Welfare: Free Groceries in the Depression Era

An Iowa woman recalls the effect that welfare's free groceries had on the work ethic of some of her contemporaries

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During the depression era, our bank closed on December 22, 1932. My brother-in-law had just taken a load of hogs to the Oscar Meyer company, and rushed to the bank with the check, and managed to deposit it just before the 2 p.m. deadline. Of course no one told him that he wouldn't get it back for a long, long time.

I had cashed my monthly teacher's check ($95) that day, but took it all in cash as I had some Christmas gifts to buy, and had signed up for life insurance and needed money for the first payment. That amounted to almost the only cash our family had on hand for a long time, so the insurance payment was delayed.

Since we lived on the farm, we always had plenty of food. A girlfriend of mine had gotten married that year, and just before her baby was born in November, her husband who had worked at Rock Island Harmester Co., got laid off, so we went to visit them and brought them some potatoes. We could only sell the large potatoes, so those we gave away were the smaller ones, like those we ate. We also took some canned fruit to them. Her husband, who just laid on the cot all afternoon, made fun of the small potatoes. While we were there, Welfare delivered their free groceries, which contained oranges, lettuce and all other things that we could not afford to buy at the stores. That man never did hold a steady job again...said, "Why should I?"

Anonymous
Davenport, Iowa


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