The Great Depression
I’ve been reading a book about the Great Depression in the United States in the early 1930s. It is hard to actually know how the people existed in those days, when we have so much now. I knew the depression was bad but never realized just how bad it really was.
This is a true story of a man who finds among his grandfather’s possessions, a suitcase containing letters from people who responded to an ad the grandfather put in a local newspaper in Canton, Ohio in 1933. The small ad was aimed at white-collar workers who need a small amount of money to brighten up their Christmas that year. They were to write a letter to him telling him why they deserved to get the money. Out of the hundreds of letters, he chose 75 and gave them a check for $5. each. He only kept the letters of the people who received the money.
The letters revealed the poverty of these people and their attitude. Some had owned two or three companies and were now so poor, they lost everything and could not even afford to keep their homes. But the people had pride in those days and even in their letters did not complain about their situations or ask for a handout. Now, mind you, some of the men had been out of work for four years without a paycheck and without unemployment insurance (didn’t have it then). They just kept a still upper lip, explained their situation, and said why they wanted the money. Some men would not even write the letters so their wives did.
In the letters, some wanted the money for shoes and warm clothes for their children, for rent or for food, or for a job instead of the money. They WANTED to work and would work at any measly job. The lucky ones who had a job might not even make enough to pay their bills. So not like some of the people of today who desire a handout instead, and do not want just any old job. Some tried to sell cakes and cookies their wives baked. Some lived in unheated shacks just to stay alive. Many existed on one meal a day. The homeless shelters were filled to overflowing. Now that was poverty. It sure was an eye-opener on the desperateness of the situation. It’s hard to believe that this could have happened in America.
Many of the people wrote that if their situation was not deserving enough to get the money then it should be given to someone more needy. Most said they were opposed to charity.
And most of them wrote thank-you letters for the gift of five dollars.