Great Depression lessons we can use today - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Great Depression lessons we can use today


MADISON (WKOW)-- There have been lots of comparisons between the economic crisis we're in now and the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Greg Jeschke shares lessons from the experience of people who lived through that time.

Indelible memories of an infamous time in American history.

From 1929 to 1939 the Great Depression kept the U.S. and much of Europe in a struggle for survival.

Theresa Martell was in her formative years during that decade; truly shaped by the state of the world she lived in.

"People talk about how terrible it was, but there was laughter, people had good times. But there was always that shadow of 'be careful, there wasn't much."

And living in that shadow as she grew up in the Duluth area, she developed a set of survival skills that still come in handy today.

"We were always very resourceful about using things. if you couldn't use it here, maybe you could use it another place," said Theresa. "You learned how to repair and make due, work, work work, that's it, we were not idle."

But paying jobs were scarce, with 12 to 15-million Americans unemployed. Ellen Roberts grew up in northern Wisconsin during the depression and remembers her family helping the homeless; neighbors and strangers.

"There were young people that were sent away from home to seek their fortunes, so to speak," said Ellen. "They had to make their own way, the parents could not support them."

"Neighbors helped neighbors, families helped families, churches stepped up to the plate to help folks back then and you don't see that as much today," said Jim Flaherty.

Jim Flaherty with AARP says the sense of community wasn't the only valuable lesson learned in the depression

"They learned how to build character out of this, how to become stronger financially, how to take care of themselves, how to live on their own better than they would've under different circumstances," said Jim.

"They just saw the reality of it and said to themselves, we aren't going to let it defeat us, and they didn't, said Ellen.

And those surivors of the Great Depression carry that 'can-do' spirit with them yet today, along with some wisdom from their parents.

"One of my mother's favorite expressions was, 'no, money doesn't grow on trees'. and i found myself using that same expression with my own children," said Theresa.

"You can always make it. you will make it. you'll downsize if you need to; smaller place to live, not as much food, clothes... but you can make it,' said Ellen.

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