June 21, 2012
Poor...but Very, Very Rich by Ruth Lott
Ruth Lott grew up in Southern Philadelphia during a time very much different from the current. Sure people were still people, families still wanted to be together, and the very bones of society were the same. But there was a lot that was different as well. This is her memoir, and actually, in my opinion it is more of a slight history book and genealogy as opposed to a memoir classification.
The first part of the book tells about Philadelphia during the 30's, 40's, and some 50's. It outlines what the major events were of the day, how families spent time together, where the popular places were to go, and just in general how family life operated. It also spent some time on the effects of the war on the American people. Several notable spots in Philly were visited and some of that even remains unchanged today. The second part of the book gives a history of both side of Lott's family, mainly describing the siblings of her mother and father, and her mother and father themselves. It delves into uncles, cousins; several generations of people deriving from the same family tree.
Since the first part of the book was more snippets of things we don't really get an in-depth sense of the people, but what is there is very nice. I enjoyed the short descriptions of vendors and neighbors that made life more pleasant and interesting. That being said, it was really the second part where all the people are mentioned. And I think, as an outsider not part of the family, that these descriptions really are geared towards family as they don't hold as much meaning for someone who doesn't know of the people aside from the book. It was done so hurriedly that I never really got a sense of who was who (and a family tree would have been mightily helpful). Still, it's remarkable that someone could get all this information down and I'm sure it will be a valuable resource for those interested in genealogy, or those family members of hers who want to know about their relatives.
The first part of the book is what I really enjoyed. I liked hearing how they celebrated the holidays during those eras and the different activities they did without benefit of a computer or tv, or the other electronic gadgets that take up so much of our time. Each chapter had a different focus and I have to say that I enjoyed most of them. I think my favorite was actually the section on Household chores because it amazed me all they did and that there were designated days for doing it. I couldn't imagine even trying to do half of those things now and still have time to sleep and work. Truly remarkable.
An interesting book and even as an outsider looking in I enjoyed this memoir of a family in Philly. There was some things to learn from it and even though the second half really wasn't meant for me, it was a short enough read that it didn't matter.
Poor...but Very, Very Rich