Growing Up During the Depression Era

Florida man recalls growing up in Missouri during the depression era

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When I was growing up in the small farming community of Glasgow, Missouri, during the depression era, my parents didn't have a steady income. My dad did day work and also had a team and wagon for hauling. Eventually he bought a Model T truck. Some weeks he made several dollars, but would then go several days or weeks with little or no income. To help out, my mother took in boarders at the rate of $7.00 a week. We usually had two boarders in the house at any given time.

As soon as I was old enough, I worked at filling stations to help earn money for my folks. I hand-pumped gas from the old-type gas dispenser. I also washed and serviced cars. One time, while in high school, I worked at three filling stations at one time. I also had a Kansas City Journal Post newspaper route. Unfortunately, I had to give this up because many people could not afford to pay their subscriptions.

After high school graduation, I went to Moberly (Missouri) Junior College. As I played both football and basketball, the out-of-district tuition was waived. When I left home in early September I had $35.00 cash and an Austin automobile that I purchased for $65.00 (between semesters I had to sell the car. Fortunately I got my $65.00 out of it). In order to pay for college I worked in a bus station about four hours a day and eight to ten hours on Saturday and Sunday. I worked the counter and washed dishes in a restaurant for my food.

When I returned home from Moberly, I found out that my parents had several hundreds of dollars in delinquent bills, plus an $800.00 mortgage on the house. I would not be able to attend Southern Methodist University. I would have to find work and help pay the bills. I decided that in addition to paying off the debts, I would bring modern amenities into our home. On the top of my priority list were running water, an indoor bathroom and electricity.

I was able to get a job with the Army Corps of Engineers. My first job was working on the Missouri River unloading barges for 45~ an hour. I was able to help payoff the debts and bring the modern amenities into our home. As I worked I began to advance and decided to stay with the Corps. I stayed with them for thirty-nine years.

Living through the Depression era taught me to learn to live on what you earn, make the best out of what you have and save for the future.

Myrl E. Maddox
Cocoa Beach, Florida


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.