GARDENING — 1930’s Style

by Edgar Guest

If your purse no longer bulges
and you’ve lost your golden treasure,
if at times you think you’re lonely
and have hungry grown for pleasure,
don’t sit by your hearth and grumble,
don’t let mind and spirit harden.
If it’s thrill of joy you wish for,
get to work and plant a garden!

If it’s drama that you sigh for,
plant a garden and you’ll get it.
You will know the thrill of battle
fighting foes that will beset it.
If you long for entertainment
and for pageantry most glowing
plant a garden and this summer
spend your time with green things growing.

If it’s comradeship you sigh for,
learn the fellowship of daisies.
You will come to know your neighbor
by the blossoms that he raises.
If you’d get away from boredom
and find new delights to look for,
learn the joy of budding pansies
which you’ve kept a special nook for.

If you ever think of dying
and you fear to wake tomorrow,
Plant a garden!  It will cure you
of your melancholic sorrow.
Once you’ve learned to know the
peonies, petunias and roses,
you will find that every morning
some new happiness discloses.

Taken from the book Along Life’s Highway
© 1933 The Reilly & Britton Co.

This is one of the author’s “trying to be upbeat” poems written during the Great Depression, alluding to the financial disaster folks had come through.

His solution would have taken more effort on the plains where the drought was in full swing, too.  My mother-in-law tells me that her mother always had a garden in dry SW Sask, but it took serious work to save it from the drought, the grasshoppers, the army worms.  They’d spread old sheets or blankets to keep the hoppers from eating the plants and the insects would eat holes in the sheets!

Mom told me every drop of household water that came from their well did quadruple duty: first for washing themselves or the dishes, then as laundry water, then as floor-scrubbing water, then it watered the garden.

Another housewife (from the driest part of Saskatchewan during the “Dirty Thirties’) said they had to haul water from a river, so were very saving.  They’d pour all their “used” water from dishes or baths into a big steel rain barrel; the dirt would settle to the bottom and they’d use the top water for laundry.  Then, of course, it went on the garden.

One day a visitor astounded her young son.  This traveler had driven through a grasshopper “cloud” and had to stop at their farm to de-clog his radiator.  The lady of the house had lent the man a scrub brush for his radiator, then given him a basin of clean water to wash up.  Travelers stopping in were a rare treat in 1935, so her curious son watched the man wash his hands and dump the water out of the basin onto the ground.

The boy had never seen the likes.  He went running to his mother, exclaiming, “He just dumped the water out on the ground.  He just dumped it on the ground!”


4 thoughts on “GARDENING — 1930’s Style

    • We are wasteful in a lot of our usages. The other day after the potluck I was washing dishes and ladies were setting serving spoons beside me, still covered with food (to be rinsed or scraped into the garbage.) My mother used a scraper to clean off–and SAVE–every bit of leftover food. Reminded me again that this generation has never seen want.


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