Does no one have knowledge of the Depression any more?

One of the first things I ever read by some guy named Cecil Adams:

“People today have the historical awareness of tree squirrels.”

1953 seems kind of late. I associate cultural events like Joseph McCarthy’s list, the Korean War, the Rosenberg trial, the Kefauver hearings, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” with the fifties. Heck, I even think about things like the Alger Hiss and Hollywood Ten hearings, the Bell X-1 flight, or Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers as fifties events, even though they chronologically happened in the forties.

There is a fair argument that the historical period extended from the Franco-Prussian War, 1870, (maybe from the Austro-Prussian War, 1866(?)) through the German surrender in May, 1945, as the period of German expansion and dominance in Europe. If you include the rebuilding of Europe then until the election of Eisenhower, the founding of BDR (democratic West Germany) and the commencement of the Cold War. The next period can certainly be classified as the period of Soviet-American conflict which was not put to bed until the break up of the Soviet Union.

I like the way you think.

As for it being mentioned in King Kong, or Mad Men, or even Family Guy, you don’t just need good history lessons for kids or teens to pick up on that and connect it to the Great Depression and learn more about that – you need to teach media analysis or something similar in school. I know I’ve said this before on these boards, but the fact that it is not standard practice to teach kids how to interpret or analyze the ads, movies and shows that consume 90 percent of their lives is insane.

My parents lived through the Depression. My father went from rich kid to poor kid almost overnight. I heard all about it from them, and grew up with the impact, for instance I had really good teachers who chose teaching as a safe profession, since teachers had jobs in the Depression. While we told our kids about it, and they heard some of it from their grandparents, it can’t have the same impact on them as it did on us. The question is whether the current crisis will have an impact anywhere near as powerful.

My daughter’s in 7th grade, and her history class just finished a unit on the Great Depression. Perhaps schools now are more conscious that they need to teach about it, since many students her age may no longer have living relatives from that era. When I was in high school, I remember learning about the Great Depression and WWII at the very end of the year. The 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were covered in three days by a series of video retrospectives aired as episodes of the show “20/20”. I thought it was because our teacher had been teaching at our school since the 50’s, and he had never updated his lesson plan, but now I’ve learned since that such running out of time is rather common.

What is pretty much lost is any memory of the 30s that didn’t have to do with the Depression. It’s an exception to the rule that people remember the good things about the past, but forget the bad.

For one thing, there was a lot more bad than in most eras; it came to every kind of place and people. For another, you learned not to be proud of what you had, because you always knew someone who had less.

My parents were teenagers during the Depression and young parents during World War 2. Part of the reason the eras are conflated is because they conflated them. They were poor during the Depression; there wasn’t anything to spend money on during World War 2. My mother and her (then) two children lived with my father’s family during World War 2. My father went to California during the Depression; he went into the Army during World War 2. Their lives didn’t really change that much until after the War ended.

I can’t say I’ve noticed people confusing the Great Depression with WWII. But Mahna Mahna describes a minor peeve of mine so I’m going to indulge myself in a small hijack:

I’m a Jane Austen fan, and I’ve often seen her work described by the clueless as “Victorian”. Jane Austen died two years before Victoria was born. Even her posthumously published novels were in print before the birth of Victoria. Jane Austen herself was born during the reign of King George III, or to put it in an American context, during the early days of the American Revolutionary War. Everything she ever wrote was published during the Regency Era, which was very different from the Victorian Era in terms of literary styles and social values.

I had something typed that ranted the same - although my issue is throwing her in with Dickens and Bronte. Its a little like saying Will Rogers and David Sedaris are contemporaries.

Recently argued with someone over a Georgette Heyer novel - he said “a woman and a man would never be left alone like that.” I said “REGENCY not VICTORIAN.”

My mother’s parents were immigrants from Russia. She grew up during the depression, but the parents had a big house in what would become the suburbs, bought up a lot of property and my grandfather had a steady job (walking 2-3 miles to a steel mill every day) to support a dozen kids! I don’t recall any tales of poverty or scrimping and saving, though they lived a simple life. I think they all would have been perfectly happy living on a farm, with cows and chickens underfoot. Mom married into the middle class and has always liked nice things, but certainly never spent a lot of money foolishly. They all did all right over the years, though none ever got rich.

Could you provide a link or something to what it is you’re complaining about?

I think A Christmas Story can be forgiven for not pinpointing itself becuase it takes place in the world of kids, which is either timeless, or conflated of several eras. My 1960’s childhood was filled with the scraps of other eras: old WWII surplus (considered junk at the time) that we wore to play “army” in the back yard, comic books filled with 1940’s bad guys, or Sell Grit! ads that look like they came out of the 1950’s, if not the 1920’s (“Look, fellows” - ?).

Later on, I’m able to tell stories of things I experienced back then that were only possible due to the political or technological era, but which at the time I’d seen as “just stuff going on.” Stuff that could never have happened expect at that time in history. (wonderful how the current technology allows my gernation of boring old farts to use the internet, while the B.O.F’s of my childhood had to be content with anyone within earshot of their park bench hearing what it was like trying to put a gas mask on a mule during an artillery barrage)

Then there’s the poignancy aspect. My parents were Depression babies, and the frugality of that time was strongly imprinted on them. But the defining era for them was the 1950’s, when they were in their early twenties.

When I myslef was in my early twenties, the defining issue was the Reagan Revolution, and if I was going to buy into it as many of my generation chose to, or remain pregressive and find some cultural current that opposed it without being the dead end Civil Rights/Anti-Vietnam War mindset that had been superseded by Reagan. My college teachers were all (somewhat fat & happy) carriers of that old Liberalism because it had been the defining issue of their twenties, and, just past them, recently retured but still talking, were progressives whose defining twenties were the Spanish Civil War and McCarthyism.

Okay, bear with me. I discovered another of those blogs where Gen-Xers discuss and analyze children’s and YA books of their youth. One of the books reviewed was Laura’s Luck, by Marilyn Sachs, and the blogger said, paraphrased, “It’s funny: when I was a kid, I didn’t realize it was set in WWII. I wouldn’t know it now, except there was one mention of President Roosevelt.” (And one of Eleanor, now that I remember, but she didn’t mention that.)

The thing is, though, LL was one of seven of Sachs’ books that took place in…I guess you’d call in the Stern/Ganzverse, and when I was a kid, I read all of them. Amy Moves In, Laura’s Luck and Amy and Laura were about Amy and Laura Stern. In A&L, Laura crossed paths with Veronica Ganz, the school bully, which led to Veronica Ganz, followed by Peter and Veronica, then by Marv, and finally a flash forward to the then-current early '70s with The Truth about Mary Rose, from the POV of Veronica’s daughter.

Sachs based AMI on her childhood in 1930s Brooklyn, and first submitted it in 1955, but it was turned down. Ten years later, she tried again, and since the references were now old enough to make it retro, it was accepted, and she forged on with the rest of the series. As a kid in the '70s, I was well aware that AMI, LL and A&L were set during the Depression, not wartime yet. Those books didn’t really hit you over the head with it, but it was there.

VG, on the other hand, gave a lot more attention to the strain that an economic downturn and an impending war put on a family. And I can pinpoint it as taking place in 1940 (two years after the action in AMI) because Veronica remembers that when she first met her now-stepfather, when she was five years old, he was wearing a New Deal pin and talking up FDR as a candidate. And now she’s 13, so that’s eight years on from 1932. I forget what the non-kid world was doing in P&V, but Marv was the one that specified that the war had started in Europe, and gosh, do you think the US might get involved? (It’s sadly amusing to watch three high-school boys scheme about how they could assassinate Hitler.) So Sachs definitely did not ignore the war; she acknowledged it when she’d moved far enough forward in the timeline.

I didn’t post about this on the blog, though. For one thing, the LL review was an old post, and I’m not going to reply to a post from last year just to post a correction, especially not as my first comment. Not a great way to introduce myself! If I become established there, I might post an “Oh, BTW…” comment. Or not, who knows. It’s just that, she gave her age, which is only seven years younger than me, and I found it astounding that she apparently didn’t know that FDR was prez for almost two full terms before the war even started in Europe, and was in his third term when we got dragged into it. So referencing him doesn’t automatically mean wartime.

Point is, as I said in the OP, this was so soon after the annual “Christmas Story takes place during WWII” “No it doesn’t” “Yes it does” back-and-forth, and several similar misconceptions I’ve heard in meatspace, I just had to start the thread.

(And just so you know, I don’t spend every minute of the day thinking about old books. That took many minutes to type, but only about five seconds to dredge up from my memory.)

(OFF TOPIC - the thing I liked about A Christmas Story is that it was all about the kid and his life. School. Friends. Family. A BB gun. They did NOT drag in hoboes riding the rails, the dustbowl, 1930’s musicals, or anything else depression related - or if it’s supposed to be WWII, we did not get storylines about the military, kids playing ‘war’, Dad’s war wound or Dad’s Letters from the Front, victory gardens, or god forbid an older brother about to go overseas. All kid’s POV, it didn’t MATTER exactly what decade, just set in the nostalgic PAST. Kids don’t care what’s going on. I lived through the Cuban missle crisis fighting off bullies in middle school, only heard about the big crisis decades later!)

I’m honestly not trying to be an asshole, but you could have explained the problem in about twenty words, or provided a link.

From what I can tell, you’re picking on a fairly honest mistake. Someone messing up the timeline or pinning one book in a series to the wrong year hardly counts as evidence our education system’s failing us.