Depression Era: Saturday Afternoon Birthday Party

California woman remembers playing fun games at a saturday afternoon birthday party during the depression era.

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When I was a child during the depression era, some children in the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon invited me to a birthday party at their house. I went but did not give a present. There was no money for things other than necessities.

It was early fall and I wondered how they could have a party, they had five children and their gas and lights had been turned off for non-payment, as had ours.

When I arrived in the backyard, near the big walnut tree was a ring of rocks around a small fire and near by a washtub three quarters full of water. The mother gave each of us children a half walnut shell and a small birthday candle. She lit the candle and held our hand and showed us how to tip the candle and drip some wax into the walnut shell and stand the candle in it and float it in the tub of water. Our boats looked pretty sailing on our sea of water in the washtub.

The mother then gave us each a red apple. She peeled our apple carefully, leaving the strip of peel intact. She placed the peel in our cupped hand and had us close our eyes and throw it over our left shoulder. When we opened our eyes we were to identify the shape of the peel on the ground as a letter of the alphabet. That letter was the first letter of our sweetheart's name. As we ate the apples, the mother made a cup of hot cocoa for each one over' the campfire. At that time, if you brought your own container to the local dairy you could have free milk from the processing of cream. If you let it set overnight, cream rose to the top in a small amount. Today it would be called low fat milk. We ate the apple, drank the cocoa, played a game of hide-and-seek and a game of tag, sang happy birthday, and I had a very happy time that is still remembered today.

Lucile Hebert 
Yucaipa, California


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.