| I sit and wonder what it would be like if I was born fifty years before I was actually brought into this world. Two generations before my time period, my grandparents began their lives, and life during the decade of 1930 through 1940 was to me a hard, challenging experience. Living in the twenty-first century is like living in luxury compared to the time period that my grandparents grew up in. The only question that I have is... "What was it like?"
The main event that occurred during the 1930s that most people to this day would know anything about was The Great Depression. It was also known as "The Crash of 1929." This stock market crash caused the depression to follow. "Although Americans often believe that the Crash was the starting point to the Great Depression, many historians point out that it wasn't the sole cause" (Shultz). During the depression era hundreds of thousands of workers were laid off. 225,000 factory workers from the steel industry were left jobless. The depression was a raid in itself. People were swarming in frantic trying to figuring out what was going to happen next and how to take care of their families. Clara Hanox said, "I was eleven years old, but I still remember people were swarming saying 'What are we going to do?" (Jennings). They fled to their banks to clean out their funds knowing that money would be scarce. All accounts in the banks were wiped out completely leaving even the banks without money. People were left in total despair. Miriam Johnson explained a family legend, "I was eleven years old and my father and mother owned a store...I remember when daddy came home with only two dollars laying them on the table and telling us it's over" (Jennings). Depression survivors' first instinct was to sell off all of their belongings to gain capital; even their wedding bands were sold to survive. They mortgaged their homes to live off of in hopes that one day soon they would be able to pay if off and live in peace. Although they later had to sell their homes or they were evicted.
Five years before the 1929 crash, prices climbed persuading American investors to invest their money in stocks. This was also known as the "Bull Market". "American invested in the stock market for six reasons during the 1920s: rising stock dividends..., increase in personal savings..., relatively easy money policy..., companies invested their over-production profits in new production..., lack of stock market regulation..., and psychology of consumption." (Shultz)
"Popular songs of the day mirrored the transition from optimism to despair." (Shultz) In 1930 the hit song was "Happy Days Are Here Again" and that's when the income of the nation hit $75 billion from $87 billion. Then when it fell to $59 billion people sang "I've Got Five Dollars" which occurred in 1931. When it bottomed out at $42 billion in 1932 when the depression began the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" was the song people sang their blues away with. (Shultz)
Many social and economic problems existed such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness. High school dropout rates increased, protests hit the streets, farmers worried about foreclosures happening with local banks. In 1932 twenty thousand men protested for the first time in Washington getting the point across to the government that basically they were in a bind for not being able to now support their familes. The group's name was "The Bonus Expeditionary Force". The blame for the Great Depression were 3 categories of people all beginning with the letter "b". They were bankers, brokers, and businessmen.
Life during the World War II was not only about living during the depression. The generation, also the "duck and cover" generation (meaning always being prepared for thermonuclear war) were those born between 1930-45. This generation was a generation that respected those who had authority of any sort and that believed in American institutions along with corporate paternalism" (Sheehy). Women born during this time period held the record for being the most fertile of the twentieth century. By the time that they were in the middle of their twenties about seventy-five percent already had a child; overall ninety-three percent of all women in this generation had babies. Men during this time period were college graduates prepared for the working world. Men who didn't finish high school were heading to Korea for war. Very few women went on to graduate school. "The girls wore letter sweaters, saddle shoes, and bobby socks and accepted corsages from boys who wore coats and ties to school dances" (Sheehy). Many families during this generation included working fathers, stay-at-home mothers, and grandparents living under the same roof.
JoAnn Pritchett (Wilkinson), my grandmother on my mother's side was born July 7, 1933. She was born in Arlington, Nebraska. Born and raised on a farm during the Great Depression was life my grandma explained as living "poor". She was one of four girls along with her parents. Her father worked at the local Arlington Nursery and her mother was a homemaker. They owned quite a bit including a Model T vehicle and a team of mules (2) along with a corn trailer for them to pull. She remembers they had electricity, used coal for heat, but didn't have air conditioning, indoor plumbing, or running water. A common story from grandparents usually includes... "I walked to school six miles...in the snow...up hill... and etc..." To be honest, my grandmother's was pretty close, but instead of six miles it was only two each way. Grandma tells me a story saying, "I remember when we used to go to town on Saturday nights and in between a grocery store and a hardware store was our local outdoor theater. We would pay five cents to sit on these wooden planks on concrete slabs to watch a movie projected up onto one of the buildings that didn't even have sound" (Pritchett). Other types of entertainment included playing tag, hide & seek, jump roping, playing with cut-out dolls from the Sears magazine, and looking forward to the school having box lunches.
My grandmother grew up and later married my grandfather Joe Gene Pritchett December 24, 1954. September of the following year my mother, Jody was born, their first child. Grandpa was born June 26, 1927 in Chattanooga, OK born on an Indian reservation.
My grandmother on my father's side, Barbara Shaw (Ballew), born March 12, 1935. She was born and raised in Columbia, MO and one of ten children in her immediate family. Living with six sisters and three brothers along with her parents in a two bedroom house was like putting a puzzle together. She also explained that born during the Great Depression era as a middle-class family was living in "poor" conditions. Her father worked for the Columbia Water and Light Department and her mother was also a homemaker. Her family didn't own a vehicle because living in the city with everything being so close walking was their main transportation. Grandma said that once in a great moon her daddy would borrow his cousin's car so that he could take them to the creek to picnic and play in the water. Their local school was only six blocks away from the house so the traditional story of "walking six blocks..." does not relate to my grandmother in this scenario. Entertainment in her life consisted of listening to the radio, playing card games, tag, hide & seek, "kick the can", hopscotch, marbles, jacks, and also cutting out paper dolls to play with out of magazines. Grandma says, "Even for entertainment, believe it or not, we used to sit on our front porch facing Highway 40 and count cars going by to see who could get to one hundred first." (Shaw) As a pastime, she remembers that the neighbors who owned cows (living in the city cows was not a normal "pet" often seen) would let them come over just to pet them. Food commodities included home-made biscuits, oats, boxed cereal, and canned vegetables. Meat can from hunting and fishing that her father and brothers enjoyed most. They would bring in small-game such as chicken, rabbit, squirrel, and fish. "Store bought bread and bologna sandwiches, we thought was heaven," grandma reminisced. (Shaw) Tradition today still stands with the annual family fish fry reunion.
Grandmother married Donald Ray Shaw who was born September 28, 1934 also born in Columbia, MO on June 12, 1953. September 16, 1956 my father, William was born, their first child.
Neither one of my grandmothers really remember any current events during the first five years of their lives but doing research I shared information with them about their time period. During the was gum was rationed only allowing two pieces purchased per child. The government sent out books of "food" stamps per person. The books were basically like a shopping list telling people how many of a certain product they were allowed to buy. They also had taxes during that time called "mills". They were green and red. The green ones were worth one cent and the red ones were worth one-fourth of a cent. Other news that hit the headlines during 1930-1940 decade included the Empire State Building in Manhattan completed in 1931. "Clyde W. Tombaugh was a young astronomer working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1930 when he discovered a planet, right were another astronomer Percival Lowell had said it would be back in 1915. Pluto was not always the furthest planet from the sun" (BBass). The main headline in 1939 stated "W.W.II Begins; Sept.1". That's when the Germans invaded Poland with France and Great Brittain turning around and declaring war on back on Germany.
Society in the 1930s and 40s was to me the most interesting time period that I would have loved to be a part of. Today we take most things for granted and technology and machinery has made work a totally definition today than in the 1930s. Safety was something that most parents then didn't have to worry about unlike today and the rough patterns of crime. The twentieth century was known for the lowest rate for every social pathology of youth such as crime, suicide, illegitimate births, and unemployment. The twenty-first century has made a huge impact on statistics, definitions, and the way of life.