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When Was The Great Depression
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When Was the Great Depression

After World War I, the Great War, the population of the United States and some other countries enjoyed prosperity. Despite the prohibition of alcohol, the people enjoyed illicit booze, wild dancing, new cars and fancy clothes. When was the Great Depression? It began with the stock market crash of 1929 and gradually disappeared as the country changed to war mode and provided jobs to anyone who wanted to work. At this time, many women entered the work force, building the aircraft, tanks, and guns needed to fight the Axis powers.

My parents were born in 1900 and 1901. Dad was born in Bountiful, Utah. At age ten (10) he walked behind the family cow and wagon from Bountiful to Randolph, Utah, a distance of 94 miles. It took them probably six or seven days to get there. Now the driving distance is about two hours.

Dad's father had bought the Atkins Ranch and my father was very excited to go there. He was going to punch cattle, farm and hunt and fish. Randolph is in Rich county named after my great grand-uncle, an Apostle in the LDS Church who led the main company into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. My great grandfather Porter was born on the Sweetwater River in present day Wyoming in September of that year, one month before the party arrived in present day Utah.

My grandmother Porter's family were people who knew how to farm, process timber, and to earn a fairly good living doing it. My grandfather Jones, according to my grandmother, was a miner, a stone cutter, a cobbler who knew little about choosing land and earning a living by farming. He also had a bad temper and my grandmother was afraid that he was going to get shot by some irate rancher.

He and my Dad joined the Riches in Southern Idaho at Ten Mile Pass on a homestead signed by my grandfather and my Uncle Ben. That operation failed and they moved to Bear Lake on the Utah, Idaho border to live with the Riches. Then he and his brother homesteaded in Delta, Utah before finally moving to Salt Lake City far from the world of farming.

My mother was born in a tent in Silver City, Utah near present day Toelle, Utah. Her father was a miner who worked in a number of mines in Western Utah. He died when my mother was fourteen years old. Mother's half-brother, Dave, joined the army so that he could send his $30.00 per month pay to his mother. My mother went to work in a boarding house in Bingham, Utah, and then to a laundry, and finally to work in a commercial bakery in Salt Lake City where she and my father met.

The point of telling you this history is that my parents had always been in a depression. When they were married in 1922, grandparent, cousins and aunts moved in with them. Mother was pregnant and baking bread everyday for a bunch of hungry mouths. She had my sister, Alice, who got polio when she was age three (which caused her death at age 19). So the years from 1922 to 1929 which should have been years of relative affluence, were not. Then the stock market crashed. Dad was put out of work while struggling to keep the lumber yard he was running solvent, and the troubles had just began.

When I was a boy I asked my mother what all the marks were on the kitchen door. She said that was where Dad threw his jackknife for the two years while he was out of work. Finally the New Deal gave him a job with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) as an accountant. Then he got a political appointment and went into politics, later running for public office. He served as auditor of Salt Lake City for many years.

Depression found many men out of work. They use to come to our door for a handout. We fed them beans and the bread my mother baked. Almost everyone I knew was better off then we were. Some, like engineers and public workers, stayed employed and actually did well during the depression. While our car was on blocks, the engineer across the street bought two identical new cars at the same time.

One neighbor raised his family by raising vegetables on about two acres of land. He knew how to farm. He also peddled fruits and vegetable in his truck. He provided some work to the kids in the neighborhood. Most of us earned what money we could by cutting lawns.

When the war came, there were plenty of things to do. Cement trucks continually shot down our street to the new Remington Arms plant south of town. One day a cement truck hit two boys north of my home riding double on a bicycle, killing them both. When the arms plant was producing ammunition, the trucks would shoot over the viaduct by the Union Pacific Depot. One WAC driver fell asleep and hit a brother and sister smashing them to death.

I remember when I was in kindergarten my little friend was stealing coal from a local coal yard, the family's only source of heat. He fell from the fence breaking his neck. His siblings, knowing no better, just put him in the wagon with his head hanging over the end of the wagon. He did not survive the ride home.

I also remember the shoemaker's son trying to save his sister who wandered out into the war-time traffic of North Temple Street. They both were killed. This widower had a sad life. His sole remaining son stole his life-long savings from him leaving him destitute.

Also, while my Welch grandfather was playing his accordion at a city park, we listened to the music while two of our friends were drowning in the Jordan River, one trying to save the other. That family was very hard up and they had lots of kids. One died when it was sleeping in a drawer and another child push the drawer shut. Their kids ran wild while the parents tried to eke out a living.

A lot of fathers left their families during the Great Depression to find work. When the war came, there were few men at home. For some the Depression never seemed to end. I knew so many destitute families, most with no father in the home.

Now we have families suffering because our men and women are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. The military, not known for great ideas, allows a husband and wife with children to serve overseas at the same time. The hardships are great both financially and emotionally.

As we were looking for any way to make a buck during the Great Depression, these military families and those out of work are looking for ways to make extra money. At the same time they are trying to stay close to their families. Some are learning how to work at home.

Is the current recession comparable to the Great Depression? The unemployment rate is now about nine percent. The Great Depression had an unemployment rate of 25 percent. But if you are out of work, it doesn't matter what the rate is. You need to care for your family. You are in the Great Depression if you can't do that.

Will the current situation ever end? Yes but probably despite what the Congress is doing about it. The last recession ended by the New Deal and as we entered the war whereas the current recession is partly due because of war expenditures. Spending billions every month on the military will not do it. If we spent that kind of money on education, we would have something going for us. We could pull out of this ditch.

Fly Old Glory!

Street Talk

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