Deloris Pickens writes: Remembering the Great Depression
We are now in a downturn in our economy that is being compared to the Great Depression which started with the stock market crash in 1929 and didn't really end until World War Two.
We of that generation were not able or did not prepare our children and grandchildren for this event. The bankers and credit card companies were extending credit to people that did not have the ability to pay their bills and a lot of manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. We are now in the process of trying to get our economy and our lives back to what we have perceived as normal.
For those of you who are a generation or half a generation younger than I, let me tell you what I remember about my childhood in the Great Depression.
I was born in 1927 and when I was 1-1/2 years old my Mother contacted tuberculosis and was sent to spend 2-1/2 years in a sanatorium. My oldest sister Dorothy was 16 and a Junior in High School. She quit school to help take care of the rest of the family. My sister Daisy was 11, my brother Lawrence was 8, my brother Don was 6 and I was a year and a half old.
We lived on an 80 acre farm 3 miles from the small village of Geneva, Minnesota. My father was 47 years old at that time. He paid one of the neighbor women to do the washing but otherwise saw that the children had clothes, went to school and of course had to take care of the Dairy herd and the farm work. All the children pitched in and helped.
At that time farmers in Minnesota where I grew up bartered farm work as there was not much money. We bartered eggs for groceries, had a large garden, an orchard and we raised pigs to be sold to Hormel's in Austin, Minnesota.
After my mother came home it was easier on the family. My Mother made most of our clothing and some from flour sacks and some of our clothing was made from things my Uncle Ernest sent to us. Uncle Ernest was a depot agent for the CNW Railroad and had a good job during the depression.
In 1935 my brother Richard was born. My Mother was 46 and my Father was 53 years old. That was the year my parents lost the farm. In 1936 we moved to a rent farm about 10 miles from Geneva. 1936 was a terribly bad winter with a lot of snow. The neighbors came with their sleds and moved us to our rent farm and they had to shovel the snow for half a mile to get the sleds to our new home.
1936 was the same year that my brother Donald broke the snow ahead of me so that we could walk the half mile to school. My brother Lawrence and a neighbor boy took a horse driven sleigh to the small high school in Geneva. They left the horse at the livery stable and this was a 3 mile trip morning and evening. This was 1936 which would be 73 years ago.
We moved to a farm of 120 acres that was located 2 miles south of Hope, Minnesota. My brother Don finished 8th grade at District 76 and I was in 3rd grade. My brother Lawrence and sister Daisy walked across the fields to catch the school bus into Ellendale.
It was a mile from school and I remember during spring thaw that the creek came up over the road. My Dad met Don and I and told us to go back to the railroad and walk the track until we got over the creek. We had to come in the back way and at one point we had to walk the barb wire fence to keep from getting our feet wet.
Things begin getting better starting in 1937. We had a large garden and I helped with picking vegetables, shelling peas, helping around the house and watching my little brother so that my Mother could get the never ending work done. I also started milking cows when I was about 9 years old.
My father was able to purchase a Farmall tractor and plow and he did it on credit using a third of his cream check to pay off the tractor.
We helped our neighbors, we did without a lot of material things, made our own fun by playing cards with neighbors and survived quite well. I learned to sew, embroider, tat and have always been able to entertain myself without spending money.
I can remember when Franklin Roosevelt was elected President. We went to a neighbors house and listened to the radio. The government at that time started a program called WPA (Works Progress Administration) and also the CCC. The WPA helped people earn some money so that they could survive and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) took young men without jobs and made bridges, lakes and other projects. Three things come to mind in our community in Ponca City: Lake Ponca, the High School North stadium and the Bridge over Black Bear Creek going to Stillwater. These programs put people to work and helped us come out of the depression.
Despite the hard times all the children in my family except my oldest sister Dorothy were able to graduate from High School. Don worked for another farmer his Junior and Senior years in High school and I worked for the Superintendent of Owatonna High School in my Junior and Senior years.
Many of my friends whose families owned their farms did not finish school but having a High School education was a high priority in our family. My Mother had been a High School graduate from Marion Iowa in 1907 and had been a school teacher for 5 years. My father born in 1882 finished grade school and his last English book was McGuffys 5th reader and I think they were reading Shakespeare in that book.
This is a strong country and we can put our minds to our problems and come out of this with a better knowledge of how to take care of ourselves. But we have to get back to helping each other and getting our priorities right.
Top Photo: Three generations of Pickens women: My sister's oldest daughter Amber, my mother Deloris Pickens, my sister Gail Pickens Barger, and my sister's youngest daughter Grace.
Middle Photo: Jobs disappeared in the Great Depression. Photo taken at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC.
Bottom Photo: The shelters at Lake Ponca Park were constructed during the Great Depression in a government program that gave work to young men without jobs.
All photos by Hugh Pickens