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Peggy is a Psychology Instructor and administrator at Chemeketa Community College.

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3.19.2012

The Ground in Which We Were Planted

(Idaho Farm 1920's Wiki-commons)

You do not grow coconuts on the tundra.

The place and time from which we spring has great influence on who we will become. Charlotte was born on February 1 1925. near Riverside which was outside Greenleaf in the Treasure Valley of Idaho.

She was a child of pioneers. That is how her generation thought of themselves, and this in itself should not be underestimated. Their people were Quakers, come out from Kansas and Nebraska. They came intentionally. They wanted to up set up Quaker communities. They sought fertile fields both physically and spiritually. They found them.

The land was good, the water was adequate. They irrigated and grew wheat, alfalfa, corn, and clover. They built schools and churches. Hard work and good stewardship paid dividends. Their homes were simple, but comfortable. Homes had books. No one worked on Sundays, and you would have had to go a long ways to find someone to sell you a drink. But it would not have been hard to find a bed or a meal. People were hospitable and trusting.

Everyone worked hard. Quaker children did chores like all farm children with the interesting distinction of a certain gender neutrality, boys did dishes and girls worked in the barn. All the children studied and all were expected to finish High School and most expected to go to college. Pioneer parents liked to send their kids "back east."  William Penn College in Iowa was a favorite among Friends.

The pioneer children came to understand that there was a depression going on in the outside world, but they did not feel much of it personally. Their parents may have not had much cash, but there was plenty of food, and adequate clothing. If children had toys it was mostly because they made them. How else would it be?

When in the early thirties there came a wave of Okies and Arkies, the pioneer children had their first experience of poverty. Homes with dirt floors and children with shoes that had the toes cut out to accommodate growth. The  now elderly pioneer children that I have spoken to, admit that at first they felt a bit of superior. But they were also raised to be tender of conscience, and some of them developed a strong sense of social awareness. It was a social conscience dedicated to getting people an equal chance, leveling the playing field. Because if you did that - then surely hard work and good stewardship would supply the rest. A man might be poor because he was a drunkard, but not a drunkard because he was poor.

The well nourished, hard working, educated pioneer children believed these things. Because they had no experiential reason not to. They grew strong, and they grew straight and they were hopeful.

.

Comments:
From Ethan Friend

All in all, i'm finding this stuff fascinating, and I find the point behind this post very important--we really can't understand any person out of their context.

I find myself wondering where the statement near the end of the post--that a man may be poor because he is a drunkard, but not a drunkard because he is poor--came from; is this a common statement from the time, or something Charlotte believed, or a statement you're making yourself?

In any case it isn't true. Historically speaking, the poor have always been more prone to excessive drinking, not because they were immoral or made poor choices so much as because they were poor, had few ways to cope with their circumstances, and whisky was cheap.

Still, I look forward to learning more about Charlotte. I also fully intend to get back to actually reading your posts again...been away for a while.

Blessed be.
 
Thanks Ethan,

This is one Charlotte's story. Not a general history.

The comment is one from one of my interviews with one of Charlotte's peers. But it is a common thread through the early temperance movement. That if you got rid of the drinking that you could get rid of the poverty.

The temperance movement was a social justice movement. It was a women's and children's rights movement.

We have found this not to be true, of course, but this generation, in this place, believed as obvious fact.

And it was experientially true in their households that sobriety and hard work were obvious blessings.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned. and remember that you are looking into a window of time and place.
 
Most assuredly understood and agreed. Just seeking clarity on where that came from. Eager to read the next installment.
 
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