I was born in the middle of the Great Depression; I lost my mother at seven months in an auto accident. My dad was off to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work program that operated from 1933 to 1942, and then he was drafted for World War II.
I was raised by my grandparents, who had 10 kids of their own. Grandmother did the wash on a scrub board using octagon soap bars, cooked, was up to make my school lunch and saw that I was dressed in my best Sunday clothes for church.
On my first day of kindergarten, my grandmother walked me to Alamo School and then I was on my own. There was no worry of some nut kidnapping or abusing a kid. Doors and cars were left unlocked, and giving a stranger a ride was a nice thing to do.
During World War II, a lot of things were rationed. There was no packaged food. Chicken and turkeys where bought live — and you cleaned them. By today’s standards, most all of us kids were extremely poor, but we did not know it. Those were happy times.
We didn’t have Facebook. We understood that it wasn’t how many friends you have, but to how many people you were a friend.
There were no police in school. The teacher would notify the principal, if necessary, and you might get a paddle. If that did happen, you did not dare tell your parents lest you get another one.
It was a time where you weren’t concerned about what kind of salary you made. Instead, it was important not to compromise your character to get it.
Martin Luther King Jr. had it right when he said, “It’s not the color of your skin, but the content of your character.” King wanted equality, but I think he would agree that responsibility goes with it.
Is it responsible for people to live in expensive public housing that is much better than the homes of a great number of working and retired people who are paying the bills?
Immigrants are swarming across our border to take jobs as carpenters, cement workers, painters and roofers — all once honorable jobs held by our citizens. All the while millions of U.S. citizens are being paid not to work, and 20 percent of all households are collecting food stamps.
Our nation is at the point where there are more people in the wagon than there are pulling the wagon, yet we expand programs where school districts have food trucks that bring the meals to the students’ homes. These programs teach dependency instead of responsibility. The fact that the nation is borrowing $91 million every day to add to the nearly $18 trillion debt seems not to be a problem.
People back then didn’t say “I love you” — their actions showed it. My one regret is that my grandparents are not around, so I could tell them how much I loved them and that I appreciate them for teaching me the real values in life.
Jack Cross lives in Texas City.