Knowing Our Past, Guide to Your Future

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I am old enough to remember watching the nightly news with my parents as they re-played the most shocking news of the day, President Richard Nixon resigns as of noon the next day.

I once saw a sign on the fridge of a mother who was raising three boys. It said, “Please move out while you think you still know it all”. No truer words have ever been spoken about teenagers and relationships with parents. Somehow, teenagers, including this blogger feel like we have life figured out. Sadly, as you grow older you realize that you knew very little.

The Great Depression

It was the late 1920’s and into the 1930’s that the world fell into what is now called the Great Depression.

It was not just national it was global. In North America banks began to fail, people rushed to withdraw their money. This was before federal governments began to insure a person’s savings. Millions lost their jobs, men of great stature jumped from rooftops unable to cope with the sudden loss of wealth.

All across the nation people stood in line for a bowl of soup and maybe some bread and something to drink.

The Great Depression of the late 1920s and ’30s remains the longest and most severe economic downturn in modern history. Lasting almost 10 years (from late 1929 until about 1939) and affecting nearly every country in the world, it was marked by steep declines in industrial production and in prices (deflation), mass unemployment, banking panics, and sharp increases in rates of poverty and homelessness.

The stock market tanked and within minutes wealth was totally wiped out, many businesses and homeowners were left without any worth.

Before the great crash, just like today, the market was expanding breaking records almost daily.

By the end of the decade hundreds of millions of shares were being carried on margin, meaning that their purchase price was financed with loans to be repaid with profits generated from ever-increasing share prices. Once prices began their inevitable decline in October 1929, millions of overextended shareholders fell into a panic and rushed to liquidate their holdings, exacerbating the decline and engendering further panic. Between September and November, stock prices fell 33 percent. The result was a profound psychological shock and a loss of confidence in the economy among both consumers and businesses. Accordingly, consumer spending, especially on durable goods, and business investment were drastically curtailed, leading to reduced industrial output and job losses, which further reduced spending and investment.

Back in the late 1970’s President Jimmy Carter faced a serious dilemna. The energy crisis. There was a shortage of oil. I can recall seeing news reports across America of signs on gas stations, closed, no gas! President Carter urged everyone to cut back on the energy demands, asking Americans to turn down the thermostat in their homes..

Over in the middle east was turmoil when Arab nations decided to attack the Nation of Israel. America, jumped in to help Israel by supplying them with weapons. In response OPEC stepped up an embargo.

The embargo shocked the oil market and created a shortage in supply. The embargoed nations were able to get oil companies to sell them oil from other sources however, the mass confusion resulting from the normal supply translated into a sharp rise in prices. Oil traders and companies having to shift supply lines and resources lead to large transport and transaction costs which played into the already high price resulting from the shortage. Additionally, it took time to sort out new sources which meant the hole left by the embargo was not filled immediately.

University of Alberta- Energy Education

Foward 2007. Once again the world is on the brink of a major recession or a depression worst than the one in the previous century. Financial instutions began to falter, mortgages holders began to default. The market began to show signs of great weakness. Once again, people found themselves homeless, savings and 401k savings seem to disappear in a whisp of smoke.

Governments had to jump in passing bail outs for instutions deemed “to big to fail”. If you are old enough you will know that again many lost their means to a paycheck, businesses buckled, banks around America failed. It took years before America and the rest of the world saw any signs of daylight and a sense of relief. Everyone held their breath uncertain what the days ahead would reveal.

Your Past Is An Guide Post To Your Future

My heart goes out to those who are under the age of forty. For many of them it has been a time of feasting, not knowing what it is to famine, cutting back, not sure if tomorrow will be a solid footing.

I have had the great fortune of grandparents that educated me about those hard times that they lived through. About how they did not run to see a physician with every sniffle of the nose. They relied rather on home remedies, remedies that were passed down through the generations. During those days even in Canada there was no “universal health care”. Canada did not see the universal health care system until the middle of the 1960’s.

As a young child I have vivid memories of how my maternal grandparents always had a garden, lots of fruit trees and everything they grew was used, either by canning or freezing. It was these efforts that stretched the grocery budget so they could provide for their family. It was common to go when fruits and berries were in season and pick them to bring home and make preserves. Many of those traits were instilled in me. It was my grandmother that taught me to bake pies, can tomatoes and such. Up until a few years ago I even use to make my own bread. I no longer do so because of issues with my back and at the time my hip.

As a young boy into my early teenage years I worked in the fields, picking tomatoes and one year working in the corn fields detassling the corn. Later as I enter high school I always had some type of part time job. Whether it was baby sitting, mowing lawns in the summer, delivering the Penny Saver and even working in a paint factory on weekends during school and full time in the summer. My mother had one rule, I was to first buy all my needs for school, clothing, books, bus passes, and what was left I could spend it for anything else that I liked. That was the middle of the 1970;s. She once told me about how to manage a budget when living on my own. At the time she said, that your rent should equal one week’s pay. I imagine today that rule would not hold true.

So dear reader, once again it feels like the globe is teetering, feeling like it is on the edge of the precipice. There is a feeling once again of uncertainty. To those young readers of this post, knowing your past, will determine how you walk through your future! If your fortunate to have older generations, like grandparents, talk to them, ask questions, if nothing else use your libraries, stop using social media and learn the history of the civlized world.

Your past is your anchor!

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