“That Was Gutsy”: 30 Old People Share What Life Was Like For Their Grandparents

Grandparents can be a rich well of experience and knowledge, as well as a great way to see into an older world from people who were actually there. But we often overlook the fact that our grandparents had their own grandma and grandpa.

So one netizen asked older netizens to share stories about their own grandparents and they delivered. So get comfortable, perhaps in a rocking chair for effect, upvote your favorite stories, and be sure to comment your thoughts and experiences below. We also got in touch with integrative counselor, coach, and neuroscientist Bobbi Banks to learn more about how experiences affect us. 

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My grandmother was born in 1912 and her family had money, all lost in the Great Depression. She married a meat manager for a grocery store chain who made a modest salary but meat was always on the table. She was very creative and could make a home look beautiful and sophisticated with second hand items, her sewing machine and paint.

She never kept clutter or hoarded. I know times were very hard for her and her husband but what little she had she kept immaculate. Poverty made her generous- once she found two little baby dresses for a 25 cents. A downstairs neighbor also had a baby girl and when she saw the deal my grandmother got, she cried, because she didn’t have a penny to spare to buy baby clothing. My grandmother gave the lady one of the little dresses and the two women became lifelong friends.

My grandmother’s hobbies were reading- forever checking out books from the public library and art. She turned a back bedroom into an art studio.

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My grandparents were born in the 1880s never attended school and were basically illiterate. They ‘recognized’ words that they repeatedly saw, but couldn’t for example read a newspaper article. That said, they had incredible math skills, spoke other languages knew long poems and dozens of dirty limericks by heart.

My father’s father was a 6’ plus huge welder who always spoke about politics and made sailing ships in liquor bottles. He would let me pull the sting that hung out the bottle top making all the masts and sails stand up. He collected pencils and pens that were given out by businesses, and had cigar boxes full of them. My uncle inherited the boats in the bottles, but I lost track of him after he moved to Utah.

My father’s mom was a chubby, short tempered red head and the best baker who ever lit an oven. She made cheesecakes for fancy restaurants and diners.

My mother’s father was a short very fat black seal engineer for Colgate Palmolive who loved baseball and his hobby was making maple rocking chairs and potty seats for children. He also was a licensed barber, part-time in Hoboken,NJ and the shop had a lot of merchant sailors come in who paid with foreign money. He had cigar boxes filled with foreign bills and coins. My brother inherited his monies and sold them all to a collector.

My mother’s mother was a tall woman with a big space between her two front teeth who was addicted to TV game shows. She told me that watching the Concentration show taught her how to read. She LOVED Schaefer beer. Her icebox was full.

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My grandparents were all born before 1900. My dads parents moved many times during the depression. At one point they lived with 2 boys, 2 grandmothers, 2 uncles and 2 aunts plus the two of them. It was a full house. They did anything they could to get by. My mom’s family was more well off but her parents got divorced and my grandfather married his secretary, a flapper! It was a scandal. My grandma took off for California with her 4 children. I think that was gutsy.

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Many of the stories here cover how the poster’s grandparents’ life experiences growing up shaped them for the rest of their lives. The war, wars, and the great depression had a significant impact on how that generation saw everything from money to family. So Bored Panda got in touch with counselor, coach, and neuroscientist Bobbi Banks to learn more about how youth affects our mentality. 

“It’s a time when we start to establish our identity and how we fit into the world around us. Whether filled with positive or negative experiences, it’s a time of many firsts and emotionally charged memories. Strong emotions often equal strong memories, which explains why we often think of people from high school in the later stages of life.”


My paternal grandfather was very poor. My paternal grandmother had 3 children with him. When the oldest was 5, she left him. They didn’t see or hear from her again for 11 years. All the children ended up having a good relationship with her. My grandfather raised the 3 children with incredible work ethics. They were all hard workers and all died around Labor Day (different years).

My maternal grandfather was also very poor. It took him a long time to find a stable job. They didn’t have indoor plumbing until 1959.

With both my parents being from poor families it very much impacted them and how they raised their children. All four of my brothers are college graduates.

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My dad’s parents were from a small rural town in the mid-west US.. My grandma was a SAHM, even though she got her teaching degree. When a woman married she was expected to become a homemaker. My grandpa was a mailman. He eventually made assistant postmaster for the town. My grandpa loved to garden and grew prize winning gladiola’s. My grandma was a clean-a-holic. My grandma always watched The Edge Of Night on TV.

My mom’s parents lived in a bigger town in upstate NY. My grandma worked in dietary at a local school. My grandpa worked for the local gas and electric. My grandpa played the piano and the organ. He was part of a band that played at local restaurants. He played at my wedding reception! I was thrilled. My grandma was a strict German who made sure the back of my heels and behind my ears were clean after my bath. They loved to watch the Merv Griffin Show on TV.

Interesting the moments you remember!

Both families got through the depression whole. Thank heavens.

I feel honored to have been able to “know” my grandparents.

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My grandfather in Missouri was a very pro-union construction worker who worked CB units in Vietnam.

He was extremely racist, however, he burned down several homes in his rural area to stop black families from moving in near him or to help run them out of town. He was a proud member of the Klan and worked hard to raise me as a fellow racist.

It didn’t work, I grew up in another state and only 2 of my friends were white, the rest were Hispanic, Polynesian or black.

Once I learned of his extremist history in racism I stopped speaking to him and about 12 years later he died, and the world became a better place.

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“Apart from the general curiosity we all have, we check up on the people from our past who made us feel something. It’s often closely linked to what’s currently going on in our lives or perhaps something we’re missing, longing for, or even something we’re trying to heal from. Essentially, it stems from the desire to experience certain feelings again or to process painful memories which may have been triggered in our present,” she shared with Bored Panda.


maternal side

Grandma was a war bride from Germany, Grandpa was in the army, and an awful drunk, who thought nothing of knocking his wife or kids around, They finally divorced

Grandma went on to become a seamstress for Juvenal Hall, also taught sewing, she never remarried, but had a long term Boyfriend (C**p-pa) She died of Cancer when I was 13,

My Oma (Her mother) lived in her house until her passing… Oma was one of those women who could make a meal from anything! never threw anything away (More often not, we would stop on the way home to toss her Mystery meats (wrapped in Paper towels, then in foil, then secured with a rubber band. She would climb on the back of my Uncles motorcycle, Imagine a 88 year old woman doing this, LOVED to Dumpster dive, would have my uncle hoist her up and in …. Could cook like no bodies business!!! a running joke we have, to this day and she has been gone almost 30 years, One easter she cooked a beef roast and a pork roast, when asked, My uncle heard Poke me and Beat me….. it has been a joke ever since.

Grandpa, he remarried a few times, and out lived them, met his soul mate, but never married her, He stopped drinking, and while he wasnt the best grandpa, he was who he was, Agnes made him a better person, she passed first, from Cancer, he followed a year later, My mom, aunt, sisters and I were tasked with cleaning out the home…. they had so much stuff.. it covered a 1/4 acre yard and driveway, enough to fill 4-5 homes, so MUCH STUFF!!! I became the owner of her Christmas village, and have been adding to it, worst thing found was grandma and grandpas, “Toys” and homemade movies… EWWW NO we didnt check content, just gathered and dumped them in the dumpster….

Paternal side

They divorced before I was born,

Didnt know Grandpa much, except he like the ladies and the drink.

Grandma lived with us when I was a kid, She had Polio as a kid, and walked with a pronounced limp, She was the one who taught me how to crochet, and I have loved it ever since.

She died 2 years ago from Covid complications.

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All of my grandparents were marked by the Great Depression, above all else.

My maternal grandmother was born rich. Her father lost everything during the depression, even his house.

My maternal grandfather won an illegal lottery and foolishly bought a golf course with the winnings. Not too many people were playing golf in the ’30s, and he lost it. However, his BIL vouched for his mechanical skills and my grandfather became a mechanic for American Airlines.

My paternal grandparents were both poor Hispanics in New Mexico. My grandfather got a job with the Santa Fe Railroad, but in 1929, their town was wiped out by back to back floods and it wasn’t rebuilt. The Great Depression followed soon after, and my grandfather didn’t see steady work again until WWII.

All of my grandparents valued frugality above all else. My maternal grandmother kept the last tiny dregs of bar soap in a jar for future use. She gave me a hard time about it when my cousin and I bought fudge with our own money, given to us by our parents. My paternal grandfather gave my cousin a dressing down for wanting new shoelaces and told him that he could cut a piece off the hunk of leather in the barn and it would serve just as well.

We are all the product of our life experiences, and for my grandparents, at least, the big experience above all else, was the Depression.

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All 4 of my grandparents were 1st generation American and grew up during the great depression. There was a sense of frugality I remember that carried over to my parents, and even to me (to a lesser extent).

But their WW2 service and sacrifices is what amazes me the most.

My late great uncle was invited to the pentagon flag room shortly after the WW2 memorial opened in DC. I listened to a General list off all the decorations, clusters, and medals he had been awarded, and the reasons why. Later on the same pentagon folks arranged to have a pair of P51 Mustangs do a fly over at his burial.

“Greatest Generation” is no exaggeration. I feel small compared to them.

“The people who have had mainly positive memories may find themselves longing for the sense of belonging, connection, freedom, and acceptance they may have experienced, especially when they’re facing challenges or are feeling disconnected in the present. Revisiting such memories or reconnecting with those people in some way is an attempt to recapture the feelings or provide temporary relief.”


My grandmothers were born in 1879 and 1891, and both graduated from two-year colleges, called “normal” schools. Evidently they were teacher training schools. Both of them were busy ladies. One owned a post office in a remote part of the country. She went on to become an elected judge. I never met her, she was in a mental institution in her final years. One of her sons committed s*****e a couple years after she died. The other opened several successful businesses in the 20s and 30s. She lived until 1982. She was definitely the head of a matriarchy. She lost her only son in WWII, but her 3 daughters were all successful in their own ways. She was the life of the party. She was an extrovert who laughed a lot. She knew a few riffs and vamps on the piano, but I only heard her play at other people’s houses. She played with a lot of feeling, and it really sounded like “gay 90s” music. That’s what people did when they wanted to hear something new in her day. She was always busy at home, either gardening or fixing furniture — she did other stuff, but that’s what I remember. She had a bit of hoarding going on, but not excessive. One thing was a nice large covered container, which she kept stuffed with cash register tapes from the supermarket. I asked her why she was keeping them, and she said “there’s a contest”. That was good enough for me. She wasn’t into contests. She was into banking, and clipped a lot of supermarket coupons. She was a bit OCD. She would dress for the boardroom to go to the supermarket. Her car was a 1950 Chevy de Luxe, with an inch of wax. Oooh, that car smelled so good. She drove like a little old lady to the supermarket. Gets out, head down, all business, and attacks the store. After I can’t look at another magazine and am bored beyond belief, so I go looking for her, and there she is. Two or three items in her cart. A can in each hand, comparing the labels… I am exactly the same way when I’ve been smoking weed. My favorite picture of her is with my mother, out on the range in Idaho, shooting their .22s. She was dressed in a blazer jacket with an embroidered crest, like for business… wearing a babushka and those funky green sunglasses. She raised her kids on the frontier. We grew up around guns, and I’m conflicted, because I like to shoot, but don’t want to be associated with the politics.

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My grandfather was born in 1915. His parents were immigrants from Poland. When he graduated from high school, he spent time “out on the bum” as he called it. He hopped trains out East, traveling. He had a lot of stories that started “I was so hungry.” He told us about a fruit seller giving him a bunch of bananas for a nickel. He sat on a curb and ate them all.
He was a boxer, nicknamed Lefty )as he was left-handed).
He worked at a steel mill during WWII making steel used for submarines. When he retired, he would take money from the bank and stash it in his home. He didn’t trust banks. My uncle found $240,000 is his home hidden in coffee cans.
He was an alcoholic for many years and was difficult for my mom to deal with.

My other grandfather grew up Amish. He left the Amish community and lived as a Mennonite. He was a carpenter and had a small farm. We didn’t see him to often because he didn’t live close to us. I remember him being soft-spoken and kind.

My grandmothers passed away when I was very young. I don’t know much about them other than they were traditional (for the time) housewives.


My gramps was an Engineer for a railroad. He was also a master gardener and won many times in the contests, the ones where the old ladies go around and rate peoples yard.

My grams did nothing, I barely ever saw her not on her chair. Im pretty sure she cooked, I dont really remember.

They were always OLD, even though they were younger than I am in the days I remember them, they were old.

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“On the other hand, people who have had negative or traumatic experiences may also often recollect painful memories from high school and the people behind them. This can be a way of processing unresolved emotions, healing the wounds they carry, and seeking closure. Contemplating the challenging relationships of the past can also be a means of reaffirming their personal boundaries and ensuring they avoid repeating unhealthy patterns in their present and future interactions.”

“Ultimately, reminiscing about both positive and negative aspects of high school experiences can serve as a powerful catalyst for self-discovery and self-awareness. It allows us to confront our past selves, reflect on our vulnerabilities, and appreciate the lessons we learned along the way. By recognizing the connections between our past and present, we become better equipped to shape a more meaningful and fulfilling future.”


All grandparents born before 1905.

Paternal grandfather was one of the few people who did well during the depression. He was a chemical purchaser for a large company in San Francisco and received a lot of “gifts” from those hoping to sell him their products. Paternal grandmother was born in England and almost abandoned to an orphanage, but her mother met a man who was heading to the US, which changed their lives for the better. I remember my grandmother as having a good sense of humor and taking care of everyone in the neighborhood to be sure nobody went hungry if they were sick. She was also wicked smart and started investing after the great market crash, and her investments are about to finish funding a third generation of her descendants through college. They both died young (65 and 75) so my memory of them is hazy.

Maternal grandfather was a minister who knew five languages & was well educated, but took an oath of poverty. Stern to his children (my mother’s generation) but a lovely and kind man to me. Maternal grandmother only finished 3rd grade, and definitely had the depression-era frugality everyone else is mentioning, but that was deepened by their vow to live a simple life. They never lived in the US, but I visited them often in their country. I remember once when they visited us when I was about 12 years old, and grandma saw tuna on sale at the store for about 25 cents a can. She bought ten tins and put them in her suitcase to take back home with her on the plane, where tuna was much more expensive. It was the highlight of her trip, apparently, and the only souvenir she bought. Their congregation often brought them food and produce in lieu of money donations, so grandma did a lot of canning and preserves. In their old age, both took up painting, and I have oil paintings in my home that they created. They lived to be 98 and 102, and met all of their great-grandchildren. After they passed, my mother found love letters my grandfather had written to my grandmother – some when they were well into their 90s, so it was a lifelong passionate romance apparently.

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Actually, both of my parents were born before 1920. My grandmothers 1880s or 90s.

I don’t mean to whine, but having two parents, both raised by single mothers, fathers passed away, who were teenagers in the depression probably left a mark on me. I don’t waste anything (no it’s not hoarding. Who said that?) and am still pretty tight with money.

My grandmothers were both tough old broads. Very kind, but they didn’t really want to have much to do with little snot nosed kids, they had raised theirs. A lot of qualities but I think I define them by some quirky eating habits. My German grandma came from the Fatherland, grew up in Milwaukee. She used to keep her Limburger cheese on the ledge outside her bedroom window and make Limburger, Braunschweiger, onion and mustard sandwiches. She had very distinctive breath.

My Irish grandmother lived to 102. I remember when she was in her 90s finding her drinking PBR and watching professional wrestling. (she loved Gorgeous George) She had pulled out her dentures because they would get things stuck in them and was gumming peanuts.

I wish I had met my grandfathers, but they both died in the 1930s.

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All my grandparents are gone. But when they were here they loved to smoke, and drink scotch, and smoke and eat steaks cooked on the grill every weekend. And smoke. And drink scotch. And watch Lawrence Welk with scotch and a cigarette.

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Looking at many of these tales, we wanted to know if Bobbi felt that the period up to and including high school ultimately determines much of a person’s life. “Although high school plays a significant role in shaping our identity and values, I don’t believe it’s the sole determinant of future success or happiness. It’s only a chapter and luckily we are the authors of our life story. The past will always be a part of us but we shouldn’t forget that today’s actions also hold power in determining tomorrow’s reality.” If you want to find more of her work, Bobbi’s website can be found here, and her Instagram here


Raised by my grandparents both born in 1906. He worked 3 jobs a day for most of his life and she brought up 4 children. Talk was something that did not go on a lot because they were too busy. The stories they told me and the famous people he knew just blew me away. We had no hot water tank before my 15th birthday and the apt was heated by a coal pot belly stove. Ringer washing machine and ice box. Party line telephone. I was very sad when they passed.

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I didn’t know my paternal grandparents. My father had some kind of grudge against them so he didn’t speak to them for years. We visited one time. I remember he was some kind of contractor and we went to see him at a job site. He was screaming at his workers calling them dumb n*****s. Even as a little kid in the 60s I knew this was wrong. He saw me cringe when he said that and he looked at me and said “no, no this is how you have to treat them.” I met my grandmother during the same visit. They were divorced. I remember I sat at her kitchen table and she served me gumbo. It was good. There wasn‘t much conversation. That was the only time I met either of them.

We were closer to my moms parents since we lived close to them. We had Sunday dinner there just about every week. My grandfather was nice but I never really spent any time alone with him. Sometimes he would get a cigar box down out of the closet that had some pocket watches and coins. He said someday they would be mine. I never got them. He was in WW1 and almost lost his leg . He walked with a bad limp. My mom said when he got back from the war sometimes late at night her and her sisters would hear screaming. They ran into their parents bedroom and he would be on top of my grandma beating the s**t out of her. He had nightmares about the war and thought she was the enemy sneaking into the trenches to kill him. My mom said she would come down to breakfast and Grandma would be black and blue. She said that went on for years. My grandma was a big woman from Belgium. She was a great cook and her life was cleaning and cooking. When I stayed overnight at her house she would let me stay up late and watch wrestling with her. She drank beer and would comment on how the various wrestlers were cheaters or good guys. She would always say “Don’t tell your mom I let you watch this”.

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What a great question! both parents born in the 20s. Looking back, I can see a lot of ways they were scarred by the Great Depression and WW2. It showed more in things they didn’t say than in things they did say.

Grandparents on one side were part of the WW1 generation, grandparents on the other side were born during Reconstruction. I often wonder how the effects of those events might have affected their descendants.

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Grandparents born 1860-1880 depending. Always talked about the Depression, both grandfather’s fought in WWI. They came from big families-10 kids or more-raised on farms. Mothers side from Minnesota, fathers side from Missouri. Heard things like “working a team of horses for field work”, shucking corn, one room schools with one teacher for all grades, sharing a bed with many other siblings, still born births were a topic, as was life before cars. Funny stories of dirt roads turning to mud when it rained.

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My paternal grandmother was born in 1901, and my grandfather in 1893. They emigrated from Italy. My grandmother had 14 children, 12 survived to adulthood. She was really very old-school Italian. She had many health issues and was in and out of hospitals when I was young, I didn’t see her much, other than holidays and an occasional Sunday visit. My grandfather died before I was born. He was in the U.S. Cavalry during WWI and ran a fruit and vegetable stall at the local marketplace.

My maternal grandmother was born in 1906. She was a wonderful woman, who treated everyone the same, and with respect, and she demanded the same from her kids and grandkids as well She had a hard life, her father died when she was 14 and she had to go to work instead of high school. Learning was important to her, and she saved as a teen and bought a set of encyclopedias and said she read them all cover to cover. She registered to vote the day after women got the right, and never missed voting in an election. She was frugal, but not cheap, and she was very generous with her time. I was very close to her, as she lived a five minute walk from my house. I spent hours with her listening to her stories, while she cooked or was teaching me to sew. She passed in 1985, and I still miss her.
My maternal grandfather was born in 1900 and was a piece of work If he didn’t drink part of his pay on a Friday, he made decent money for the times. He was in the Navy from 1919-1921 and was stationed in Honolulu in what would become Pearl Harbor. He was a very cold person, and if things didn’t directly involve him, he didn’t care. He eventually stopped drinking in the 1950s, and although he was nicer, he still was cold. He had his own little den, and that’s where he spent most of his time.

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Only 2 were alive by the time I was born. One was mean as hell. The other married one mean as hell.

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My grand parents and great grand parents were all alive in my childhood. My great great grandfather fought in the civil war. My father was born in 1930, so right in the middle of a lot of s**t.
They never talked about it but I can tell you, they were seriously depressed.

As an adult, I can look back on them and just see how much their lives were affected by reconstruction, then the civil war then WW1 and then the great depression.
But they never spoke about it

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My maternal grandfathers family arrived on the coast of CT as ship builders in the early 1700’s they migrated eventually to western CT & eastern NY, a few gaining some wealth. My grandfathers direct family were laborers. One owned a diner. My grandfather, born 1905 left school in the 6th grade to go to work. He worked in hat factories, digging ditches and eventually as a school custodian.
He didn’t speak a lot. Lots of grunts. But he was extremely tolerant of his 10 grandkids. I grew up in a two family house and my maternal grandparents lived upstairs. That was the case with many neighborhood families.
My grandfather was my hero. He taught me carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, masonry & auto mechanics. He could build a house but could barely read or write.
There is a family story that in his late teens he rode in an old Indian motorcycle with a sidecar along with a buddy from Ct to Montreal and then headed west to Victoria BC before hitchhiking back home. I believe most of it.
He played a lot of penny poker & cribbage. And he was an avid fisherman.

My maternal grandmother was a housewife and later in life worked as a secretary. She said depression life was hard but she knew many others who had it much worse. We struggled but we managed was her saying. It being s small town neighborhood support was a priority. They shared and traded food, clothes and labor to help a neighbor.
My paternal grandparents died when my father was 13. Within about 6 weeks of each other.

Plus side of that two family house was an extra kitchen to raid and another tv to watch


Frugal, practical and tough. Those people grew up in the great depression and then served in WW2 and then worked to produce the greatest boom in prosperity the world has ever seen.

They weren’t called the Greatest Generation for nothing. I’m still a bit in awe of those people.

They were very closed off or discreet. It was next to impossible to get them to talk about their experiences. I think because they knew they couldn’t talk about the war without crying and their code did not permit tears. It’s too bad. I wish I could have learned more about their lives.


My mother’s father was born in Ontario, Canada in the 1890s. He was 19 and had $18 when he came to the states and worked as a dairy farm hand in northern New York. He was 36 when he owned his own farm and married my grandmother, who was 23. She had been a house maid at the farm he used to work at before he bought his own farm. My grandmother said the only thing they ever financed in their entire life was a milk machine. They had to make a payment on it every 3 months and it made her so nervous they never financed anything again. They lost their oldest child to pneumonia at age 2. They had my uncle, my mother, and then 2 aunts. People questioned the paternity of my younger aunt.

When my mother was in high school, she wore camisoles under sheer blouses while many of her classmates wore dresses made from feed bags. They were the first people in the township to own a television.

By the time my grandfather retired from farming he owned 3 farms. They sold them all and bought a house in town fully furnished with antiques. They also bought 3 houses in Kissimmee, Florida before Disney was built and were snowbirds for years while renting the 2 extra houses.

My grandfather never spoke much. He sat and smoke Dutch Masters cigars and looked out the window. My grandmother liked to talk about fairy tales, and make bird calls, crocheted, she talked about the Welsh in our ancestors made us “fey” or clairvoyant. She talked about washing dishes and standing them up in the cracks in the floorboards. She laughed a lot.


I’m 60, my mom is 89 and healthy.

Her mom is the only grandparent I really got to know as my parents were both young children in large families.

Mom’s dad died when she was in elementary school.

Dad’s parents died before I hit my teens (of diabetes related things) and lived too far away for frequent contact.

The grandmother I knew was so tired and worn out from abject poverty as a widow in a rural fishing community with declining fish stocks. Rum running may have been one way the community tried to get income but my grandpa died of TB from the bad conditions in prison when he was the one caught guarding the rum stash.

Grandma was kind, and loved having her grandchildren around (with 11 kids who lived to adulthood, and my mom the youngest, my brother and I were the last small kids in her life. She bribed us to visit with cookies as we detoured by her home on the walk home from school with my friends (grades K -5) but then we moved to a new community so I only saw my grandma on Saturdays when my mom would bring her grocery shopping and have Saturday lunch and supper with us,

Lovely lady, lived through financial trauma, and had many of her kids (or their partners) die before she did. She was tough to make it through hard times, but worn out.

Losing kids to WW2 was hard on her.


My grandmother was born in the 1890s. She was an immigrant servant, and ended up marrying the son of the family she worked for. It was an unhappy, bitter marriage. She had five children, and the family was very poor.

She kept her kids fed by growing a gigantic garden and canning everything for winter. She also kept a flock of chickens. She sewed a lot too. I have a memory of spending a week at her house alone, and she taught me to work in the garden, and feed the chickens and collect the eggs, and how to use the sewing machine. I was 6 or so.

We as children were expected to be obedient and respectful. We did what we were told, immediately. My grandparents were strict German people, and were not particularly affectionate. My grandmother liked me better than some of the other grandchildren, because I was quiet and biddable.

My grandmother loved soap operas. She called them her “stories”, and I frequently watched The Young and the Restless and As the World Turns with her.

She wore her hair braided, with the braids wrapped around her head in a crown style. She always had a little dog.

Looking back now, I’m amazed at how much she influenced me. My interests and hobbies are very much like hers.


I’m not an old person, but I have stories from my grandmother about her parents and grandparents.

Her father was born in 1901 in the Austro Hungarian empire. He was the 3 known child, youngest, and only boy. His family was dirt poor. Everyone was a serf who lived on land owned by a Duke. They would be up working from sunrise to sunset all day everyday. I think the way things worked was..you work for the Duke, you get paid very little or barely anything at all, but he allows you to live on his land. Kinda like slavery in a way. I guess back then they didn’t have any other options.

Sometime between 1905-1907 when he was a young boy, his father abandoned the family to go start a new family with a mistress. This action started what would end up being a 80 year grudge full of hatred and resentment towards his father.

But his grandfather stepped up. He was very close to his grandfather and loved him very much. His grandfather had worked himself up to a nice position with the Duke and was in charge of caring for all the horses the Duke owned. He wore a red uniform with gold buttons.

Shortly before WW1 broke out, the family had been making plans to get out of Europe and get to America for a better life. So how things worked was..the family would put together whatever money they had, send one family member to travel through Germany, buy a boat ticket, sail to America, get a job, and then somehow send the money back to Hungary. Then repeat the process one at a time until everyone was brought over. A lot of families were doing this as well.

Now..I was also told that some men when they would get to America, would decide to forget about their family back in Europe and start a new family and new life under a new name. This was always a risk but everyone was willing to take it.

Well, just about everyone had made it over but then WW1 broke out in 1914. Now it was just great grandfather and his grandfather left and it was great grandfather’s turn. Two days before he was supposed to leave, the Hungarian Army came on the land and seized all of the Duke’s horses and whatever else they could pillage from the Duke for the war effort. Then the next day, his grandfather suffered a stroke. Great grandfather was devastated and he didn’t want to leave his grandfather behind..but his grandfather ordered him and told him that he HAD to leave since they were not allowing boys over the age of I think 14 to leave and he was 13 at the time. The next morning his grandfather died but he had no time to grieve as he then had to then travel on horse and wagon through Germany with others to get to the boat.

His grandfather gave him his tobacco pipe to remember him shortly before he died. However on the ship ride to America, someone stole the pipe and it was never seen again.

His mother had taken up a boyfriend in America. However his mother was still legally married to the no show father who had left. But back in those days, having kids with different last names was super frowned upon in social stigma’s so his mother changed her last name to that of the boyfriend. His older sisters also changed the last name. However great grandpa refused because he was stubborn and said he wasn’t changing his name for no one. The boyfriend and his mother tried beating his resistance out of him for a long time but he stubbornly never gave in. This lead to resentment toward his mother and bitterness to his “step father”. Great grandpa was enrolled in school, but he couldn’t understand English so he quit and went to work in the factories hand rolling cigars.

Sometime in the early 1920’s his father reappeared and wrote him a letter asking to meet up and rekindle their relationship. Great grandfather decided to give him a chance despite his better judgement. They met up at some place and the meeting didn’t go so well. His father was dressed up in a suit, had apparently got into some money, and talked and paid more attention himself then great grandfather. Great grandfather blew a fuse, cursed his father out, told him in so many words that he was a disgrace and that he never wanted to see him again. They parted ways and his father was never seen or heard of ever again.

As for great grandmother, she was first generation born in America in 1911. The youngest of 5 children. Her father was born around 1858/1859, and was 17-18 years older than her mother who was born in 1876. They all came from Hungary. Her father died when she was 3 years old in 1914 so she didn’t have any memory of him. All that’s known was he “got sick and died” so..that could be anything.

I have 1 photo of him and it’s the oldest photo I have.

Anyway, great grandmother’s mother was very old school. In Hungary she gave birth to all of her children in the fields while working as a serf. After her husband died, she quickly found a man and remarried as she could not support herself and the children on her own.

The step father was not the greatest man. One day great grandmother’s mother was washing clothes outside and rolled up her sleeves. She left a pot of hot water on the stove. The step father saw her sleeves rolled up and came outside and threw the pot of hot water at her, accusing her of showing her off skin to other men.

The Step father died in 1919, another “got sick and died” moment so who knows there as well.

Back in the day, funerals were held in the family house and the open casket with the body in it would be there for a little bit. Great grandmother had terrible nightmares as she saw her dead step father’s body twitch and move a little (body compulsions after death) and it freaked her out.

During prohibition, great grandmother’s mother got heavily involved with moonshine. She had her sons built a still but she did all the work. The family made a lot of money during this time and her liquor was the best in town, even the politicians and police were buying some. However a local sherif in town was jealous that his stuff wasn’t getting customers so he tipped off the Fed’s about her moonshine and they got raided. Couple of great grandmother’s brothers went to jail, great grandmother’s mother wasn’t charged. I think the sons took the fall so their mother would not go to jail.


My paternal grandparents lived 15 miles away from us when I was a kid, so I’ll speak about them. They were born in 1888 and 1890, in southern India. They were children of Christian missionaries, who founded a school that is now quite well known. My grandparents’ parents were with the same mission (from the Congregational Church), so my grandparents knew each other well growing up.

My family has a long history of academic emphasis, so my grandparents were well educated. As young teenagers, they were sent to America to attend a boarding school in Oberlin Ohio that was a feeder school for Oberlin College, which apparently had ties to the Congregational Church. Both got degrees from Oberlin, grandpa got a PhD (not sure where?) and they got married and moved to Buffalo, NY, where Grandpa was a Dean at U of B.

Grandpa was not very tolerant of my Grandma’s intellectual curiosity and continually tried to thwart her interests in writing, art and music, preferring she focused on her “gender appropriate“ duties. Although they were raised as missionarys’ children, they could best be described as church going atheists, deeply involved in social issues, such as civil rights and womens’ suffrage.

Grandma continued to write, paint and play music, despite her husband’s disapprobations. My Grandpa played golf, was part of a “Philosophy group” that met regularly to discuss intellectual issues. Curiously, he was Ohio state tennis champion as a college student, but quit playing almost immediately upon graduating, fearing he’d never play at that high a level again.

They had lots of friends, through the college town community they retired to, and were heavily involved with a church that broke off from the mainstream Presbyterian church that refused to allow integration. So, their church was decidedly integrated in the 1950s and in the South, no less.

Grandma used to tell us stories about growing up in Southern India. The scariest stories involved tigers. A tiger is perhaps the only predator that will designate a human village as a food source, returning every week or so to pick off another meal. When a tiger would kill a person, the men would go out into the jungles with primitive weapons, at the anticipated timing of the next “feast” and try to kill it, before it killed another villager (or killed the hunters). One such night, my Grandmother, my great Grandmother and my great aunt were cowering inside while the men were out in the jungle trying to kill the tiger, when they heard heavy footsteps on the roof. It was The Tiger! The construction of their dwelling was fairly primitive, so (as the story goes), they could even hear it sniffing through the flimsy for its next meal. The threesome huddled together, not making a sound.

These stories captivated and terrified us. To this day, my fear of tiger attack is probably more pronounced than probabilities suggest.


My grandfather was born in the late 1890s grew up in a logging town and worked both as a logger and then as a farmer after the 1st war. He volunteered for the army in 1915 time frame and was deployed to Europe. He came back a changed person and became a farmer. He was a sports man a hunter and fishermen. He was the type of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. I remember back when I was 13 years old sipping my 1st beer with my father and grandfather.

I remember when he went into the hospital with throat cancer and the doctors kept doing surgeries to “save” him. I remember him well and miss him. Tony Rest In Peace,
Source: boredpanda.com

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