The Great Depression

My Personal Responses to the Depression Era

... left high school in a pique of frustration ...

Bill Jodrey

The Depression had taken a death grip on the economy when I left high school in a pique of frustration with teachers/schools/financial scrimping, etc.

I did not see into the future so my mind shut down and I took off for the open road.

If I thought things were bad when I left, I soon learned just how much worse they could become.

I spent four months hitchhiking and riding freight trains from Melrose, MA to Seattle, WA, down the West Coast to Los Angeles and back by various routes to Boston. One must not forget the many miles that were covered by putting one foot in front of the other.

Some of the ever-present problems were food, rain, cold nights, lack of shelter, and worn out shoes, but to offset those was a growing love and respect for the people who understood the mental and physical stress the men of the road were experiencing and to the many who offered a helping hand if they could.

After my return to Melrose, I found a series of odd jobs that paid from 10 cents to 25 cents an hour.

I washed the floor of the Highland branch of the Public Library once a week for 25 cents. I worked for 3 weeks grading the race track at the new athletic field for 35 cents an hour and the man who had the contract skipped out. I never got paid for that job. The money involved was not that great but I lost a friend that day and I still feel sad.

I worked for a year in a toy factory on Tremont Street for 10 cents an hour as a jigsaw operator. When a foreman for a new art area was set up, I was elected but my pay stayed the same.

The largest output product was jigsaw puzzles but there were other products. One day one of the two owners of the business told the workers that the business operating funds had disappeared along with his partner and, consequently, we workers no longer had a job.

My next position was head cook in the C.C.C. at a camp in Willoughby Forest, Vermont. I was at camp a year which was full of learning and adventure, a wonderful experience.

When I returned from camp there were a few more jobs available but if you haven't tried it, and I mean door-to-door selling, it can break a strong man's heart.

From my Boy Scout days I had, and still have, an abiding sense of oneness with trees so I turned to tree expert work and, after the 1938 hurricane, I worked as a climber for N. E. tree experts and for the towns of Stoneham Park Department, North Reading Park Department, Frost & Higgins tree experts, etal.

When the country decided to get ready for war in 1940, I was hired as a heavy rigger at G.E. in Lynn and for me the depression was over.
September 10, 1998


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