The Great Depression
1929 – 1945
By Dorothy S. Smith
November 27, 2008
I do not know why I woke this morning thinking about the Great Depression. I was eleven at the start of it. Today is Thanksgiving Day – quite a different scenario.
Back in those days many businesses were over-extended and simply failed. My Dad was lucky. He was a lawyer working as a Trust Officer in a bank. He never was out of work, but his salary was cut to $25.00 a week. Dad and Mother had four kids – two girls first, then two boys. Imagine feeding a family of six on that amount!
But things eased up a bit. Dad built a chicken house and would sometimes sell some of the fresh eggs but it could not have been much. I remember bread was 25 cents a loaf.
Dad also had a garden plowed by him with a plow he pushed through the soil. When things eased up he let much of the garden go. I remember Mother stopped making jelly when the NEW A&P started selling it.
To give some work, the government hired people. Some artists were hired to paint pictures. I remember some displayed in our schools. Others staffed libraries. Still others were employed by WPA (Works Progress Administration). They did physical things like road repair, and also made trails through forests, ending in a fireplace for toasting hot dogs and marshmallows.
I remember Mother giving sandwiches to men who asked for something to eat. They sat on steps to our back porch. Another time a man came when no one was home. He had to be young and agile because he climbed to the roof of our back porch – a window next to the roof was open, so he came in the house, went to Dad’s bedroom and helped himself to a pair of Dad’s pants – and left his old ones back by a wood pile. Nothing else was missing!
Dad was able to send us to college – girls to University of Maryland – boys to Duke University. Oldest boy took NROTC. (I think that is right. Naval ROTC). My oldest brother was commissioned. The youngest at 18 was drafted.
My husband and I met at Maryland, our last two years. We were married in 1940. His first job was with McCormick & Co. Mine with a law firm as receptionist. By that time, FDR had been President. Social Security had begun. I remember my salary started at $15.00 except that 1% was taken for Social Security. I made do on $14.85 per week.
FDR was elected four terms – he died during the fourth. (Congress then passed a law limiting the President to two terms.)
It took World War Two to bring us out of the Depression. Let us hope history does not repeat and bring us another Depression!
© November 27, 2008, Dorothy S. Smith