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Great Depression Years

A story by Elsie Johnson



I didn’t realize there was a depression until I was in grade school. Some of the children were given boxes of milk daily. I asked my mother why I couldn’t have milk at school. She explained why some children got milk daily -- that we had enough food and money to buy, but not every family was as lucky as we were. Our food was very basic, and much of it was raised in our large garden. My mother was very knowledgeable in nutrition and could stretch a dollar like no one else could! Depression Food My mother said our house must be marked. During the depression we had many homeless men or bums as we used to call them stop and ask for food. My mother would never refuse them and kept a special dish to place the food and have them sit on our back steps. One day a large man opened our back door and said, I want something to eat. He proceeded to sit at my fathers place at the table. (My father was not at home.) My mother hurried along and found something to serve him. (It was time for us to go back to school – she said quietly we couldn’t go yet.) This bum finally finished and left. I was too young to realize why mom wouldn’t let us return to school – those were desperate times. Depression Days My father worked as a freight conductor on the R.R. One day he asked my sister if we’d like something special. He showed us two beautiful Bulova wristwatches. We couldn’t believe it! I never knew the story behind the watches but believe one of the homeless or bums was riding the rails as they used to say and either my father gave him money or let him ride in the box car to his next destination in exchange for the watches. What sad days those were!! I still have that watch! Depression Clothing Food wasn’t the only thing that families worried about during the depression. Clothing was also a problem. Large families used the hand me down method as we did. I do recall a neighbor giving my mother a new black coat. My mother was not a skilled seamstress but she did fashion a nice black jumper from the coat. I wore it every day that winter with the change of five blouses she made. I was always glad for Sunday because I could wear my lovely brown jersey dress that had flowers printed on it. Being the eldest in the family I usually got to wear something new. My poor sisters had to wear the hand-me-down clothing!!

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 1930s,box car,bums,Depression,hand-me-downs,homeless,marked house
  Perry, Iowa
Jun 16 2024


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