Response to struggle4progress (Reply #7)
Fri Jul 19, 2013, 07:09 PM
haele (6,155 posts)
11. My mother in law grew up in a house built in the '20's with no indoor plumbing until 1958.
They had a well, a pump, and a outhouse. The little three bedroom ordered-out-of-the-Sears-Catalog house had a kitchen and wash room, dining room, parlor, electricity (not original - from the TVA project) and a phone, but no plumbing - because bathrooms added to the house had still been an "extra" in the cheaper house plans when her grandfather bought it.
The house was on a three acre patrimony originally just within the boundaries of an Alabama town of 5K or so inhabitants even when she was a kid. Her father and grandfather were both shade-tree mechanics and built/cobbled together a lot of auto parts and farm implements (including buggy parts and mule harnesses) from hand, and they grew enough produce on their land to trade or sell some. She said she was happy enough growing up, even though she really was much happier once they added a bathroom and got indoor plumbing.
Y'know, I remember film clips from Johnson's War on Poverty and have heard some stories from contemporaries who grew up on reservations or in remote backwoods and valleys on a family ranch or homestead; living as if it were the 1870's without plumbing or electricity was still not uncommon in some parts of the US well into the 1970's. One woman I went to boot-camp with from North Carolina came out of the hills with one dress, pair of shoes and didn't know how to use the various types of water faucets in the barracks; she was 25, already had eight children that her mother and sisters were looking after, and had just buried her fifth husband when one of her cousins who was still in the Navy had come by for a visit; since she didn't want to get married again to take care of her kids, he took her into the town 20 miles away to see the recruiter - that was the first time she had ever been more than five miles away from the family home that was built before the Northern War.
I'll let you guess which war that was...
Not everyone who lived like that thought they were poor, much of it depended on how much respect these individuals had within their local communities - someone struggling for a life in Pine Ridge, a mining family in West Virginia, or a sharecropper family out of a Tennessee holler who working up and down the Appalachians during orchard seasons is not going to have the same experience as a multi-generational ranch family in New Mexico or a fishing family out of the Olympic Peninsula, even if they are all living with the same relatively poor income and services.
What makes the current situation worse is that there are very few places left to homestead. There is no more frontier for those who can't afford or can't psychologically handle settlements and modern life to go to. If you don't have a job that can pay for the trappings of modern civilization, there are very few places left where you can go and live/settle on your own. All arable land has been claimed or designated. If one don't have enough means to pay for a certain standard of shelter, be it a family homestead or a squatter's claim on vacant land, one falls into the "vagrant" category of homeless, and that puts one outside the law.
So those of my generation who were able to make it on a minimum are pretty much the last of those who could keep their own home based simply on their own efforts and skills, whether or not they made money off it.
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My mother in law grew up in a house built in the '20's with no indoor plumbing until 1958.
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