Friday, August 14, 2015

The cedar chest (music break 6)

This is my great grandparent's cedar chest.

I've shared it before, but not the story behind it.

(Although, some of you might remember it from my last blog.)

That chest up there just happens to have been where they stored their money.

You see, my great grandfather didn't trust the banks, because they weren't insured. Back then, if you put money in them it didn't necessarily mean that you'd be able to get your money back out. This didn't change until the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp) was created by the banking act in 1933. You can read more about that 'here'.

Because of his mistrust, the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression didn't affect them as much and he was able to keep his business alive, and eventually sell it to their two sons, one of them being my grandfather. 

Also, during the Great Depression, my great grandmother, using some of that money, helped out her friends and neighbors by buying up some of the wares they were selling in order to survive. Now I'm the keeper of quite a few of those items and that seemingly plain old chest, that my great grandfather used to steer the course of history for my family.

I'm extremely grateful to him, for having the foresight not to trust the banks back then, but sadly, as we all know, a lot of people weren't as fortunate.

Here's an excerpt from :

The Great Depression (1929-39) was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. In the United States, the Great Depression began soon after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. Over the next several years, consumer spending and investment dropped, causing steep declines in industrial output and rising levels of unemployment as failing companies laid off workers. By 1933, when the Great Depression reached its nadir, some 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed. Though the relief and reform measures put into place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped lessen the worst effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the economy would not fully turn around until after 1939, when World War II kicked American industry into high gear.

For this music break I'm sharing two songs that embody that time period.

"Brother, Can you spare a dime?"

Music by Jay Gorney and lyrics by Yip Harburg.

Sung by Bing Crosby in 1932

You can read more about the history of this song 'here'. 


"Happy Day are Here Again"

Music by Milton Ager and lyrics by Jack Yellen.

Sung by Annette Hanshaw

The song eventually became the 1932 presidential campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and it's also associated with the repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Which is a whole other post for another time ;)



  1. I love the history behind family heirlooms! What a great story.

  2. What a gorgeous and sturdy chest! I love the stories behind these pieces of furniture that are left behind. Have a great weekend xx

  3. Good afternoon, Rue!

    This is so close to my heart because my father went through the Depression; he was already 54 when I was born, so on top of being a much older dad, he carried with him some of the sensibilities about living, earning, and saving due to the Depression. I remember so clearly how the rest of the family, much younger uncles and aunts could never quite understand his habits...but I did.

    Great looking chest!

  4. I love your posts, I feel like I always learn something, you smartypants! ;) AND I just noticed the Michael Lee West quote in your sidebar about whimsey and I love it! I imagine there's a bit of whimsey in your own home...or maybe more than a bit! xo

  5. What a beautiful story. I had a hope chest when I was 18 and wished I still had it. I gave it away thinking I would never get married. Three years after that I met the wonderful Man that I am married to now. In a couple of months we will be celebrating our 39 th anniversary.

  6. How neat! Love this story. I always enjoy your posts and usually learn something too! Have a lovely weekend.

  7. 'brother can you spare a dime' never ceases to reduce me to tears. it touches my very soul.
    and sung so poignantly and simply here by bing. who probably had been touched by it himself in his younger years.

    my father was 12 years old the year of the crash. and we all know. being raised by one who'd been through that ...
    well. he was a rock in my eyes. he had learned hard lessons. i felt safe with him and knew... whatever happened...whenever...
    i'd come out fine. he just emanated strength. it molded people like nothing else. it molded me too. through him.

    if they didn't fold... they came out wiser. and stronger. and he did. his mother was widowed when he was 9. three years before the 'crash.' no agencies helped anyone then. she worked day and night in a big city hospital. he took care of his brothers.
    even at 9 he sold newspapers to help feed him ... his mother and his two little brothers... age 6 and 3. amazing really.

    and for you to have that chest. aren't they beautiful in their simplicity? i have always loved them. and to know that yours has loving hands that touched it ... and belonged to you. to people in your blood and in your heart. oh rue.
    not lost on me. not lost at all. xoxo♥

  8. Rue, My mom was lucky that they lived in a dairy community in Wisconsin, Colby. So fortunately they were able to survive better than most. I always think of the dust bowls in the plains ( so terrible ) and WW 2, Pearl Harbor that helped our Country get out the Depression for the most part. I do know a few old folks ( and young ) keeping their money out the banks regardless. Or exchanging the currency to gold or silver. Great post about your family and heirlooms. My sister will inherit our moms cedar chest. Kathleen in Az

    1. Your mother was lucky to live on a dairy farm. So many people suffered...


  9. A beautiful chest, Rue. Can you tell anything about who made it? It is wonderful that so many family stories were passed down to you. The Depression made strong men and women in my parents' families too.

    I watched the PBS series on the Roosevelt family and it really portrayed those times and how it affected people. The music was so born of that time,

    I'm glad you have that chest and the stories, Rue.

  10. Rue, your great grandparent's cedar chest is gorgeous, and what a treasure it is for you. I haven't heard "Happy Days Are Here Again" in such a long time. It's a cheerful song, for sure.......and it sounds like a song of hope.

    Have a very nice weekend.


  11. I love this story and that cedar chest. I have a cedar chest I am going to fill and give to my grand daughter when she marries. I hope she will treasure it as you do your grandparent's chest. Love the music break...always!

    Grace & Peace

  12. Though it is sad, your words are so beautiful. The chest is beautiful, and I'm so glad you have these things to remind you of your loved ones!

  13. What a beautiful chest and a cool story to go with it! I love pieces with history and that definitely has one.

  14. Remembering is a wonderful thing! I was with a friend today and were discussing things from the past. I miss having coffee late at night and was able to go fast asleep.

  15. It is an absolutely beautiful chest, Rue, as is the story behind it! It's a very nice thing to have these heirlooms to remind us of our heritage! Have a lovely weekend! xo, Christine

  16. What a beautiful chest and a wonderful story to go with it. Nothing makes a house a home more than a treasured piece with family history.

  17. The chest is a beautiful piece, and I love a piece in which it's history is known with an interesting story! Makes it richer... no pun intended! :) Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! ~Rhonda

  18. The chest is a beautiful piece, and I love a piece in which it's history is known with an interesting story! Makes it richer... no pun intended! :) Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! ~Rhonda

  19. Great story to go with a great chest. I hope you are sharing the stories with your children and that they understand how important it is to keep the history alive. Love it when you post things like this.

  20. Wonderful post, Rue.

    I finally knew some of the songs too - songs I haven't heard in years and years.

    I told you my eldest daughter listens to 30s and 40s music all the time, right?

    I told her about your blog - and how she'd love it. You two would get along perfectly.

    She, my husband and I went to a Hanger Dance a few years back - an awesome Big Band was there, and lots of old timers/veterans. She was the Most Authentically Dressed contest - I may have told you that on your old blog - but so many of the vets came up to her with tears in their eyes saying "Oh, honey, you bring us right back. You look just right!"

    So many of them asked her to dance, and she told them she was just learning how. They assured her to just let them lead and all would be well. I was an amazing night and I shall never forget it.

    We weren't halfway home and she asked my husband to pull into a gas station, she just had to lose her undergarment, was killing her. LOL. Every stitch she had on was vintage and most was comfortable, but not that girdle thing. Haha.

  21. I love old chests and am lucky enough to have a couple of them. They hold such great stories! Yours are lovey! I am a fellow big band music lover! My mother raised me on these songs and her stories, and those of my grandparents, about the Depression are dear to me. It is a time in history that fascinates me.

  22. I love old chests and am lucky enough to have a couple of them. They hold such great stories! Yours are lovey! I am a fellow big band music lover! My mother raised me on these songs and her stories, and those of my grandparents, about the Depression are dear to me. It is a time in history that fascinates me.

  23. I so enjoy the stories behind your treasures. When I walk through antique stores and see these beautiful items, I often wonder who had them, what they used the piece for, how did they arrange it in their home. Everything has a story and I think it is so wonderful that you have so many stories floating throughout your beautiful home! Thank you so much for sharing them with us! Hugs!!

  24. I enjoyed your story - ....i had my mom's cedar chest and I, for the life of me, don't know where it disappeared to - we moved several times since I had possession and I need to find it! Hoping I get it to my niece. Normally my memory is really really good - but I can't figure this one out...

  25. A great story to go with that great cedar chest. I have my mother-in-laws chest. I love it.

  26. Great story Rue-I have my grandmother chest too-she called it her Hope chest and then it became mine.

  27. The chest is very beautiful, and it is wonderful that the story has been passed on. xoxo Su

  28. That chest is beautiful, and super story too.

    All the best Jan

  29. That chest is beautiful, and super story too.

    All the best Jan

  30. I do remember this beautiful chest from your old blog, Rue! I'm glad you kept it in your move. I also have an old "chest" -- more a big wooden box --that my husband's family packed up all their belongings into when they immigrated from the late 1950's. My husband was a child when they came to this country. The box came by ship but the family flew into NY. I painted and stenciled the box many years ago and keep it as a blanket box at the end of my bed. It's nothing fancy but to us it is a family heirloom that reminds us what a wonderful country this is!


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