Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Dining Room Depression

Takes place in 2075

Henry Johnson was usually a polite, young boy. There is only one time I can remember where he lost his behavior, when his family had its "Dining room Depression."

It all started back in the years 1974 and 75, which was about 100 years ago. It was the time when they had moving vehicles called "cars". They were run by gas, which is a form of oil in which we ran out of about 50 years ago. Well anyway, one day Henry's father came home and was very angry because he had just lost his job, he screamed out to Henry's mother that she better cut down on the use of food so they don't run out.

But alas, Henry's mother had cooked up a $50.00 meal and thought that since she had $20.00 left that she would ask her husband if he could give her some more.

She asked Henry's father if he was given any money when he was fired but in those days the factory that he was working at couldn't afford to do that so they had $20.00 to survive on until he got a new job.

In those times it was almost impossible to get a job so Mr. Johnson tried and tried to find a job. His family was now living on $5.00.

At the end of the 4th month, the family was nearly starving. A dinner or meal may consist of 1 piece of bread. Henry's mother has gotten Henry to go to friend's houses after school and steal food.

Near the end of the 5th month, Henry was crashing parties and shoplifting with his mother. Henry's father had recently died of starvation because they didn't go to any public health building because they were ashamed.

In the middle of the 5th month, Henry and his mother walked to the country. There they were lavishing apples and raw corn to live.

In the middle of June, the 7th month of the Dining room Depression, Henry's mother died of malnutrition.

Henry, soon after the 10th month, turned himself into the public health office. And that ended the dining room depression.

The end


This must have been written earlier. This story is in cursive writing, and the story being placed in the 1974-75, makes me believe that I wrote this at that time. I was twelve years old, during that school year. Must have been between 7th and 8th grade.

This story is filled with the oil crisis of the 1970s. The metro bus companies cut service. People talked a lot about oil conservation. There was a lot of shouting done by me from atop the rock in the front yard. "Get a horse!" - as opposed to driving a car - shouted to passing cars. My parents nagged us to turn off the lights when we left rooms. That still makes sense!

In elementary school, I never wondered about other people's families. I was too busy bragging about my own. This story shows some understanding about blue class workers. In 1976, South St. Paul boasted that it was the largest stockyards in the world, it closed in 2008. When the wind was blowing up the bluffs, my walk to school was filled with dread, and what I imagined was going on down there next to the river. Yuck!

My best friend in junior high school lived just up the bluff overlooking the river. I liked to bike down to her house. Her brother was super cute - and her house was larger than mine - larger - because it had three stories plus a basement! The bathroom in her house was massive - it was larger than my own bedroom. It had ceramic tile floor - the little white hexagons that were popular in the early 1900s. My own house in Minneapolis had the same floor, it reminded me of BF Colleen.

The bathroom had a claw foot bathtub. I had only seen such a thing in books. I was amazed. Any way, back to why I was talking about Colleen in the first place. Her dad worked at the stockyards. She said her dad killed the cattle all day long. Shudder. I could not imagine such a life. It was so foreign to my existence. She was so wonderful. I loved her. I did something to lose her as a friend in the following years. She wouldn't look me in the eye. I still wonder what I did.

My family attended church in Minneapolis at St. Stephen's during this period. I remember having my first sip of coffee after service, sneaking in line for communion, and the family of naked hippie children that played in the yard across the street. It was shocking.

These must be the things that play into the ideas behind the tragic Dining Room Depression story above. Very sad. Poor Henry Johnson, if only his mother hadn't made such a lavish meal the day her husband lost his job...

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