Most of us did not live through the Great Depression, although some of our parents did.
My parents came of age in the 1930s. My father graduated from Canton High School in 1935. His own father died that spring, just weeks before my dad was to finish his high school career and head out to college.
But the unexpected death in a tough economic time ended my father's dreams of continuing his education and sent him into the work force at the age of 17. In those days that was not unusual.
Many young men were forced to abandon their plans for the reality of making a living. For my dad, he also needed to help support his mother.
Canton and Cherokee County seemed to have weathered the storm that was the Great Depression better than many communities across the South. And those states that were so decimated by the Civil War appeared to handle the hard times better than most.
Perhaps it was because in our state and our community people were already living close to the land, producing much of what they needed to sustain their families. They were frugal and used to getting by on what they had.
Most of them did not owe money to the bank. They didn't believe in it or perhaps they just never had the ability to borrow any. Or maybe there just wasn't a lot available to borrow anyway.
In the years leading up to the Great Depression, Cherokee County was experiencing a lot of growth. May of the buildings in downtown Canton, including the white marble courthouse, the School Board office that was once the cotton mill offices, the Cherokee Art Center, previously the Methodist Church and the old Baptist Church, now the City Hall, were all built in the last years of the 1920s.
Even the old Post Office that now houses the Canton Fire Department was built in those waning days of prosperity. After the economic devastation of the War Between the States and the brutal years of Reconstruction, finally it appeared that things were on the uptick.
Then, wham, the stock market collapsed, world markets spiraled downward, jobs were gone, banks were on life support and people had the collective wind knocked out of them.
It would be 15 years before the county began to recover.
Many in Cherokee County found a way to make a living during those years by looking around them and seizing the opportunities.
For some, like the Cline families in Waleska, a rolling store that visited the rural farms door-to-door selling supplies like sugar and salt helped both the merchant and the farmers.
For others such as W.B. Anderson and the Lawson family, growing chickens and taking them to Atlanta and even further to big cities to sell to those who could still afford to buy offered an entrepreneurial opportunity that laid the groundwork for the poultry industry in Cherokee County.
The banks in Cherokee County for the most part weathered the storm because of their legacy of conservative practices and the frugality and dependability of their customers, the hardy souls who helped build the county in the first place.
The Great Depression offered up opportunity to those strong enough and hard working enough to find it.
The hard times hammered boys into men sooner than they expected, leaving a lasting impression on them that sustained them and helped them attain more than perhaps they would have otherwise.
Sometimes adversity makes us better. That might be one lesson we can learn.
The other could be that as much as we want things to turn around quickly, reality might dictate otherwise. Instead of throwing caution to the wind each time things seem to be picking up, we need to keep a steady course.
And throughout, we need to remain optimistic and positive, looking for opportunities to thrive.
The other lesson that my father's generation learned was to help each other. We are all in this together. By reaching out to help others when their need is great, we can give back, and hopefully we our need is great someone will be there for us.
Neighbor helping neighbor. That's a nice thought.
Better days might be right around the corner, but even if they aren't by all working together, we can make it through.
Rebecca Johnston is former editor of The Cherokee Tribune.