Many of my grandparents’ oddities came from surviving the Great Depression. My grandfather had to quit high school in 11th grade to find work when his family made the trek from Frederika, Iowa to Great Falls, Montana. My grandfather, at age 16, was the only member of his family of five to find work; his job supported his siblings and his parents, and he was grateful for it. My great-grandmother, a young widow, held four jobs during the Depression to feed her three girls: she took in boarders, she was a baker, a seamstress, and a launderer to make ends meet. My grandmother recalled her “Depression meals” as bologna and pancakes shared with the boarders.
My grandparents had a modest income, yet on “payday,” my grandmother would travel to four different banks depositing a little money in each of them. When I suggested that we probably wasted more gas dollars driving to various banks than the amount of money she deposited, my grandmother, believing no banking system is too big to fail, said, “remember Tam, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” She did not believe the FDIC would protect their money, and after her death, we discovered she relied more on the linings of suitcases and jackets to hold their precious dollars than the four banks in town. My grandmother’s freezer was chocked full of “reduced for quick sale” meat and other clearance aisle foods. While unabashedly patriotic, my grandparents always waited for the economic shoe to drop, and preparation was the antidote to their fears.
My grandparents did not believe the government owed them economic security, mainly because they believed the government was filled with “crooks” (other than their heroes, JFK and FDR). They didn’t look to economic indicators to prepare for the worst because they were always ready for the worst. Many of us have been lulled into believing that the good fortunes of a strong economy will continue in perpetuity, so we aren’t prepared for the coming economic reality. But the signs are here. When stock market analysts can’t explain why the stock market is doing what it is doing, that’s a sign. The increasing gasoline prices, groceries, and lumber are an indicator that cannot be simply explained as COVID-19 supply chain disruption. Once the Biden Bucks are removed from the economy and the foreclosure and eviction moratoriums rescind, the economic reality that few have prepared for will hit. The federal government is broke, operating on deficit spending. Its tools to stave off inflation are limited. Despite these indicators, many believe the pillars of our economy are unwavering. I hope they are right. But I’m stocking up on the bologna and pancake mix just in case.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.
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