Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad

People have no idea what things were like during the Great Depression. They think now if they have to give up cable television, they're sacrificing, but during the depression, there was no money.
Daddy did whatever he could do. Every morning, he'd walk from Linden Street down to the railroad bridge where it cost him a penny to walk across that bridge to get to downtown Cincinnati, where he'd look for work. If he didn't have a penny, he'd hop a train. Sometimes Daddy would sweep floors, haul ice or throw trash. It didn't matter. There was no shame back then in the work a person did; It was all honorable. Sometimes Daddy would make a couple of dollars a week.
Mom worked too. She would take in laundry for people or ironing. She did whatever she could do to bring in money. She worked in Nell Donnelly's store and even owned her own store, but that was later. Mom could squeeze a dollar out of a nickle, but getting the nickle took a lot of ingenuity. I don't remember Mom or Daddy standing in the bread lines, but they might have. Mom always had a pot of beans on the stove, and we ate our fill of jowl bacon.
I helped Mom around the house. Mom would let me scrub the floors or fold laundry. I'll never forget the time Mom had washed the quilts and hung them outside on the line to dry. I brought them inside, folded them and laid them too close to the fire. They went up in a blaze, and Mom screamed and cried, "Reba's burning up. Reba's going to die." I didn't die, of course, because when I saw them burning, I ran outside and down the street. Needless to say, after Daddy put the fire out, he was waiting for me when I came home. Oh, I'll never forget that spanking, and I never made that mistake again.
Christmases weren't like they are today. There was no money, so we would get pennies from Daddy to buy Mom candy, and we'd get pennies from Mom to buy something for Daddy, usually a railroad handkerchief. I remember one Christmas, Buddy got a harmonica and I got paper dolls. Well, Buddy and I got into a fight, and I threw his harmonica into the fire. He just stood there and looked at me. He didn't say word, but I felt so bad about it, that I picked up my paper dolls and threw them into the fire too. Buddy finally said, "Now that was stupid." Yes, it was, and I never got over it.
The Earls lived next door to us. Mr. Earls worked for Baldwin Piano Company in Cincinnati. Baldwin Piano didn't lay anyone off during the depression. They cut hours way back, but they stood by their employees. Anyway, whenever the Earls kids got candy, they always gave us some. Mr. Earls would say, "One for Margaret, one for Millie, one for Buddy and one for Rebie." Whenever they got to go to the movies, they'd take Buddy and me also. We took many a supper in the Earls' home, and they were like family to us.
That's the thing most people today probably can't understand. We live in subdivisions now where children go home and play video games. Back then, we played on the streets. We knew our neighbors and people in the community looked after one another. We depended on one another. We had to because the times would have been unbearable without friends. Everyone was poor, but everyone was proud. We were scarred for life by the poverty, but we all survived.
Reba Webb Goff
February 10, 2009

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