Now I know why it was called the Great Depression

November 7, 2008 at 11:14 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

My wife and I both were raised by parents who grew up during the OGD (my new hip acronym, coined here, for “Original Great Depression”).  My Dad was born in Cleveland, OH in 1927, so for you history buffs and mathematicians out there, that would have made him 2 years old when the great stock market crash of 1929. He had vivid memories of the growing up in the ’30s, being a pre-teen when the shit really hit the fan, including a profound life event of being shipped off to work on a farm at age 10 in the wake of his father’s suicide in 1937. Other than that, Dad never really told me much about that time in his life, which needless to say must have been incredibly difficult for him.  He’d usually fast-forward through his boarding school days in Bell Buckle, TN and how he joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 near the end of the War.

But as we know, times were tough all over, as he used to say. Behold Exhibit B, some memories of my father-in-law, Louis (pronounced Louie, thank you very much. Like the king(s)). He and my wife were chatting about the grim future facing us in 2008, and Louis, who has lived in Michigan his 70+ years, shared that just before he was born (in 1934) the city of Detroit closed the city zoo, and in what seemed like the natural thing to do at the time, killed the animals and distributed the butchered meat to city residents in need.

Now, when we heard this, we first thought it was one of ol’ Granpa Louie’s tall tales. A few days later, we received in the mail from him a photocopy of an article on the Great Depression from 10/31/2008’s Washington Post, wherein it included this paragraph:

“…Kyving, a professor at Northern Illinois University, says he stuns his students when he tells them what happened in Detroit, a particularly hard hit city. Overwhlemed by demands from the needy, the city shut down its zoo in 1932 and slaughtered its animals to provide food.”


Attached to the article was a hand-written note by Louis about other stuff he remembers from his childhood. Here is how he puts it:


Being hungry, not one gift for Christmas, no heat for the house, no shoes and lack of warm clothing…”

Did I mention he lived in Michigan?

“…I remember a young man going to prison for four years for stealing a turkey to feed his brother and sisters.

“Medical (care), or the lack of it. Many, many people had a child, brother or sister who died from pneumonia, the flu or polio. I remember measles, mups, chicken pox, whooping cough and scarlet fever. I remember being quarantined for the above. How I remember the tooth aches, to this day. I remember children with crooked arms and legs, impetigo, bad vision and no glasses.

“I remember people losing their farms and houses because they could not make the mortgage payments or losing them because they had no money to pay the property taxes. I remember hobos and bums, today they are called homeless people…”

Around here we also call them laid-off Marketing Managers.

“Things that are different today:

Social Security, Medicare, pensions, Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare help…”

He goes on to point out which political party has supported these programs and which continues to oppose them, but I won’t pontificate. He concludes with:

“Let’s hope and pray that future people do not have to have these rememberances.”



1 Comment

  1. emily phipps said,

    Thank you for writing this–and sharing it. I keep hearing about how hard times are right now but I keep seeing folks trying to decide which of their 5 pair of boots to wear and which type of olive to snack on. It is certainly a different type of scene for sure.

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