A Nickel's Worth of Skim Milk What a great story! I chose this book because it stood out amongst the many novels of the Great Depression. A small book with about 150 pages, it fit snuggly between the towering novels of Harry S. Truman, and the likeable Teddy Roosevelt. What struck my attention was the sketched picture of a barefooted boy holding a pale. After reading this book, I felt in touch with my history and what it might have been like for me if I would have grown up during the Great Depression. I related to this story from the beginning and this is why.
The story begins prior to the Great Depression. Robert J. Hastings is the little boy writing this book. From a collection of memories, thoughts, letters found in the attic and interviews from various friends and family members, Robert quickly grabs you with his careful and precise illustrations of living in Illinois as a child.
The story describes growing up with few choices in life. Learning to survive on the basic necessities was pointed out in occasion after occasion. He details his family history, and how the coal mines essentially had the power to destroy any future of families by supplying quick and painful death to those who worked there long enough. He describes the years prior to the fateful crash of the stock market in 1929 and the years afterwards and what it took to survive.
I have to say that there was more that I liked about the book than disliked. As a matter of fact, I really can't say that I have any dislikes. I greatly enjoyed the fact that the Great Depression to this little boy was emphasized as being another day. Robert explains that prior to the Great Depression, his family still didn't have much, just the necessities. I enjoyed reading how his family triumphed. They worked with what they had, and not always trying to achieve what they wanted. I enjoyed the information of the book, and that it is presented as a view of a little boy and that the information is factual. I am now able to view the depression era as a way of life, and not just as an event. The story is well written, almost choreographed, through the years of hard ship for his family, leading well into the middle years of the century. I also liked the details of what Robert did to enjoy life. It makes me realize that my life is too complex. This book was written in 1972, and here is a quote from Robert Hastings.
" We can't impose yesterday on today. Each generation has its own problems. Learning to cope with material prosperity may just be as challenging as surviving a Depression" (147).
This story greatly has an impact on the way I think about the Great Depression and my ancestors that struggled to survive in the most devastating stock market crash in history.
Works Cited Hastings, Robert J. A Nickels Worth of Skim Milk. Carbondale: University Of Illinois, 1972.