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A massive global recession is looming. These nonagenarians have some sound advice

Roderick Deon, 99, and Frances Deon, 91, have advice for those of us facing our first global recession

 CBC, Posted: Jul 26, 2020

Roderick and Frances Deon say consider bartering, gardening and foraging.  (Submitted by Andie Bulman)

The mother of all recessions seems to be looming. 

In May, the national unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent — the single highest level in four decades of data collection. Meanwhile, the Canadian government is predicting a historic deficit for 2020-21, stock markets have been bouncing up and down since March, and Newfoundland and Labrador is teetering on the knife edge of bankruptcy, with even more grim figures released in a fiscal update by Finance Minister Tom Osborne on Friday. 

Ignoring the grim statistics, the human impact of this upcoming recession can be measured in the thousands of out-of-work folks writing frenzied cover letters, stressing about mortgages, and wondering when life will return to normal. 

Of course, none of this is new. Generations who came before have suffered through the Great Depression, war-rationing, the collapse of the cod industry, and the more recent global recession of 2008 brought on by the housing market crash and greedy banks.

Roderick and Frances Deon on their wedding day. (Submitted by Andie Bulman)

In fact, Roderick Deon, 99, and his wife, Frances Deon, 91, have lived through all of the above (and more: Roderick also survived the landing of Normandy on D-Day). They have some advice for those of us facing our first global recession. 

Barter, garden and forage

First, consider bartering, gardening and foraging. 

Mr. Deon stressed that it was impossible to find work during the ’30s, so his father would exchange carpentry work for store credit. His mother was a talented hat maker, and she would make “chapeaux” out of scrap fabric for ladies in the community. Everyone traded via their skill sets.

The family also grew potatoes, turnips, carrots and cabbages. They raised a pig each year that they would butcher in the fall. Foraging for blueberries was common, but they would also pick blueberries (and apples) to sell. And booze?

“We would go to the fields and pick wild sarsaparilla with my father. He used to make wine with it.”

Rethink your grocery list

Second, Mrs. Deon would remind you that meals don’t need meat. She stayed at home during the Second World War, while Roderick was in the navy, when rations and food stamps were exchanged for food. Most meat was sent to soldiers at the front, so her daily meals revolved around pasta, rice and a lot of pea soup. 

“I don’t think we missed [meat],” she said. “We were OK. I never remember feeling hungry.”

Fish was more readily available and that remains her preference.

Do it yourself

Next, Mr. Deon recommends you make things yourself, wasting nothing.

“Everything was homemade. You took care of what you did have. We repaired things and reused them. You couldn’t just go to a store.”

Old fabric scraps were turned into matted rugs, quilts, and blankets to keep the cold out. His father performed all sorts of repair work.

Generations who came before have suffered through the Great Depression, war-rationing, the collapse of the cod industry, and the more recent global recession of 2008 brought on by the housing market crash and greedy banks, writes Andie Bulman. (Submitted by Andie Bulman)

Mrs. Deon stresses you can make perfectly good desserts without butter, eggs, or sugar. 

“During the war, sugar was rationed, but sometimes folks in the community wouldn’t use their sugar rations and would give them away instead. Besides that, we learned to make perfectly good cakes without much sugar or butter.”

Connect with your community

Her mother would sometimes make tomato soup cake and had other recipes that could turn a little into a lot. Frances also learned to enjoy tea without sugar, and every generation of her family to follow has taken their tea black. 

Despite the hardships, Mrs. Deon remembers a great sense of community and kindness.

“The farmers in our town would pop in for a visit and ask, ‘Do you need anything?’ The hard times didn’t stop anyone from looking out for each other. I hope people remember to be kind now. “

Finally, Mrs. Deon fondly recalled Roderick’s father saying, “Put your vacuum cleaner down and have a drink of brandy.”

She used to laugh at the request, but now admits, “It was good advice.”

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