Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

The Depression taught us new ways to have money

First, let me make this clear: The Depression was not all bad! Ten dollars a month for a part-time job was better than no job at all! Eight or 10 hours of labor for $1.50 "and your keep" was a good wage for farm laborers. In our family, "keep" meant fellows sharing an attic room and eating three meals a day with our family. Mom added laundry to the deal because the two hired men kept the washing machine’s gasoline engine going and carried the wet bib overalls up from the basement and hung them out to dry. Because of birds, we hung the other things in the basement.

Mom was good to the fellows because they protected her about smoking: She was allergic to tobacco smoke, so the men never smoked in the house. Often after supper, Mom played the piano, and we’d all sing - except Dad, who read farm magazines. In winter, we had enough ice skates for fellows, but Joe, who had no family except us, rode to town on the dairy truck and returned with brand new girls’ skates from Hays Hardware for me.

In the depth of the Depression, Joe received two big boxes from Sears and Roebuck Co. We all gathered around as he hurriedly opened a long box containing a Silvertone radio! It was the first one we ever saw with a "morning glory" speaker so we could all hear at once.

In the Depression, it was customary to pay $5 for a preacher to perform a wedding or funeral. That was accompanied by a nice gift from the kitchen or garden. Members of the board of directors used their own money so Olivet Church never suffered seriously. Other members who discovered a major structural problem along the west wall once enlisted the help of a builder who donated his services, and the problem soon was solved.

Olivet was built in 1874 and was built to last; the frame building stood strong against all weather - a tornado damaged the southwest corner in the 1940s, and it flattened a two-story home moments later. The original Olivet building was kept strong by the church board of only three men who went into their own pockets when repairs were needed. Paint could wait, but the structure never suffered neglect.

Farmers traded work; it required several teams and wagons to keep threshing machines or silo-filling crews busy; lost time was lost money, but no money changed hands. Barter and exchanging labor were country ways - not just during the Depression. Dad and a few others had blacksmith forges and could do small repair jobs for themselves and for others. Women made children’s warm winter clothing from cast-off woolen garments - men’s pants were ripped at the seams to make warm clothing. Smaller scraps were pieced together to make attractive comforters.

The Depression taught us ways to save and to make money. My special way to earn was to play my fiddle for square dances; the guitar player, Chummy Turner, and I divided what coins were tossed into a hat. This is from my scrapbook of money earned part of one winter:

● One dance, Ross Brown’s, Melbourne St., $2.65.

● Three dances, Smith’s vacant house, $9.30.

● Two dances, McMickles, $2.60.

● Two dances, Hart home, $3.15.

● One dance, Rice home, Highway 40, $3.25.

● Two dances, D. Clemens Home, $4.85.

● Two barn dances, Meyers barn, $4.60.

Another way I made ends meet was to wait tables at the old Coronado Restaurant at Highway 63 and Highway 40. We made $1 plus tips for four hours of carrying food and setups.

It was better than nothing!

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