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ZEPHYRA's avatar

Did your grandparents face extreme poverty in the early days of their life and did they "recover"?

Asked by ZEPHYRA (21750points) June 22nd, 2015

Especially jellies who are now over 40 years old, did you ever hear your grandparents talking about extreme poverty or did they grow up in prosperous times?

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17 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Oh man, when my grandfather was a child his parents divorced. The mother found another guy that she wanted to marry. He didn’t want her kids though. So she took my grandfather, his brother, and his sister to an orphanage and dumped them. Not exactly a prosperous start to life. And not a great orphanage either back then. He busted his ass when he got out of there and was a very successful guy.

Judi's avatar

My father was a WWII vet. He was a truck driver when I was born. He testified against his employer in a discrimination suit against Navajo Freight Lines and was subsequently blackballed. My earliest memories of him were working as a church janitor part time and working in an orchid nursery on the night shift doing maintenance. We had a house thanks to a VA loan but not much more.
He died when I was 10 and my mom worked as a hospital housekeeper. Thanks to the rules of the VA loan at the time, the house was paid off when my dad died. She also got Social Security for the two kids who were still home. Eventually she became a phlebotomist and lived a simple but comfortable life until she died.
I would love to see how my kids would answer this question.
I thought this was about parents. Sorry. I didn’t know my grand parents.
I have a friend who feels like she can judge poor people because of her grandfathers struggles.

zenvelo's avatar

My maternal grandfather was born in Mexico in 1888. He was poor, subsistence level poor, although skilled as a carpenter.

He came to the US in 1914, married soon after. He did well, a good middle class life, until the Depression. During the Depression, my grandmother worked as a domestic, and had room and board for herself and my mom. My grandfather bunked at the sawmill where he worked. They were happy to have jobs. They were in Redlands CA, which was and is an orange growing town, and it prospered all through the Depression.

My other grandfather was poor, from a tin mining family in Scotland. When he was 18 he left to go to sea. He ended up in the Yukon. My grandfather worked as a human mule carrying supplies up Chilkoot Pass until he earned enough for his grubstake. He mined gold in the Yukon from 1898 until he left to fight with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914. He never struck it rich, just earned enough from gold prospecting to live.

That grandfather eventually settled in Hollywood in the 1920s, and worked making elaborate sets for the movie industry.He did alright, never well off but never again in dire poverty.

Both my parents were able to go to the University of California – my mother went to Cal, my dad to UCLA.

talljasperman's avatar

My grandpa was a heavyweight boxer and when he retired he became a plumber.

Mimishu1995's avatar

My mom’s parents were extremely poor. They didn’t have enough money to manage their children’s education. Some of the children had to start work early. I don’t really know how they managed to “recover”. It seemed that sone of the children persuaded the parents to start a foot stall right at their house, and there they went.

My dad’s mother was born in properous time. She got the best education (sponsored by the French invaders). Her husband’s family had to strive to make end meet on the contrary. I don’t know how they managed to meet and live a normal life.

keobooks's avatar

My German grandmother always made a point of mentioning that her family was very wealthy before World War I when she talked about her past. Even though they’d lost quite a bit before she was even born, it was very clear to me that her family behaved in a very aristocratic manner despite everyone in the country going broke between the wars. When she talks about riding around in trains, being forced to dig up turnips in huge fields off the side of the roads, she could manage to make it sound like an afternoon tea with the Queen of England. It gets really weird when she got to talking about losing all of her possessions when the Russians took over her town. Even when she talked about peeling potatoes in a Russian prison camp, she still managed to sound like Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances.

As for my American grandparents, my grandmother was raised up on a large farm. While they had almost no cash, they had plenty of livestock and produce. They were considered fairly well off and managed to keep hired hands, paying them by barter.

My grandfather grew up in a rough area in the Region around Chicago. He was a self admitted rough neck who managed to have all sorts of fun no matter how broke his family was. Even though he didn’t always have enough to eat, he seemed always able to afford his zoot suits he wore every weekend as a teen, before he went off to war.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

All four grandparents were born in the late 1800s in the US. All survived WWI and WW2. All went through The Great Depression. Did any of them face extreme poverty? By today’s standards, yes. Compared to what was going on at the time, no.

Paternal grandmother: She grew up in the setting of a family run beer brewery in Pennsylvania that was successful and survived Prohibition by selling non-alcoholic sodas. It eventually closed down, but she received a decent sum of money through inheritance that she didn’t allow her husband to touch. She was content with a frugal lifestyle and invested some of the money in her children’s education. Both Dad and my aunt graduated from college in the early 40s and pursued their dreams.

Paternal grandfather: I know little about his background. He attended college and did well as a salesman for a furnace company, despite his alcoholism.

Maternal grandfather: He grew up on a Pennsylvania farm. He attended college and started a construction business with one of his brothers. Due to his visionary insight, they were able to tighten their belts during The Great Depression and survive. He died in the 70s, but the business still remains.

Maternal grandmother: Her father was a Pa. town doctor. Because of that, she received special treatment, like being given ice chips by the man who sold ice blocks to the townspeople who used them for keeping food chilled. When he was diagnosed with TB, he moved to New Mexico leaving his family behind for several years. Despite that, the parents were able to scrape enough money together to send her to college there.

Like her husband, when The Great Depression hit, more tasks were taken on by her in order to financially survive. It was also important to both of them that their four daughters pursue their goals in life. Thus, all four attended and graduated from Penn State University in different fields in the early to mid-40s.

flutherother's avatar

There was no extreme poverty. Both sets of grandparents were reasonably well off in difficult financial times. However they had frugal habits that remain with me to this day.

whitenoise's avatar

All my grand parents and my father and mother spent three years in Japanese concentration camps. After world war II they came to Holland with literally nothing. My grand father even had to fight to get the years he spent as POW to count for his pension.

In the end they did well and bounced back. They were strong, smart people.

Here2_4's avatar

My grandparents lost their farm. Grandpa went to work for the railroad, and grandma hauled six kids around from one new home after another to be near his main base. My mom never got over it. She was fifty and still complaining she’d had a pretty gold ring, and when she was four, her mother had to sell it.
She also made no friends, because she never had any growing up, and she blames all that for why she won’t eat mac’n’cheese.

rojo's avatar

My grandmother was the daughter of a Merseyside dock worker, one of 10 kids, and married a dock worker. My grandfather died in an accident at 35 leaving her with eight kids, a corpy house and very little money. She went to work doing laundry, housecleaning and even factory work while holding the family together. Fortunately she had two older sons who went to work and helped support the family. They kind of sacrificed their childhood and put their own ambitions on hold to help out while they were needed. They all survived the bombings of WWII and one of the older sons ended up joining the Royal Navy at 14 (he lied about his age) and sent money home. I never heard much about my other grandparents and their childhood but Grandad was fairly generous of his time and affection when I was growing up while Nana was more reserved and, even to a 10 year old, seemed to affect manners that were above her station in life. Whether she married down or acted up I never knew. I have seen the house my dad was born in and it is a typical upper lower to lower middle class row house. Both grew up in Portsmouth in small families.

From their own experiences in their childhood my own parents attitudes can be summed up in the way they viewed money. According to mom it was made round to go round; while dad always responded that it was made flat to pile up.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Wow, amazing experiences that would make excellent novels. Fascinating, touching and eye opening.

keobooks's avatar

I feel like I kind of wrote off my German grandmother as frivolous. She was actually a very strong woman, but kind of hid behind a fussy frivolous persona. It wasn’t just being poor, it was losing everything in a way I can’t begin to understand. Her home town is now part of Poland. She couldn’t even visit it for 40 years after the war. When she did visit it, almost nothing was familiar. Nobody she knew and none of their children lived there. Nobody even spoke the same language there anymore.

She never fully allowed herself to fit into American life. For whatever reason, she held fast onto almost a parody of fussy old world mannerisms that were probably out of date long before the war even started.

It was hard for her also, because Germany totally changed after the war, She visited frequently..once or twice a year, but she was pretty much just as much of a foreigner there as she was in the U.S. She was from a region of Germany that no longer existed and spoke a dialect with an accent nobody younger than her spoke. Her German friends she had all managed to adapt to the new Germany, but she never quite got it. I felt kind of sorry for her when once these German people were visiting and told her that she had the funniest accent they ever heard and asked where she learned to speak German. Ouch.

She was very anxious, most likely because her father and many of her family members vanished—most likely into concentration camps in the 1930s and they never came back. She constantly lived with a fear of being left alone. She was also very paranoid and was hesitant to say anything over the phone. I thought it was silly until I found out that all the phones to her house were tapped when she was growing up. She even started up a few conversations with the men listening in!

She had some other refugee friends and they were very close. They made themselves a very tight knit circle where they could all pretend to be fussy and stuff.

This doesn’t begin to really do her justice at all. I just felt bad rereading my posts because it sounded like I was making fun of her. She was sometimes a very difficult person and I frequently got frustrated and embarrassed over the things she said and the way she acted. But she deserves better than to be written off as a shallow fluffy woman who brushed off her years under the Nazi regime with a laugh and the wave of her hand.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t know about my maternal grandparents.

From what I know, my paternal grandfather was quite well off but after he married my grandmother he was disowned by his family. However, he had a profession and so I’d guess they were financially okay. Unfortunately, he died very young and left my grandmother with six children to look after. She ended up taking in washing and doing domestic work to keep her family fed.

JLeslie's avatar

My paternal grandparents were extremely poor until the day they died. My grandmother died rather young, late 40’s or early 50’s. My grandfather was in his late 60’s I think when he passed away. He came to America at age 14 with his siblings. Lucky that he was brought with them, because he had been living in an orphanage because his parents couldn’t feed all of their children. He was slightly hard of hearing, but he learned English and worked in a factory his whole life. His wife, my grandmother, was born in America, but poor her whole life.

They lived in a one bedroom apartment while raising my dad and his sister. They had twins between those two children who died shortly after birth.

My maternal grandparents were not poor. My maternal grandmother grew up in a very nice style. She would have had much more, but her dad died when she was 5 and through the years people her mother trusted with the finances stole some money. Still, my grandmother, who would be in her mid 90’s now if she were alive, went to college right after high school and eventually got her masters. My grandfather’s family I think was quite modest. Not extremely poor, but didn’t have much. I know my grandmother’s family saw him as a lower class. He also had a college degree, they met at NYU. They lived a middle class life.

jerv's avatar

My grandmother was a single mother of six, and she herself was born at the depths of The Great Depression. She managed, but she was a real hoarder and barely through anything away. When she passed, we found the carcass of the turkey from the last Thanksgiving dinner we ate there… eight years prior to her death. She was always struggling, but her house was big enough that she could supplement her income by renting rooms.

My mother was also a single mother from the time I was 4, though we weren’t much better off when my dad was still around. While she managed to claw her way out eventually, much of my childhood was her working 1–2 part-time jobs in addition to her full-time job, though that was an improvement over our previous state where she often would have to go without eating for days in order to get formula for me. And trust me, living in a panel truck during a New England winter sucks! But my the time I was in high school, she had a government job from which she recently retired with a decent pension.

I’m not too sure about my father’s side as I never knew anyone on that side of my family aside from a man I didn’t talk to for 36 years until he was on his deathbed with lungs too weak to even have a real conversation.

ibstubro's avatar

My great grandmother was born to wealth in 1880 but the money was gone before the Great Depression. Her husband had wanderlust and a history of uprooting the family just as things started to look promising. Somehow they ended up in a small town in rural Missouri, and she finally told her husband, “The (7) kids and I are staying. You know where to find us.” Soon she moved to a larger town nearby, and took on the rearing of my mother, her grandkid.

I remember my mom saying that one of the cardinal rules of the dinner table was that you did not ask what the meat was. If it was fresh and cheap/free, she prepared a delicious meal be it beef, coon or possum. All the kids were raised with formal manners including proper table settings. Clothes (including winter coats) she expertly tailor made so that the kids always had as nice if nicer than their peers.

I’m sure if she was alive today and you asked her, “Did you and the kids live in poverty?’ she’d answer “Shoo, no. We didn’t have much but there were lots of people worse off than us.” All her kids stayed out of trouble and became successful in their own way. The boys all served in the military and one of the girls served as the Democratic National Committewoman of her state for several terms.

I never met any of my dad’s people, but by the time my father was 14 he and his parents had bought a bungalow in the country on 5 acres which she gave my dad and mom when they married.

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