Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Depression Came to Town and

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Depression Came to Town and

Article excerpt

WHEN I bragged that I am an alumnus of the real Depression, I got a call from a college student who wanted to talk to me about what effect that Depression had on the town where I endured it. I like to be kind to the young folks, but I'm wondering if I can make today's sophisticated scholar aware of our situation in the 1930s. Fact is, I seem to recall, that the only effect on life in my town was that Doc Payne got a job with the WPA.

Doc was a special character we all admired, and that he managed without gainful employment was nothing new to any of us. But to Franklin Delano Roosevelt it became a National Emergency Disaster. Doc's doctorate was spurious, but he was a Democrat. Once a week, now, he would go to the town house to get his WPA check, for which he straightened street signs, washed the fire engine on Mondays, watered the petunias by the town flagpole if it didn't rain, and by such industry made more money than did Herbert Laramie Osborne, who owned the bank, the livery stable, and the bowling alley, but was a Republican.

We had two other Democrats in town - Herb Keene who had the fish-packing plant, and Buzzer Pettigrew who had owned the local telephone franchise but had just sold it to N. E. Tel. & Tel. for $3 million. I never heard of a Republican who got a boondoggle appointment.

The rest of us made out as best we could. Understand that money was not so important then. Pond ice was cheap, but our ice-man was viewing with dismay the new sign over the hardware store that said, "Frigidaire Dealer." Radios were available, but broadcasting stations, and networks, were yet to become important. The movies (three nights a week) cost 25 cents, but the "talkies" were an innovation.

On Wednesday nights we generally got Evelyn Brent or Richard Barthelmess. Because of the Depression we didn't have to cut down on power lawnmowers, washing machines, electric toasters, and suchlike frivolities because we didn't have them anyway. Some of our lobster catchers (14 cents a pound!) were still fishing with sailing sloops.

In the 1930s, the automobile of fashion was either the Model A Ford or a comparable "Chevvie. …

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