Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression

by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

Story of hard times, high spirits on an Iowa farm during the great depression.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.70
  • Pages: 304
  • Publish Date: May 29th 2007 by Bantam
  • Isbn10: 0553804952
  • Isbn13: 9780553804959

What People Think about "Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression"

(And finally,) after a long Saturday night we would leave Aunt Belle's warm kitchen to exit into the bitter cold and trudge the three blocks up the icy sidewalks to Grandpa's house, singing with spirit: LIFE IS LIKE A MOUNTAIN RAILROAD WITH AN ENGINEER SO BRAVE - WE MUST MAKE THIS RUN SUCCESSFUL FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE!'" Now, isnt THAT kinda like the stuff our OWN most precious memories are made of? Youth is pretty sure of itself, and cant believe there are ever going to be tough times ahead - and its just so like these little heathens in the book, and me and my young ski buddies, to laugh uproariously into the Leaden Face of Fate! And though after that hard times may abound throughout our lives, if we just hang onto our dreams well make it safely to the end, just like the kids in this book. Hang on to your dreams, kids, however distant and difficult to see they may be - And they will give you back your Life in the end!

They were frugal and did not have much but that was the way of life for a large family on a farm depression or no depression.

But if you stick with this book through the dragging middle, you get to the best parts, the chapters called "animal tales," "raccoons and other critters," and "Me." She tells how they (the kids in her family) tamed raccoons; the raccoons slept in bed with them! Her chapter called "Me" is the best, as it has the most human interest, telling about her place in the family and community and how she eventually left, had a job in New York City, went to college, jointed the coast guard and got married, etc.

An outstanding memoir for a rural Iowa childhood in the 1930's. Even before the saying was coined, we knew that adults were in some ways the natural enemies of kids. And it's an after thought "oversight" to her wonderful and structured tale of the years when she was one of the "little kids" ("BIG kids" had other jobs, tasks, group rules and staggered allowances or permissions for fun) and also when bridging the "Big kid" jobs in both the dual 1/2 year lifestyle of either the "farm" or the "more in town" homestead of abode from just after Christmas to May. They lived from Jan. to May in one and from May to Dec. in the farmstead "out". For her ancestry, her siblings, her cousins, her aunts and uncles and in some ways- so poignant for her own self-identity and knowledge- all the hierarchy, the work and the morality structure. Chores were parts of living and took up hours and hours of every day's time. Kids all had chores for each part of every day. Not to mention that the cows milking and separation of milk (the milk separator's wash of removals/ reassembly / scalding being done every single day was a "minor" kids' chore), 3 meals from scratch garden produce (picking and cleaning in carried water before they got to the "house" was an everyday kids' chore) all the rest of the chickens'/livestock's feeding and care- needed to be done every single day. Or the other day to pick beans. Or the other day to pick beans. (Can you tell I spent too many days in the last few decades picking beans.) Or the day to gather dead wood and fell 50 footers that were on their way out anyway for winter's heating woodpile and splitting pile supply. Although I was 20 years later and not rural, I so remember nearly all that Millie does. All the chores and endless waiting on "customers"- my childhood was quite similar.

Mildred Kalish's memoir of life on a farm during the Depression is packed with fascinating experiences and observations. It evokes images and experiences of a very special time and place where families (including small children) worked together to ensure their livelihood, people lived in close and respectful relationship with nature, and thrift was a creative, responsible and matter-of-fact way of life.

I loved this book, and I hope all the people I gave it to as a Christmas present love it, too!

The old woman who wrote the book had a serious age-based superiority complex, and gets heavier and heavier on phrases like "these days, people don't know about..." or "today's Xs don't even compare to what we had back then..." or "young people today don't understand hard work" etc etc.

One way to take the measure of community is to listen in on its use of language: the folksy sayings that knit us together, the colloquialisms that inform, guide, chastise, amuse, and entertain us." This quiet and quaint memoir was a lovely nod toward the "good old days" through the author's reminiscences of her childhood years on an Iowa farm. Anyone who grew up during that time period - or in a farming community or rural America - will surely identify with Kalish's leisure stroll down memory lane. And it also brought to mind some anecdotes both the author and my elders were fond of saying: " Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without it." Throughout the book, Kalish includes a bevy of old hymns, popular song lyrics, recopies, tried-and-true remedies, and jokes too: "The females were keepers of cleanliness, sobriety, manners, morals, and decorum.

I think it is useful as a historical book, though.

My growing-up was influenced by the Great Depression and by the self-reliance and work ethic of my mothers parents themselves descendants of pioneers who never quite made it into the 20th Century. After my high school graduation, I earned an Elementary Teachers Certificate from Iowa State Teachers College at Cedar Falls. I. Bill, we both furthered our education at and graduated from the State University of Iowa (photo).