HARD TIMES; Lessons from the Great Depression It Taught Frugality and a Strong Work Ethic. and It Wasn't Anything like the Economic Situation Now

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Byline: WENDI ZONGKER

The price of a gallon of gas is steadily climbing, food prices are soaring and some say we're in an economic recession.

But no matter how bad things may seem these days, it pales in comparison to what Willie Lowe Jr. endured as a child.

Lowe grew up in Attleboro, Mass., during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And like many in his generation, he took away from it life lessons that he and others now find themselves falling back on.

Lowe said those hard times taught him to hold on to what he has. He said his wife still calls him frugal.

"That's probably what I learned then. I didn't have very much money so I had to watch every penny I had," he said.

Mallory and Lillian Wilder of Nassauville learned to lean on family.

Lillian Wilder said times were rough, "but the family stayed together and did what we had to. We knew it was bad, but I never heard people complaining like they do now."

Even in the hard times, families found ways to help those in greater need. Lillian Wilders' family gave food and firewood to those who were less fortunate.

"It seems like everyone shared what they had back then," she said. "We still like to help people. If we see anyone in trouble, we're going to help them."

Both Wilder and Theda Parker, 72, of Callahan recall handing down clothes made by their mother to younger siblings. Parker said she remembers her mother sewing clothes for other children, too.

These families found ways to conserve energy, space and anything else possible. And they still do these things today.

"We didn't throw anything away," Lillian Wilder said. "If there was a biscuit left, mom put it away and someone ate it for dinner."

Dinner in Lowe's house was scarce, but there was always something to eat. Parker, Iva Stephens, 82, of Callahan, Lowe and the Wilders all talked about family farms and gardens that were relied on for food.

Mallory Wilder said his family caught fish to eat, and he still does that.

But Stephens acknowledged that city dwellers probably don't have the space to plant a garden. But she said people can grow small plants, such as tomato bushes.

"You can have two or three squash plants, too," she said. "If people would eat at home more than going out, it would make a difference."

And Lowe and the Wilders said if you wanted to buy something back then you worked and saved up for it. You took care of what you had and you didn't spend a lot of money on something unless it was to replace something that broke.

These days, Lillian Wilder said, children aren't raised to know they have to work. …