The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


September 17, 2020

We are going to be okay

During World War II in the Nazi occupied Netherlands, many of the populace were starving. One man whose family was going hungry decided to try to sell one of his family’s heirlooms, his grandfather’s gold pocket watch. He rode his bicycle out of the city far into the country until he located a farm. He walked upon the porch and knocked on the door. He was greeted by an old man who could barely walk let alone work the farm. He explained how his family was going hungry and that he was willing to exchange his grandfather’s gold watch for a measly twenty-five pounds of beans. The watch was well worth more than the bag of beans, but times were hard and he was desperate. The old man gestured for him to remain on the porch while he went back into the house. In a very short time the old man returned holding a large cigar box. He lifted the lid showing the man a box full of an assortment of expensive pocket watches and wrist watches. The look in the man’s eyes indicated that he understood that the old man didn’t need any more watches. He was devastated and was in the process of leaving when the old man forced his attention to his barn door which was in bad need of repair. Without words being said they both understood the needs of the other. The old man gave him the 250 pound bag of beans in exchange for the barn door getting fixed. From that day forward they bartered for other things until just after the war ended and things began to normalize.

The barter system is one of the oldest methods of exchange. Bartering has been around for centuries long before money was invented. People exchanged services and/or goods. Today, possibly as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, bartering is making a comeback. Techniques are being made available that are more sophisticated to aid in trading. One example is the Internet. Bartering is global today, whereas in ancient times trading was more localized. The value of items is discussed with the other party. There is no involvement of money which is one of the advantages. You can exchange an article you have but no longer want or need.

Bartering originates back to 6000 BC when it was introduced by Mesopotamian tribes. Bartering was later adopted by Phoenicians. They bartered goods to those in various other seafaring cities across oceans. Goods were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, spices, and especially salt. It has been noted that salt was such a valuable commodity that Roman soldiers' salaries were paid with it. With the invention of money bartering did not end, it became more structured.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s when money was lacking, bartering became the norm. It was used to obtain food and various other services which were done through groups or between people who operated comparable to a bank. When items were sold, the owner would receive credit and the buyer's account would be charged.

One of the best things that I have observed firsthand here in the Westend is the amount of gifted people there are. Times have been hard. I have met many people who have lost their jobs and homes as a result of this pandemic. They are forced to look for work when and where they can. The great thing about this area is that the residents do look out for each other and they are willing to help. It has always been the volunteers who have made this a great community. We have those who are great mechanics who can fix anything or they can find a machinist who can make the part.

I have noticed that it is very difficult to get professional people from the city to come this far unless they have guaranteed work. Word of mouth has been one of the best proven methods of finding out who can fix things whether it is plumbing, roofing, automotive needs, babysitting, or you name it. We have the greatest people in this community who already have sacrificed much of their lives in the service of others. Times are difficult now, but with the local community working together, we are going to be okay.


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