Thursday, November 4, 2010


At a dinner with a program series that I belong to at our local museum the other night, the theme was The Great Depresssion of the the 1930's. After a dinner of delicious tho very unpretentious stew and jello, we assembled in the small auditorium for a program by the Heritage Singers with songs and little vignettes about the Great Depression.

They had dialogue and songs like, "Brother, can you spare a dime," the Veteran's March on Washington because they never got paid and run out of town by General MacArthur and his troops no less. The poor lives they lived at home and school, the Hooverville "towns," the election of FDR and pretty much covered the whole period showing that they endured. But the people who lived through it had some fun doing it singing songs and dancing and in the coming of radio shows like Amos and Andy and some movies if they could scrape up the nickel to go.

Many of you have stated in your comments that you like hearing about the "old days" from someone who was there and that is why I am telling you about a little of what I remember of the depression years.

I really could enjoy relating to some of these things as I remembered living through some of them. I remember my dad hated FDR with a passion as all good Republicans did and how he laughed at Amos and Andy. I remember how he would polish our shoes every Saturday night and glue on those rubber soles and heels to keep us going another week.

This is a picture of either my kindergarten class or my first grade. From the left side front row, I am the girl (circle on left) with the flimsy skirt and an old sweater at the end of the front row. It might interest some of you to know that actress Barbara Hale was also in that class down the row from me with the envied Shirley Temple curls (on the right in other object). She later was Della Street on all the Perry Mason shows.

I remember in second grade, when we all went to the lavatory at one time--girls and boys separately, of course. There were no doors on the individual booths. Why, I don't know but I had come to school that day wearing an old pair of panties with the elastic all stretched out and I had apparently taken a safety pin and pinned it together to stay on. Well, it broke. I didn't know what to do. I had a man teacher and so I just stayed in the bathroom after everyone else left. A couple of kids were sent in to tell me to come back to the room but I was too embarrassed to tell them my problem. Finally, a woman teacher came in, saw the problem, got me another safety pin and I could go back to class.

I remember my dad going down to the relief center to get a basket of food for people in the congregation who were too proud to go get it themselves and he delivered it to them and kept many a member from starving.

Later on when times got a little better, I am including a picture of my best friend and I with our new Shirley Temple hats which we got for Easter. Everyone had one and we prized them highly. I'm the one on the left. I was probably about 9.

Many of you may have members of your family out of work or be out of work yourself, but you can be glad things are not as bad as they were then. Unemployment insurance helps and so do so many agencies that give food and clothing and yet the number of people who are homeless is large and many children go to bed hungry. So maybe we don't have it so bad.


Barb said...

Hi Bernie, I enjoyed your girlhood photos and the memories of school and hard times during the Depression. My own grandchildren enjoy hearing about the "olden days" (my childhood!).

Anonymous said...

Nice blog Mom, and you are more exciting than Barbara Hale being Della Street or the Amana spokeswoman! Love you, Jim

Gail said...

Dad never went into great detail but did mention Ike was crazy and McArthur was a lier. Dad was a World War II Veteran.

As a child, he sold Rose Bud Salve and dug ginseng to make money during the depression.

Dad also told how the government came and rounded up all the stock the people did not hide and killed them all to help the economy. All those cattle and pigs killed when people were going hungry.

I fear we will hear much worse before it gets better.

Great story.

Wanda..... said...

Hi Bernie, good to be reminded of not only the terrible hardships of families during the depression, but also the embarrassment that things like stretched out underwear caused small children.

Enjoyed your post.

Anita said...

I'm a generation behind you, but I remember the pin in the underwear, too. I think they've finally perfected the elastic in our bloomers...or maybe we throw them away when we need to. :)

I enjoyed your story, as always!

June said...

Reading or hearing stories about The Great Depression fills me with awe at the strength of people who "made do" with . . . just everything!
My mother's only memory of that time was that, since her family had a farm, they never went hungry. No small blessing.
I gather that "that man in the White House" inspired either adoration or hatred in everybody. Some people point to him as the root of socialism in this country. I see it differently . . . must have been quite a relief (no pun intended) to get some kind of help through an FDR-created program!

Freda said...

I could relate to your childhood stories, as life growing up during and after the WWII was bleak and full of cold houses and things like duty and eat-up-your-greens and here's-your-syrup-of-figs........ And as for the safety pin, Oh yes indeed! Here in the UK I am worried about the disabled and poorly paid, as well as the unemployed. Difficult times ahead for everybody. But they can't take away our joy in the special things in life - people, places, nature, the sky, the sun, the rain..... Every Blessing to you and yours.

The Book Nut said...

I didn't experience those hard times myself but from the stories I've heard from my grand parents and others, I think that the hard times today are pretty darn good comparatively. It frustrates me to no end to hear people say how hard up or broke they are and then see them go out for a $50 dinner or buy another vehicle or take a vacation. I think today's idea of hard times too often is not having out wants met, when in reality we should be thankful for having our needs met. For me, I'm happy as long as I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and most of all, love to hold it all together! I'm not worried about the rest, it just isn't important!
Thanks for sharing these stories, we all can learn a lot from the past.

yaya said...

My Mom who is your age tells many wonderful stories of her youth also. Her parents were immigrants and even with the language barrier, made a living for their family. What helped was a willingness to work any job, and a strong family unit. Two things that are lacking in today's world. Thanks for sharing!

Bernie said...

Hello my friend, how are you doing? How is your tooth?
Loved this post, I have always loved hearing about these times and your pictures are so cute, what a time with the pin in the underwear, I am sorry but I had to smile as something similar happened to my sister....:-)Hugs

Deb Shucka said...

I do love your stories, and am tickled that you went to school with Della Street. :-) The panties and broken pin story is so great - isn't it amazing how in today's world few will be able to relate to wearing clothes until there was nothing left but rags.

Donna said...

I hope you got my comment...I pressed publish comment and it disappeared!

Donna said...

OK, will try this again....Loved your story...My mom would have been so impressed with your Barbara Hale/Della Street!! Your younger pictures were charming as are yours now.
I remember many of the stories my mother and grand would tell about the Great Depression. They both had a wonderful sense of humor, as did their extended family. When they finished they were laughing so hard that I thought it must have been a grand time! Grandpa worked for a while digging ditches as part of the Roosevelt plan to give every man a job.(later became a successful businessman) What I realize today is that their sense of humor, family support, hard work and great faith got them through ...and hopefully will help us today too! Thanks for a great post that gave me fond memories!!!

Olga said...

Hi Bernie,
I'm a new follower.
Your site is a wonderful corner of the blogosphere and I look forward to exploring your blog.
I love to know about historical events from the first hands.Your pictures are adorable.
I don't know which is more lovely, you're writing or your photos.

CherylK said...

Hi Bernie! I just stopped by to wish you a Happy 85th Birthday. A little bird (Julie) told me! What a great blog you have. I hope you have fun with Julie especially when you head on down to Texas!

Wanda..... said...

Happy Birthday Bernie...your thoughtful daughter Julie let us know!

Glad to will be visiting with Julie in Texas...enjoy your stay where it's warm!

Fran said...

I enjoyed this because I'm just teaching some kids the book 'Of Mice and Men' and they've had to research the Great Depression. Interesting to hear your stories.

kobico said...

Hello, I clicked over from Julie's blog, Midlefe Jobhunter to wish you a happy birthday! I wish you good health and happiness throughout the year.

I remember some of the "remnants" of the Great Depression in my parents' and grandparents' habits of saving almost everything for reuse, tissue and wrapping papers, bags, fabric scraps and notions from my grandmother's work as a seamstress, assorted tools (more than two of almost everything). I used to laugh at such frugality, particularly considering that they rarely used what they saved. When I inherited my grandparents' home, both houses on the lot were packed with treasures hoarded through the years.

Now that I have been salaryless for almost 2 years, I'm using those items -- to grow the food I put on my table, repair the house, keep my clothing mended, and even cut the branches for the wood that feeds the fire that keeps me warm on colder nights. I don't think they truly thought that "someday" would actually come, but I'm thankful that they saved up for it, just in case.

I have kept my car, though, mainly because it is extremely difficult in the US to commute without one. Our mass transportation systems are woefully inadequate. We failed to plan for the future on that front.

ladyhawthorne said...

This post reminds me of the stories my Mom tells and my great grandmother's diary of the summer she spent with my Mom's family. Every week they managed to go to the picture show to see Shirley Temple movies!


I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

God Bless You :-)


Cheryl said...

Hi Bernie, thanks for your sharing. I think we do need reminding that life is not as tough as in those days. We are all a bit spoiled in many ways. Fancy you being in school with Barbara Hale - I loved Perry Mason! Also wanted to say that I've changed blog addresses. I'm now at so hope you are still receiving my posts. Merrilyn's new joey is a boy - he's gorgeous! Best wishes to you.

Zella said...

Hello from Finland ! What a delightful blog you have, I am so glad I came upon it. Will follow for sure. Take care now.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Absolutely great. (You might be interested in my post to come, 22nd Nov)

Ladybird World Mother said...

Loved your memories, but how awful for you with the knicker elastic saga!! xx

Rose said...

What a beautiful photos when you were a kid! Amazing hats by the way lol.


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