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Old 03-20-2017, 02:06 PM
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Question Stories from the Great Depression of the 1930s

I doubt we have many members old enough to share a personal story. But do you have a story your parent or grandparent told you about the great depression era?

Lets hear it.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:11 PM
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I will post one up. My father was born in 1919 so he was 10 years old when the depression started. He was the oldest of 5 brothers all born in the years before 1929.

One story he told was that he and his brothers would gather muscadines to sell for money. One ingenious way they had was to place a seine of some sort in a creek and go upstream to find muscadine vines. They would climb trees, shake trees, etc. and get the muscadines into the creek someway. Then go to the seine and gather the fruit.

When they got enough to sell they would walk carrying the muscadines 4 miles to town to try and sell them for a whopping 10 cents a gallon.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:34 PM
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Daddy told me the only way he could tell there was a depression was that there was very little cash money to be made. My folks were subsistence farmers, and he trapped in the winter and also sold a few catfish from time to time. Money crops were cotton and tobacco. Corn was grown for their use and for the stock, and he had two big vegetable gardens a year. No electricity was available in rural Wheeler County during those times, so they got very little news anyway. He said that during the Depression he depended on money from his fur trapping to pay the land taxes, and buy the very few staples they needed, flour, rice, salt, sugar, coffee, vinegar, shotgun shells and 22 bullets. Everything else was produced on the farm. They saved their seed from year to year, so that wasn`t a problem other than cotton and tobacco seed. To this day I still have some seed corn that they used every year. This was passed down from my Great Great Grandfather.

So they really didn`t have any hardship at all. He only had a third grade education, but had as much common sense as anybody I`ve ever known, and relied on no one but himself. Him and Mama were nearly totally independent. They taught me a lot about self reliance. I hope it took.
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Old 03-20-2017, 03:51 PM
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Daddy told another about one time his Uncle who lived on the same farm was selling eggs. He walked the four miles to town to sell the eggs.
While there he spoke to someone who told him that eggs were bringing 5 cents a dozen more at Athens (18 miles further) Upon learning this Uncle Walt who was a hard working man walked to Athens carrying his basket of eggs to sell.

There just was no money to be had and they needed every penny they could get.
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:04 PM
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Up North my Father said he and his brother would go to the freight yards where they would load the locomotives with coal It was done through a huge shoot and when the train pulled away there was always a pile left on the ground They would scoop it up and go back to town and sell it to people who needed heat their stoves
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:08 PM
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my dad was born in 37, so he doesn't remember any of the depression, but he has ration stamps my granny had left over that has his name on them. Mostly because my Pappy was a poor dirt farmer and didn't have the cash to buy the shoes, sugar and such.
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:29 PM
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My mother was born in 1928 and was a young child during the "Hoover Days" My grandparents were sharecroppers.

When she started school around 1934 they lived in a place that the school bus transported her and her siblings for school. When she was 9 years old around 1937 they moved to a place that required them to walk about 1 mile to school. She said they couldn't afford shoes so they went to school barefoot during warmer weather. During colder weather they had to find and cut cardboard to put in their worn out shoes to cover the holes in the soles.
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:39 PM
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Up North my Father said he and his brother would go to the freight yards where they would load the locomotives with coal It was done through a huge shoot and when the train pulled away there was always a pile left on the ground They would scoop it up and go back to town and sell it to people who needed heat their stoves
Tracks run east and west right in front of my house where I live now so I hear a lot of train stories from people in the area. There is ONE story that every single person has told so far.

During the depression some one, or two, would jump on the train in the big rail crossing yards in the town to the east and roll coal off the cars all the way to the little town to the west of me. Then they would load it in a wagon on the way back to town as the road ran right next to the tracks.

My pop was born in '30 so "depression" was just another day with a Y in it. His dad and all his uncles were all boot leggers and moonshiners and real life outlaws ain't nothing like that hunky dory TV show crap. It was ruff and poor was just every day.

They called a little town "the city" and lived in the next wide spot over so they would walk the RR tracks when they went to town. No adult cared a crap what any kids were doing so they were walking 5 miles on a RR track coming home when they came home. They had sling shots and used fence staples for amo. When they got hungry they would shoot pigeons in a barn roof on the way and pick field corn .
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:56 PM
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When the circus came to "town" they would set up on the side of town nearest the river and my dad and his buddy walked to town and got a job packing water from the river to the animals. They were probably 8 or so, no more than 10, and they watered those animals all week. It came the last they were suppose to get paid and the carnies told 'em to kiss off. They weren't going to pay to orphan kids they'd never even seen with any one as tall as my belt. Well dad and his buddy walked home that day and told grand dad what happen and they wouldn't pay. Grandpa got out his pistol and go dad's buddy's dad and they drove in to the circus. All dad said was when they got back they had the money.

Grampa's name was Harley and never listed in the census as anything more than hired farm labor but a couple things he did was run the steam thressing machines during harvest and he blew stumps. Apparently had a reputation with dynamite.

Dad and his brother would climb through the window in to the shed and they would steal a stick of dynamite. Then they would take off away from the house and they would open the dynamite and fill soda straws with the granules from the dynamite and he said when you lit those they would fly up in the air like we use bottle rockets now.

Another time while they were in the "shed" they got in to the moonshine and that was not pretty, even if Harley hadn't caught 'em, they were in sad shape on their own and it only got worse when they got caught.

All this had to go on before dad was 10 years old because he was raised in the Solders and Sailors orphan home from the time he was 10 until 15. His older sister came and finally gave in to his begging to get out. She signed his papers and outside on the steps says, "Well you got it. There ya go." and off he goes on his own, raised his self from there.
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Old 03-20-2017, 11:13 PM
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Daddy told me the only way he could tell there was a depression was that there was very little cash money to be made. My folks were subsistence farmers, and he trapped in the winter and also sold a few catfish from time to time. Money crops were cotton and tobacco. Corn was grown for their use and for the stock, and he had two big vegetable gardens a year. No electricity was available in rural Wheeler County during those times, so they got very little news anyway. He said that during the Depression he depended on money from his fur trapping to pay the land taxes, and buy the very few staples they needed, flour, rice, salt, sugar, coffee, vinegar, shotgun shells and 22 bullets. Everything else was produced on the farm. They saved their seed from year to year, so that wasn`t a problem other than cotton and tobacco seed. To this day I still have some seed corn that they used every year. This was passed down from my Great Great Grandfather.

So they really didn`t have any hardship at all. He only had a third grade education, but had as much common sense as anybody I`ve ever known, and relied on no one but himself. Him and Mama were nearly totally independent. They taught me a lot about self reliance. I hope it took.
That's pretty much what my grandmother told me about it. They were so poor, they didn't notice, nor did it affect them much. She said she remembered people talking about it though.

She told me once during that time a woman she had never seen before knocked on their door begging for food. She gave her a jar of beans from the cellar. When her dad came in from the fields, my grandmother's sister told her dad about it. Granny said that was the worst whippin she ever got.

One more. Granny had to quit school in the 3rd grade because her mother died. She had to quit to take care of her dad, 4 brothers and sister. She said her summer routine went like this:

Wake up before daylight and cook breakfast for the family.

Clean up and wake up her younger sister.

Go to the field with her sister and hoe a row of corn. (She said she didn't know how long the rows were, but looked a mile long when your 10 yrs old).

Back to the house to fix lunch

Back to the field to hoe another row

Then fix supper and get her sister ready for bed.

Toughest woman I ever met. She was 104 when she passed away a few years ago.
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Old 03-21-2017, 05:22 AM
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My mother told this story.
She was born in 1910 and her mother ran a boarding house for some of the railroad workers. Their house was about 2 blocks from the tracks, and Mom and her brother would walk down the tracks and pick up lumps of coal that fell off of the trains that went through, and they used them to heat and cook with because there was no money to buy coal. Mom & Dad both had lots of depression stories but I have forgot most of them now.
My Dads father was a farmer who bought up abandoned farms for very little money and built them back to being productive and then sold them at a good profit. He had become quite well off for those days and put his money in the stock market, and lost everything in the crash of 29. He never recovered from that and died a hateful bitter old man without a friend in the world.
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:20 AM
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I remember my Daddy saying that they had it much better being in the country and being self sufficient. The folks who lived in town and were dependent on jobs for livelihood suffered more than country folks with farms.
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:40 AM
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My mother was I think 2nd or 3rd youngest of 13 kids in their family. They lived at the end of a street on the edge of town. Their house was was an old railroad station/shack her father got/bought when he first married. "Gotta have a house if you got a wife ya know." LOL.

Being out there they had ground equal to about 4 normal city lots or so and "Hodges Branch" ran through the edge of it. They always had a huge garden. Their oldest son would keep the garden as big as they had room for and he would push a vegetable wagon through town selling vegetables for a little extra cash.

When I first started a regular job was in the early '70s and I rode to work about 50 miles away in a carpool with some other guys. They were all pretty old and a couple could retire then just as I was starting.

One of those guys lived on the same end of town as my mother's family, a fellow West ender. Well he told us how he always got handme downs but even worse, all he had was sisters. ROTFL. So one year he wound up wearing a pair of his sister's old shoes to school every day.

He said he had to fight one or more of my uncles every **** day over making fun of his shoes.

That was funny as all get out and I was cracking up in the back seat of that car, and he was riding shotgun. Then when he turned around and I saw his face, it wasn't a bit funny all of a sudden. I swear I thought the car would stop any minute the next two days and I'd have to fight that old CensoredCensoredCensoredCensored on the side of the road.

Old people don't have much of a sense of humor about some things.
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Old 03-21-2017, 11:00 AM
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Dad was born in 1912. His stories were similar. They were subsistence farmers and he was the oldest boy, there were three others. All helped work the farm until they were married or went into the service. Dad had to lay out of school his 10th grade year to insure the crop was made due to an injury to his father.

He said they had next to no money but life did not change much for them. They grew almost all that they needed but purchased flour, salt, sugar, pepper, & coffee. The flour sacks provided material for most of their underwear and some shirts and dresses.

A grist mill was 1/2 mile away where everyone had their corn ground. For what little money they had Grandmother sold butter and eggs. Grandad had a cane mill and a syrup shed. He would cook syrup for a 10% toll and took some of that to town on market day (Saturday) to sell along with the occasional bar-b-qued pig. The boys all had rabbit boxes and did the occasional rabbit drive through a head of woods. When the rabbits came out they were brought down with rabbit sticks, 2 foot long sticks that were thrown at the legs. A portion of the rabbit money was allowed to be spent on .22 shorts and 12 ga. shells. They also picked and sold blackberries and muscadines in season.
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Old 03-21-2017, 11:30 AM
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My grandmother was born in 1893. She was the one raising the 5 boys including my Dad during the depression years.
She was a very staunch Christian who didn't believe in any of the "vices" of that day. These included smoking, drinking, cursing, etc. My grandpa (her husband) smoked. She told me she didn't know he smoked until after they were married. (maybe they never kissed)

Anyhow during the depression one of the "essentials" the family had to buy was smoking tobacco. I remember hearing that Grandma was especially riled that she and the boys had to have less available money due to Grandpas smoking habit.

All 5 of the boys were non smokers as an adult.
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Old 03-21-2017, 11:55 AM
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Great thread Milkman.
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Old 03-21-2017, 08:24 PM
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My father was the youngest boy of nine children born in1933 in Lincoln county Ga . My Grandfather was born and 1896 he was a sharecropper never owned a piece of property his whole life. My dad told me stories of how they made ends meet like catching rabbits to sell and my father raised chickens to sell. My Grandfather also had odd jobs like mechanic and running a ice house and driving soliders to back then Camp Gorden .The house my father was born in was abandoned and my Grandmother had picked cotton that day and had my Dad and got up and fixed the doctor that delivered my Dad dinner. People were a lot tougher back then.
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:55 PM
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This isn't quite the depression era, I was born in '55. My maternal grampa died about 1960 or so, but one memory I have of him was him sitting outside under their cherry tree chewing and a BB gun on his lap. Usually after supper it seems. He would sit out there until dark shooting bird off HIS cherry tree.

But one thing was he had a pet crow. It sure must have not been cherry season when he got friendly with that bird. It knew him and it could even say a few words. Some times if no one else was around out there it would land on his shoulder and he'd feed it something. Probably the same candy corn he kept in his pocket for me back then.

I only remember seeing it a few times, heck I may even just remember it because hearing the rest of the family talk about it. It's a family story, you remember how.... Supposedly that bird hung around there for several years and it would show up when grampa had reason to sit out side for long, he was the only one it would get close to.
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Old 03-22-2017, 09:23 AM
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My Grandpa was born in 1892 and my Grandma in 1898, both of them used to tell us grandkids about the depression and how bad it was for many folks, especially the town people..My Grandparents lived on and ran the family farm so they could raise what they needed to eat, veggies, Hogs and Chickens..Grandma sold eggs in town for a few cents a dozen and at times bartered for her coffee, flour and sugar. They also sold a ham or shoulder every once in a while for a few dollars. Even after I came along in 1946 my Grandparents still talked about how hard times were during the great depression...Grandpa never would put a dime in any bank, he knew a few folks back then who lost everything they had when the banks were closed during that era..We always grew tobacco, cotton and corn for the livestock. Grandpa and Grandma finally got electric lights in 1955...Grandpa didn't enjoy that for long, he passed on in 1958, I still miss that old man today..
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:01 AM
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Both my grandpas worked together in Centre, Alabama on the highway crew for the county on the tar wagon. It was a job where they had to spray hot tar on the highway out of a mule drawn boiler. I was told they would quit the job to pick crops when it was harvest time for cotton or beans, but the job was always there when they went back because no one else would take it. Only one was still around when I was born and I still remember the scars he had all over his arms and back from the tar, along with a wide deep scar on the top of his head from when the tar bubbled out of the boiler. The one that passed before I was born had more scars from when the boiler exploded and covered him in tar from head to waist on his back. My mom said it happened on a Thursday and he had to lay on his stomach for days until they could slowly peel it all off, but he was back on the job on Monday.
I have pictures of the house my dad grew up in that showed it as a two story with one big room on the second floor that all 8 kids slept in. But when the house needed new siding they could only afford to do the first floor so they cut the second floor off and dropped the roof down. I always thought they were joking until I helped redo the siding when I was a teenager and found the saw marks and cut down wall studs.
My great grandmother, born in 1910, lived to 96 and had 13 kids. She ate bacon every morning, had fatback in every green or bean she cooked, dipped snuff until 94, and hadn't been to the doctor in 50+ years until a neighbors dog jumped up on her when she was in her 2 acre garden that she planted every year, by hand, and broke both her hips at 92. We would go to her house a few weeks every year around the holidays and she would work me and my brother harder then I'd ever worked and we still couldn't keep up with her. She outlived half her kids, and few grand kids.
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Old 03-22-2017, 11:46 AM
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On my bootlegger side of the family, my great grandpa's brothers were known for coming up with money making "schemes", not money making but just money making schemes.

One time for a while they had stored up a bunch of broom making materials. They were going to get rich making and selling brooms since they both learned a new skill while they were IN PRISON.

Never heard any stories about the brooms, just the big pile of broom material.
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Old 03-24-2017, 03:02 PM
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Daddy told a story about his grandpa and cotton value lost in the crash of 1929.

Great Grandpa was a thrifty old fellow that would bring bales of cotton back home from the gin and store it waiting on prices to go up. Upon an increase in value he would load bale(s) onto the wagon and take it to sell. I guess having 5 grandsons on the farm made material handling not a concern.

He was caught with some cotton in the barn when the stock market crashed. If I remember correctly Daddy said cotton went from a value of about 20 cents to a value of 5 cents a pound. So Great Grandpa lost lots of money on the cotton he had squirreled away.
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Old 03-24-2017, 09:28 PM
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Had an Uncle that road the rails around the country looking for work during the Depression. He told the story of going into the hobo camps and how you would, if you had any change in your pockets , you would separate it so it wouldn't rattle. He said people would rob you if they heard the money jingle in your pockets.
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Old 03-25-2017, 09:14 PM
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Good stories guys...
I've got to turn the Thermostat down now and check my Smart phone for E Mails.
My how we have changed , and in some ways...not for the best.
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Old 03-26-2017, 09:11 PM
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Farmer friend of mine back in Michigan, told how they heard a lot of noise out at the chicken coop one night and his father grabbed the shotgun and went to take a look, and a man came out of the coop with a burlap bag full of chickens and he told him to stop but the man took off running so he shot him dead. Guess food was scarce back then.
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