Depression Era: Living and Working Through the Market Crash

Arizona woman remembers living and working in the twin cities after the market crash of 1928.

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I was quite young during the Depression era, being born in 1921 and only 7 years old at the time of the market crash in 1928.

My father had been a successful farmer up to the time of my birth, when through an unfortunate accident he had to give up farming.

Three rooms of the second floor were rented out for income. One family of four came to rent the rooms for some time. The father rolled cigars and then delivered boxed cigars to sell to the nearby small towns.

The side lot next to the house was made up into a kitchen garden. Here were grown lettuce, tomatoes, radish and vegetables. The neighbor ladies came to buy a sprig of dill for their pickling of cucumbers. My sister and I would sell a sprig for a nickel and then run to the neighborhood grocery store for a store-bought candy bar.

My brother had a daily paper route and also delivered Reminders for the local merchants. In 1931 he saved enough money to buy our first radio. He also saved cancelled stamps and sent them away to receive new stamps. Postcards were a penny then and a letter could be mailed for a three cent postage stamp.

I was 13 years old when we moved to the Twin Cities in 1934. That year my older brother qualified for a government job through taking a Civil Service examination. He went to work for the large sum of $100 a month. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President. Government jobs were the salvation of some of the problems of the time. I, myself, took a summer nursemaid job for $3.50/week. I worked 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The money I earned that summer paid for my class ring and prom dress for graduation in 1939.

After graduation I went to work for Montgomery Ward and Co. as a salesgirl for 35ft an hour. But my co-workers and I went out to lunch once a week, payday. A good lunch cost only 35ft.

Irene Duddy
Tucson, Arizona

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.