The Great Depression




Anyone alive today who was born after 1938 probably has no idea or any concept of what the Great Depression was all about and how it affected  citizens trying to make a living in that time.

In many respects, that is good. In most respects, it is not good. The world economy went into a dive starting in 1929 which lasted 11 years. The stock markets went into free fall and industries closed. Millions became unemployed. For a little perspective, 25 percent of the American work force was out of work! Today it is between 3 and 4 percent!

With no money to spend people could not buy commodities other than food, clothing and shelter. Enormous numbers of people had insufficient food to eat. Men took any work that they could find at wages of $15 a week if they were lucky! Children took jobs as drugstore clerks, grocery deliveries or just mowing lawns for 33 cents per hour! Lots of kids had newspaper delivery routes; one in the morning and a second one in the afternoon.

I  had a magazine route delivering several magazines.  The essence of capitalism overwhelmed me in 1940 when I established an egg route! That's right; an egg route in which I bought cases of eggs, candled them, boxed them and towed them around the route on a four wheeled cart. I made maybe 5 cents a dozen! In short order, I had established a good route of steady customers.

In winter snowfall offered a boon for ambitious kids with shovels. It was a cinch to remove a foot of snow if it was light and powdery but, if the snow was wet and heavy it was a problem getting customers to realize the difference and, hence, the higher charge for removal. We were lucky to get $2 for clearing a good sized driveway and the walkways. Last winter some kids came to my door to shovel my modest driveway. I asked how much. The answer was $20! My, how times do change!

During that stage of life when I realized girls weren't boys, it was a challenge to see my social life sacrificed in the name of capitalism and my egg route! In high school my absence in the social whirl was interpreted by many females as a chance to date a kid with a pocket full of money! They lost! I was a social dud. The egg route persevered through high school and I persevered as a social dud. Little did I care.

My bank account was the admiration of many adults and the money was gaining the ethereal sum of 2 percent per annum! Yes, I was being victimized by other capitalists. After high school, I went to work in the mountains of New Hampshire and my bank accounts matured nicely while I was away.

The Great Depression continued until the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy. All at once jobs materialized for one and all. All eligible young men, and I do mean all, went into the armed forces. Others went into industry manufacturing war goods. Civilians gave their surplus pots and pans and cooking fat to the war effort. Bob Hope had a ball with War Effort jokes. Suddenly, the Great Depression was forgotten.

Or was it? Anyone who was accustomed to getting up at 4 a.m. for a paper route or who pushed a metal wheeled pushcart or who dug ditches will never forget seeing 70 year olds digging ditches! Few will forget one bowl of potato soup per day with coffee. Few will forget losing relatives to suicide in 1929! The United States of America became a third world country in 1932!

Adversity brings strength, Shakespeare said. And so it was in our Great Depression. After suffering the adversities of World War II, the need for aggression by depression victims brought forth progressive gains in all departments for all. Yes, there were recessions from time to time; all short term.

It has been said that anyone wanting work can find it. Since World War II, anyone investing in the stock market could do well. That has happened. The stock market, once considered a disease, has gone from the levels of 1928 to levels unheard of before in 1998! The adversities of the Great Depression have become memories. My desire here is to see that the profits of character from the Great Depression are not overlooked.

The men who became part of the American War effort were the product of the Great Depression. They had no concept of or relation with easy times. They had become strong from the adversity of the Depression. That is a strength not seen today among young people who have been raised on television and pop tarts!

The administration of President Roosevelt created "make work" projects around the country which offered America's young people a weeks pay; small but, better than nothing. Thousands of young men joined the "Civilian Conservation Corps" which worked to develop and maintain park lands. Their great and useful work is still remembered today. Part of the membership obligation in that organization required all those young men to become part of the United States Army if a national emergency developed. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, that did take place.

Even the Viet Nam War had millions of detractors who had no concept of country or of patriotism. All at once the poorer classes were filled with philosophy often fed to them by socialists. Universities became a hotbed of "know it all's" generated by liberal instructors, many of whom were avowed Marxists.

Marxism became somewhat fashionable during the depression when the working masses all over the world were suffering. Eventually, most of these people as well as most intellectuals found the division between the theory of Marxism and the practice of Marxism were miles apart. The villainous performance of Marxisms chief proponent,
Joseph Stalin, gradually came to light both through witnesses and books such as "The Gulag Archipelego" by Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn.

Former devotees drifted away from extreme socialism but the remaining liberals effectively phased out the essence of American patriotism as it might have applied to the Viet Nam War. All at once the liberals made a lot of noise at the expense of  others with the character to  go to war. All at once, these liberals in society knew more than the patriots. The bottom line was that they had not the character to fight for their country. The same resistance was common during the Civil War.

For those who exposed themselves to the violence of war in Viet Nam, my compliments. To those steeped in warped, badly motivated philosophy at the expense of their own country, I might ask, may you see the error you have subscribed to. In the absence of a character building depression, delivering  doses of  strength,  may you realize the fault of the easy way out.

I would under no circumstances wish the suffering of another Great Depression on the population but, to the extent that today's young ones know nothing of the profits of need, may you ever seek and profit from those  same perspectives.

Leonard B. Dalton

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