MEMORIES OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION - Chap. I
My childhood was lived through the twelve or so years of the Great Depression, so I have some memories to share with you, as well as some lessons learned during those years, lessons that might be a guide to those of you, who, today, find yourselves loaded with problems (such as debts), and therefore, facing the future and seeing only bleakness ahead.
Life is not bleak. Life is wonderful. The future is what you, personally, create for yourself, even though you may experience changes and rough spots. Sure it may be a struggle, but, so what? Your ancestors struggled to make it through life, to raise your great-grandparents, then came your grandparents, and then your parents, and so you're here today. Face it with the same fortitude and determination that they did and you'll come through it all right, because what most of them went through in those days is barely imaginable as you sit in the comfort and safety of your home today. You've a lot more advantages than we had then.
I was born on December 8, 1924, so in 1929 at the time of the crash I was only 5 years old, and I was 16 in 1941 when I first went to sea, taking a job during summer vacation before my Senior Year in High School, Then, again at 18, during WWII I sailed as a Merchant Seaman. Let me tell you some stories about those years in between so that you can see what we went through and how we survived none the worse for the wear. Let me start by saying that I don't believe that we're entitled to anything in this life, that we all start out as equals when we drop from the womb. If some find that their parents are rich at that point, there is no guarantee that life will be any rosier for them than it can be for the children of poverty-stricken parents.
The picture above is of my new brother and me in March, 1926. Now tell me, how can you start out more ordinary than that? Please excuse the bloomers, as they were called, but they were used to keep the diapers from leaking.
This picture, of course, was taken a few years before the crash, said to have dramatically begun on October 29, 1929.
My folks were just ordinary people. Mom had been a bank clerk, her first and only job until she married at age 24. She worked for the New Haven Bank and Trust. She was one of twelve children, ten who survived, eight girls and two boys.
Dad as a boy of 14 had begun working in the music department of a local department store, then he was a traveling salesman, a career he began around age 16, and later he was entrepreneurial minded and had his own business. He was around 17 when he opened up the Texas territory for Victor Talking Machine, selling the early phonographs invented by Thomas A. Edison and the records to go with them.
Mom and Dad lived next door to one another on Quinnipiac Avenue, New Haven, Ct., when Dad, age 23, returned home from Ohio and proposed to mother on Christmas eve in 1923. They had dated for some months at that time, but her father did not approve of it. So, the engagement caused a cataclysmic upheaval in Mother's family, for her father had ideas of his own whom she should marry. He simply tossed all her clothes in a trunk, put it on the porch, pulled down all the shades and locked the door. She was disowned. So, they were married two days later, as mother suddenly found herself without a home to return to, on December 26, 1923. When I was born the following December, 1924, (please note, a full year later) in Cleveland, Ohio, I was the first grandchild in either family. Dad was then head of the Music Department in a large Department Store and they lived in a rental apartment.
Mother, who was the eldest in the family, had been a main support to them as she had been a bank teller from age 16 or 17
Dad had a sister and a brother, both younger than he. None of the children in either family had a college education, nor did their parents. Including the parents, there were five in Dad's family and twelve in Mother's, all ordinary folks, who in a few years would be facing the rigors and challenges of the Great Depression. They faced it, bucked it, and lived through it, at times eating a lot of soup and stew, but they all managed to survive and live decent lives, while marrying and raising families as well. The Government was not the biggest factor in their lives then, as it seems to want to be doing now, so these are my observations of that period in our history.
My brother, by the way, was the first in either family to earn a University Degree in Accounting, that from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, after his service in the Army during WWII. My sister followed by borrowing some of my savings and attending school to earn a Certificate as a Dental Hygenist, and followed that profession for a full fifty years before retiring. She repaid me promptly from her first earnings, every dime. I was still going to sea and saving my money.