Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cinderella Man

My grandfather was an unusual man. I always thought that growing up during the Great Depression shaped many of his rather peculiar habits. He rarely made large financial purchases, and never seemed to throw away anything, even if it was broken. He figured something else would break later on, and he could salvage the parts from one thing to help fix the other. He grew lots of vegetables in large gardens that produced more than our family could consume. And he wore a hideous, strange hat that was an embarrassment to the family. (Although I'm certain that had little to do with the Great Depression.)

One of the oddest things about him, though, was that he often ate a snack of crumbled bread in milk. White bread, cornbread, whatever...Papa crumbled it into a bowl or glass of milk and ate the stuff as if it was a delicacy. It didn't taste very good, and as a kid I always tried to figure out why he ate it. As an adult I realize the answer: (1) it was nutritious, and (2) it was available. Papa had learned to like the taste of it because he had few other options while growing up.

I thought of this last night as I watched the movie Cinderella Man. Russell Crow plays Jim Braddock, a promising boxer in the 1920's who falls victim to the Great Depression in the 30's. During his heyday he seems to fight for the adoration and the notoriety; after he crashes with the rest of America he realizes boxing is the only way he can feed his family. Although old and nursing previous injuries, Braddock fights boxers younger and better than he in order to get a big payday. His drive is food and shelter. During a press conference he is asked why he is fighting at such an advanced age. His response is, simply: "Milk." Funny thing is, the determination that he finds to feed his family eventually leads him into a title fight with the World's Heavyweight Champion.

Cinderella Man portrays 1930's Americans with such perseverance and integrity that I could not help but compare those values to our modern day society. They faced turmoil and despair with grit and determination, while we often whine about inconvenience and small annoyances. That generation did what it had to in order to survive,I suppose.

That drive is what makes someone accept milk and crumbled bread as a snack, while I get pissed off if there isn't a Snickers in the fridge when I get home from work.

Cinderella Man didn't have a good run in theaters, for some reason, but it is a truly fine film. Highly recommended. ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Truly liked your PaPaw story...How true! Living in the Great depression would probably have been good for all of us today..It certainly wouldn't hurt to learn some of the peculiar habits you were speaking of...Life has gotten so complicated..hasn't it? Wonder why??