I’ve been getting lost in old photo collections, including this one of the Cornett family series (921 photos) shot in Kentucky in 1972 by William Gedney (duke.edu…). Maybe this kid was hoping he’d get a square meal if he fixed one of the many elderly Chevies the family was fond of. Here’s a couple more:
It’s easy to forget that unlike many other countries, cars were always a lot more accessible to those of modest means than other luxuries of life, like hot running water.
Father teaching the sons how to best deal with those damn GM starters…the obesity crisis certainly hadn’t started yet here.
Plenty of cars to keep busy with…
Wow, kid needs a good hot meal. (In the top picture anyway.)
You could change the oil in a few of those suckers without jackstands, I’ll say that. (At least if you were as skinny as those folks were.)
First time poster. The cornett family has been featured on shorpy blog several times. If you go there and do a search you will find many more pictures. My mother is the same age as the cornnett children and grew up in similar conditions. The good old days really stunk. No electricity or running water. Today’s poor live like kings.
Thanks for your comment, and a very true one. What’s interesting to me is that certain basic aspects of middle-class life in the US haven’t changed that dramatically, but it sure has for the poor.
In so many of these pictures the sheer basic challenges of life, as well as the boredom too, are all too obvious. It’s good to appreciate how far we’ve come, even though there’s always further to go.
Lost in much of the “1% vs 99%” debate recently is that even those in relatively low percentiles of income in this country are likely to rank fairly high on an international basis in terms of actual lifestyle–for example, drinking water in the US can generally be assumed to be safe, electricity is very reliable and nearly everyone who has some form of shelter has it, and although food-insecurity statistics right now are worrisome by our own standards, we are light years beyond many parts of the world–not everyone has proper nutrition but almost no one actually starves to death. (But enough of heading off on tangents.)
The last picture has a Corvan in the background.
…and a 65 Ford It looks like, or is that a 66…hmmm
That’s a ’66 Ford. The headlight bucket is a little different between ’65 and ’66.
Looks like a 1965 Ford. You can do an extreme blow-up of the picture and see that it has the ’65 grille.
Speaking of the obesity crisis,Paul,did you hear that NHTSA has been asked to make the crash-test dummies fatter? Seems the current dummies “survive” their tests,but in the real (read fat) world Joe Jellydonut gets creamed (pun intended) when involved in a mishap.
The tendency to wear no shirt with long pants is interesting.
My guess is that there are photos of my dad somewhere dressed much the same way–he grew up on a tobacco farm in rural Tennessee, and although his family wasn’t poor by any means, boys were expected to work on the farm when not in school, and jeans and no shirt was standard dress for much of that time.
My grandfather immigrated from Italy and loved to tend his vegetable gardens, especially after he retired from the steel mill in Pittsburgh. In the summertime, he went shirtless outside but always wore long pants – worn-out dress pants if I recall, not jeans. I never remember him wearing shorts.
The scary part is that, if you cleaned up the men, and gave them a better haircut, they could serve as models for many high-end fashion magazines today.
I had a similar thought. Life is full of endless little ironies.
Ha! That skinny kid looked just like me, I would have loved to have a 63 Chevy to work under at that age.
I never got the GM starter lesson from my father, he had his car serviced at Joes Garage so I followed around my automotively inclined neighbors and uncles.
Dad and his brothers and one sister were Depression-era kids in rural Nebraska and if it walked, ran, flew, swam or whatever and not patently inedible it was considered a potential meal.
He told of the scarcity of free-roaming cats, dogs and other critters ans that treks into the surrounding countryside were common.
Trapping, using nets on the Missouri River and “trot-lines” with multiple hooks left unattended and returned to later hoping catfish had bitten awaiting retrieval were “par for the course.”
I wonder if the skinniness of the pictured folk may be due to constant walking in search of vittles.
The pics of my kinfolk reveal a lack of fat but not the skinniness shown in the above pics.
Another consideration is genetic. My ancestors were the byproducts of Germans, Irish, Danish and who knows what else may have slipped into the fray.
Thus, by the era of my old man and his generation we were I label as “calico.”
The general Scotch-Irish that settled the hills and hollers of Appalachia with some wandering west to the Ozark Plateau have a tendency towards “wiryness” likely due to several generations of dietary deficiencies traced back to events within the British Empire and the nearby countries harmed by British exploitation.
The Missouri River flooded and one of the kinfolk, lacking funds for gas, pushed the Model A under a BIG tree and used a block-and-tackle and hoisted it aloft above the anticipated flood waters.
The shanty was evacuated and the clan present took shelter in the dug-pout cave in the river bluff.
When the flood waters receded they cleaned out the hovel and went back.
The CCC camps greatly assisted the young menfolk in many ways.
We need something similar today to assist a horde of younguns needing jobs, guidance and a feeling of being and told they are useful/wanted/needed; especially inner-city etc. youth.
What is often overlooked today in measuring poverty is the dramatic shift from production work to service work and how it has resulted in an entirely different sort of poverty. When these photos were taken, low-skilled production work, harnessed to productive machinery, could mean good wages. Today, low-skilled work in services means minimum wage. Back then, 80% of the American work force was engaged in some form of production or in the sale of what was produced. Today, 80% of all paid work is in services. Back then, material goods including food were almost entirely produced in this country and represented the great bulk of the family budget. Today, the bulk of family expenditures is on services, many produced by high paid professionals. Material goods, including food, are produced by low wage workers overseas or by undocumented labor.
The result is that today the poor seem to be materially rich, as well as grossly fat, compared to the past, but are in fact highly in debt to the managers, bureaucrats and professionals. Trickle-down has been replaced with trickle-up.
I spy with my little eyes a Corvair Greenbrier van in the last picture.
This looks like the mid 1960’s when I was living in Rural new England ~ the cars were of course older but we looked the same , more folks had electricity and telephones , cars than did indoor plumbing .
Hard times but very good teaching for me ~ I don’t expect a hand from anyone , got what I have on my own .
Nothing like hard scrabble Farming to learn to fix machinery .
Scots – Irish here too .