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Didn't Know We Were Poor

Catherine C. Brooks (Author)

ISBN: 0-7414-4209-4 ©2007
Price: $14.95
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 230 pages
Category/Subject: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs

A love story that shows my family’s struggle through the turbulence of the Great Depression With hard work and faith, everyone had sufficient food but shelter was questionable. Others’ experiences add spice.

Didn’t Know We Were Poor begins in 1922. Maywood Callis yearned to date the attractive Grace Richardson. Courtship led to marriage and afterward the couple purchased a nineteenth century homestead, where I was born. Then, the stock market crashed after my sister’s birth. Daddy made his livelihood on the Bay and by 1932, seafood industries weren’t. We never hungered but house payments lagged. Would we lose our home? Mamma prayed and acted on impulse to save her family from failure. We children never knew the true circumstances; however, I wondered why. Stories from many states add spice to the tales.

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Customer Reviews

  Truly What Life Was Like for Many , 08/28/2007
Reviewer: Sara
Following World War I, technology leaped forward. It sent out economic and social ripples that rocked the boat of wants and needs of rural Americans, even in Mathews. In her second book, Didn’t Know We Were Poor, Catherine C. Brooks, who represents that 15 percent of the population over 60, describes the period when cars and electricity appeared, when radios broadcast distant news and advertisements told housewives about products that would make their lives modern. It was slow coming to Mathews, and you can feel it in the tense spaces between her words. Her father was a hard worker, but the hard work of oystering couldn’t support his family. In a pure voice that rings with the sincerity of an old friend and the enthusiasm of a storyteller, Catherine’s story is richly told. To Baby Boomers with Mathews’ roots, Catherine has given us a gift. It is the story that our parents never told us or that we didn’t want to hear: about living without running water and walking to school in all kinds of weather. Parts of her story touch us because we had a father or grandfather who went to sea, a mother or a grandmother who lost a love or fell in love. Richardson's Drug Store or Foster’s Department Store were places we visited with Grandma. Catherine tells us the stories she heard and that she remembers about her parents, Maywood and Grace Callis, and her early years. Catherine describes their everyday life in the 1920s included such things as hog killings and the hot work of meat preparation and preservation. They walk miles at a time to see the doctor, to go to school or church, or to visit friends. (Readers of her first book, Walk With Me, learned how walkable distances created Mathews post offices, stores, and communities.) I was especially tired after reading the section “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.” A thorough cleaning of every room on a weekly basis was combined with darning holes in clothing, cleaning the lamp chimneys and trimming the wicks, washing clothes in the outdoor washtub, as well as catching, picking, churning, peeling, shelling and cleaning dinner – which gives a whole new meaning to cooking “from scratch.” While Grace was busy homemaking, Maywood was oystering, fishing pound nets, feeding the cows and chickens, planting and plowing the fields, and repairing the shingles or fence. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book, when Catherine’s story is more of a memoir and her “Mathews voice” shines. Many readers will enjoy references to Popeye and “Peter and Peggy” readers, Herbert Hoover and May Day. Her stories of losing a special school lunch and being tossed by an incoming wave reverberate, because everyone of a certain age can relate. In the 1930s, Catherine got a taste of city life when visiting relatives. She describes her amazement at this other-worldly place where there was an abundance of things, but no farm to supply them. Back in Mathews, visiting a friend with less, she realized how blessed her family was. Her tenth birthday party celebrates a time when homemade ice cream, a little bit of crepe paper, and word games were all that were needed to create lifelong memories. Stories from Catherine’s adolescence, her school days and friends, and her relationship with her sister, Barbara, are filled with descriptions and emotions that make good reading. The day mothers and children piled into the car and went to the Washington Zoo is a priceless bit of memorabilia. When you finish this book, you’ll yearn for Catherine’s all time favorite meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Yum. Catherine tells us that she hasn’t stopped writing and invites her neighbors to share their stories with her as she writes a next book about Mathews during World War II. Catherine can’t stop writing, we can be sure of that. A good student, Catherine began writing to pen pals and then writing to her fiancé, Elwood K. Brooks Jr., during the two years that he was away in the Navy. Later, she took correspondence courses from Moody Bible College. But it was hard to keep up. The Brookses had electricity, but no running water and it took time to keep house and raise children. As her husband and she built their business, The Craftsman Shop, there was little time to write. After her husband died in 1973, Catherine began to take correspondence courses again. She was determined to improve and enjoyed attending writers conferences. A positive attitude, curiosity, and a work ethic inspired by growing up in the age that didn’t know it was poor drive her work and her words.

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  Didn't Know We Were Poor , 03/04/2017
Reviewer: Ben Callis
Catherine has written some interesting books about early life in Mathews, VA. She and I are cousins, but I live in N. California. We correspond. Catherine is an excellent story teller and she has an excellent memory.

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