Preparedness: 2020's lesson learned

JSSP Art Voices

It’s been quite a different start to spring. Some artist friends are describing the work they’ve been doing in their studios. Oddly, few are doing art work. Most speak of sorting dried-up paints, organizing and cleaning. Some described going through old drawings, paintings and photos. All wax nostalgic about family. Yep, it’s times like this I, too, wonder what my parents would say and do.

I expect many people ponder the same thoughts. It seems our parents and grandparents must have been smart, because they went to war, made it through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and managed to survive the Great Depression. How were they different from us? What did they know that we don’t know, especially when medical science was not then where it is now? I can hear Mom: “You do what you can the best you can, with what you have at that moment.”

Dad would have said something similar, but as a military family (and forever a Boy Scout) he’d quietly be “ready to roll.”

I rarely heard either of them speak about “those days.” Adult conversation was just that when I was a kid: adult. Children were never allowed to be within earshot of parental discussions, so if there were problems, we were not privy to them.

My brothers, however, had all the answers. One of their hand-scrawled signs read “I’d rather SEE a sermon than hear one any day.” I felt that was counter to everything I knew as “gospel.” As I grew older, it made sense. My folks didn’t need to tell us stuff. We observed and learned all we’d need to know by what they did.


Preparedness meant you always had provisions. Dad called them security stashes. I now call them “grab and go” supplies. With dad’s job we were always packed and ready to go. We never needed for anything even when on the road. (And that was before interstate highways). Mom always had food ready (and that was before interstate highways). That is a point. Motels and restaurants were not at every interchange of a highway. Neither were gas stations. But dad was prepared for everything. Once a Boy Scout, always a Boy Scout.

He and mom showed my brothers and me that a toolbox had well-used tools inside. There was another toolbox you carried inside your head, and your hands and mind were the tools available first if you encountered and needed a quick solution to a new problem. Well-used experiences become valuable knowledge.

In the house, there would be food, medical and communication equipment (including ham radios), emergency supplies and yes, toilet paper. Mom had barber scissors, sewing machines, canning supplies, and we always had concrete mix and gardening supplies. If anything broke, the family could fix it. If we didn’t have a tool, dad could rig one (and that included vehicle stuff).

Thus, had they been alive on March 16 when our world suddenly shut down, the folks would not have skipped a beat. Shuttering a door to “socially distance” would not have been a “thing.” Everyone would have been ready to go, even under dire circumstances, and dad would have been behind the camera documenting the experience..

Artists documented life during the 1918 pandemic and will for 2020. We are living the history of the 2020 pandemic. Every family has a story and they pass along what they did to survive. The notes we make today will be the little treasures passed along for the next generation. The art work will be worth saving, as will personal insights.

If anyone has an item for this column, please contact Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

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