Little things mean a lot during hard times

Jerry Apps
Throughout the tough times in Jerry Apps' childhood, his mother would grow flowers that brought a little color to a dreary, worrisome time. Little things, like these daylilies hybridized by Apps' brother, Darrel Apps, are to be appreciated.

During this summer of lost dreams and failed promises, with most county fairs closed, family reunions cancelled, travel restricted, incomes lost, and fears of catching the virus in the background, it’s easy to feel down. To let worry take over.

I’m reminded of World War II, 1941-1945. True, there was no pandemic then, but there were shortages and turmoil. There was rationing, and there was worry. When will it end? Will my cousins return from the fighting? When will we be able to buy sugar again?

At the time, we had little of what we take for granted today—no electricity, no indoor plumbing, woodstove heat. We milked cows by hand and farmed with horses. I was in grade school then, attending a one-room country school where we also had no electricity until I was in third or fourth grade.

The little things I remember that helped us through those dreadful war years —fresh vegetables from the garden, wild berries from the woods.

On Saturday nights in summer, we’d drive to Wild Rose in our 1936 Plymouth for supplies. Pa would buy a half-gallon of ice cream. Once home, he’d take a butcher knife from a kitchen drawer, and cut the ice cream into five pieces. What a treat it was.

My mother always had a few flowers, hollyhocks I remember most. They added a little color to a dreary, worrisome time. Little things that made a difference.

Most of all, those tough times brought our family together as it brought the neighbors together, everyone ready to help each other.

Jerry Apps

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Do the best you can with what you’ve got.Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to