Depression Project

I’m sitting here at the shop, watching through the window as the power company guy wanders the neighborhood hanging disconnect notices on businesses doors. I suppose there might be a recovery going on somewhere but I’m not seeing much of it here. My landlord has nine business spaces to this moment five are empty with no signs of that changing in the near future. Tough times, man.


Here’s a link I’ve been sitting on for a while. ( Be prepared to spend an hour or so going through all these…it’s pretty compelling stuff.) It’s first-hand memories of the first Great Depression. In many of the memories there are some parallels to today’s experiences, but many make today’s situations look extravagantly luxurious. There are very few memories of violence or crime. However, two did jump out at me:

“Everybody was stealing. If you were on the street car, the man sitting next to you had a gun and would stick you up, and nobody on the streetcar would know you were robbed. Our house was robbed when we went visiting. The neighbor never helped, everybody was for themselves. If they worked, they were blessed. The butcher picked your pocket and padded the bill. Lots of bathtub Gin was being made by neighbors.”

“I can remember when we went to church one Sunday and my mom had about 300 young chickens about ready to lay eggs. When we came home, all of her chickens were gone and my mom cried for days. People would steal anything that they could. It was terrible in those days. My dad would get up at night and go out and shoot his 12-gauge shotgun to scare people away. We had a dog, but he barked all the time and we couldn’t tell what he was barking at. My dad farmed with horses and he had to keep the barn locked at night. People would kill your cows and butcher them in the field if you didn’t watch them carefully.”

Different time, different people. Definitely a different attitude towards work, charity (giving and receiving it), family obligation and duty. Go read, it’s interesting stuff. It certainly makes you feel that, thus far, things are a lot better now than they were then.

0 thoughts on “Depression Project

  1. My Mom and Dad grew up in the Depression. I remember her telling how her family of 5 people had 25 cents as the only money in the house. My Grandfather and my two Uncles (Ages 12 & 14) made the 25 cents by shoveling snow all day one winter.
    She grew up in Chicago and at age 7 witnessed one bootlegger slit the throat of another bootlegger over a corner spot to sell home made booze. She cried then she told me this in her 40’s. Now people just steal Tide.

  2. My dad and grand dad were both Dustbowl sharecroppers. There was nothing to steal from them. Shacks insulated by newspaper; no light or electricity, and the only heat was from a coal oil stove (coal oil was abundant and cheap). If you could get your cotton, peanuts, or watermelon to grow, you still went hungry. The produce pays the rent. You grind up the peanut vines to add to flour and maybe trade a few bags of peanuts for some eggs. Add a couple of squirrels from the treeline at the back of the pasture and you might do okay. If the dust storms or starvation took the mule, you ate that too; fed, but sad that plowing was going to be harder this year.

    I don’t believe war is a good thing, but sometimes a necessary. And hope came in the form of a war. Fighting for Uncle Sam meant food, clothing, and money. And after the war, it meant a good education and a job.

    Odd that we are of German heritage; nearly perished over here, but almost certainly would have there.

  3. Remember the best way to control people is through control of their food. Stalin did this in the Ukraine. His goons, the Village Police were provided with food, firearms and Vodka.

  4. Just finnished reading some of these and I’m stunned. As a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I got sick of hearing about The Depression from my folks, now I wish there were here so I could thenk them for all that they taught me.

  5. Sinclair Lewis wrote a book about life in the Chicago stockyards during the Depression called “The Jungle”. Although it openly promoted Socialism, it captured a life of horror from that era.

    Read it. Him and Studs Terkel can’t say enough nice things about FDR.

  6. We are all just a bunch of pussies.

    Seems like it some days, don’t it? We’re in a society that doesn’t blink at paying five bucks for a cup of fancy coffee and it was only two generations ago folks were eating stuff we’d throw out when we clean our fridges. Reading stuff like that helps me keep perspective and, more importantly, keeps from doing grossly stupid things with money.

  7. The Jungle was written by Upton Sinclair in 1905, well before the Depression.

    It’s Marxist propaganda. Its chief value is to provide insight into the mindset of those who believe that you owe them your wealth and property simply because you have it and they want it.

  8. Have you read “The Grapes of Wrath”? I kept thinking of how many themes it shared with post-apocalypse novels.

    I think I saw the movie, but its been a while.

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