real treasure and has held up well. I will refer to it often over this next year, as my grandmother might have gleaned information from it as a young bride, as well as into the 30's when she had young children.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 21, 22 8:28 PM CST

Stephenie wrote

Great post, Grandma Donna. I did the musical 42nd Street in Europe. It was set in the 1930’s. You can watch the Tony Awards on YouTube for the show. I loved the costumes and hair styles from that era. We wore wigs, though.

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1,649 posts (admin)
Wed Dec 21, 22 8:40 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote

Stephenie, I am sure we would all like to know which year did you do this? And which part did you play or sing?

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L
40 posts
Sat Dec 24, 22 10:20 PM CST

I am looking forward to the 1930s.  It was the time of my grandparents' youth & young adulthood.  I've heard their stories and loved them of course so will be interested in following along.

Also, I do have a great uncle who turned 100 in Oct.  If you get really stuck on a question, I could try to get ahold of him or have my aunt ask him.  He's still "with it" just slower than he once was :-)

G
256 posts (admin)
Tue Dec 27, 22 10:13 AM CST

Thank you Lady L, it is always good to have someone older than ourselves to ask.  Charles Aunt Sissie has been someone we could still go to but sadly passed away this year of 2022. Not many left that were old enough to remember the Great Depression.

M
6 posts
Mon Jan 02, 23 9:16 AM CST

this is so very interesting. I enjoy reading this very much. I wish someone would do studies like this in The Netherlands. Some things might be the same, but not all.

G
256 posts (admin)
Mon Jan 02, 23 3:15 PM CST

Monique, you are welcome to all or part of the study that would apply to you.  Either way, we are happy to have you in the forum. Grandma Donna

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