Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reading Labels on Jam Tins: Lessons from life in Depression Australia

I have just finished Reading Labels on Jam Tins, a social history by Bill Bunbury on life in Western Australia (my home state) in the early part of the 20th century.  

I found the section on the Great Depression particularly interesting in light of the current worldwide economic condition.

A sustenance camp, Harvey early 1930s

It is generally conceded that the Great Depression hit Australia harder than most countries, and perhaps Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia were more affected than most States in the Commonwealth.  Certainly, Australia's unemployment rate during the period was second only to Germany.  Western Australia suffered from a lack of economic diversity - farming was the mainstay of the West Australian economy and many were forced off their farms when wheat and wool prices collapsed.

 "The Depression etched itself on the faces, habits and minds of those who endured it; the cautious, thrifty behaviour of this generation often a source of amusement to the next one. 'Don't throw that away, son, you never know when it might come in handy.'

Their homes and garden sheds overflow with 'come in handies'.  These squirrel habits and a reluctance to be in any kind of debt are the abiding signs of the survivors, the marks of those who absorbed the painful lessons of the 1930s".

~Bill Bunbury, p. 152

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