Neighbors helped each other out in the depression era

Nebraskan remembers neighbors going to great lengths to take care of their communities during the depression era

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In the depression era everyone was your neighbor. You visited, borrowed, you lended (not money, nobody had any). Whenever anyone was in trouble your neighbor came and helped. You sat up with the sick. You sat up all night with the mourners and the corpse. Nobody was ever alone or in trouble. The neighbors carne by foot, by buggy, horseback, and the old tin lizzy to bring food, a handshake, a hug, a shoulder to cry on. Neighbors were neighbors in those days. You did not talk about socializing as they do now. You just carne and did what had to be done.

You rubbered on the old party line. Now you might call it snooping. It was not snooping, it was seeing if someone needed help. I was fourteen when my father called the doctor when my older sister was very sick with pneumonia. Within a half an hour our home was filled with neighbors from far and near with food, friendship, concern and any form of help they could give. My dear sister died and they all stayed with us that long night and for days afterwards and how happy we were to have them.

Today I hear people saying "What do I say?" People didn't worry about what to say. They hugged you. They gave you a firm handshake and they just said and did what carne naturally. What a comfort they were and how we treasured them!

When my children were small my husband became very ill with pneumonia. I called on the old party line to the nearest hospital and told them I was bringing him in. Chore time carne and I had to go home with four toddlers to do the chores. All the way home I worried about how I was going to milk fifteen cows by hand and handle the toddlers. When I drove into the yard, it was full of cars and all the neighboring men were carrying milk pails to the barn. I ran to them sobbing with joy and relief. I cried, "How did you know?" They said, "We rubbered when you called the doctor." God bless them. They did the chores until my husband was able to take over. We tried to pay them and they said, "What are neighbors for?" What a lesson in love and concern and being a neighbor!

Nelle Gilg
Atkinson, Nebraska


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.