Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Great Depression

The depression started with Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 and continued for almost ten years in the United States.  Unemployment reached 25 percent, family income was cut in half, and generally it was a hard time for most families.  This is a story of my father's family during the depression.  It is mostly told through the eyes of his older sister.
Grandfather Wilford (my dad’s father) decided to move his family to Salt Lake City, as he had a job working in an auto body shop.  This job lasted two ears, when he lost the job due to the depression.  The family moved back to the Teton Basin to victor.  Grandpa worked as a sheepherder as this was the only job he could get.  Audrey and Lula (dad’s older sisters) went with him. 
He then moved the family to Lincoln, outside of Idaho Falls, and followed the sugar beets.  During the depression, there was plenty of work, but not enough money.  It seemed his parents were always on the verge of poverty.  Aunt Audrey related the following with regards to this period:
This was really the depth of the depression.  My parents were so poor I don’t know how we survived.  What my parents must have gone through.  Papa would work the sugar beet run and then do what odd jobs he could.  The two summers we were in Lincoln he contracted to thin and hoe huge fields of beets for different farmers.  I worked side by side with him, all day, every day but Sunday.  Lula helped too and my mother walked to the field and worked when her housework was done….One time we had no flour and no money to buy any.  I know my parents were frantic.  As we sat around our kitchen table after supper there was a knock on our back door.  When we answered it, there, in our little lean-to porch, was a 50-pound sack of flour.  We never knew who brought it….But what a heaven-sent gift.  (Chase, Audrey’s history)
Audrey relates another story, about a year later, which illustrates the economic condition of the family.  This was after Audrey had worked a summer in Pocatello:
I got paid $.25 an hour at my job.  One of my most precious memories was the result of my job.  No children in our family had ever had a bike.  It was something totally out of reach.  But my brother Wilford dreamed of one.  Most of his friends had one.  He went to Victor to stay….While he was gone I got him a bike for his birthday.  He got back the day of his birthday.  I had put the bike in his bedroom, which was a tiny room down a long hall and at the back of the house.  I told him there was something for him in his room.  He dashed back there.  I’ll never forget his face as he wheeled out that beautiful new bike.  At $.25 an hour, it took me most of the summer t pay for it, but it was well worth it.  (Chase)
From Idaho Falls the family moved to Pocatello where Grandpa worked on a W.P.A. project.  These were “government projects President Roosevelt had started to help the poor.” (Chase)  He worked for civic projects with a pick and shovel on bridges and buildings.  From there the family moved to Salmon, Idaho, and stayed about a year before moving back to Pocatello.
Aunt Audrey had received a two-year teaching certificate, and taught for a year at Bates School in the Teton Basin.  She saved enough money she was able to help her parents make a down payment on a farm the following year.  Aunt Audrey described this as a fertile farm, in Riverton, Idaho just west of Blackfoot.
Grandpa Wardle lost the farm after two years:
He got a little behind in the payment.  A man was sent to see him about it.  My dad reacted as he usually did and beat the fellow up.  He made that payment, but the fellow told Ellis, (Audrey’s husband) “I’d have worked with him, but now I’m just waiting to see him get behind again.  When he does, I’ll get him!”  Papa got behind again and lost the farm. (Chase)
From there they landed on a farm near Rigby, renting a couple of poor farms and eventually purchasing one.  This farm had rocky soil.  They farmed beets and potatoes, hay and livestock.  I know Dad also raised livestock—pigs, chickens and milk cows.  He also herded sheep with his father.  This community became the permanent residence of my Grandparents.

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