These wonderful memories were written by Besse Haskit Old sometime in the 1960's. She was born 14 Jul 1908 in Wimer,Craig Co.,OK. She died in Oregon in 1973. This transcription is exactly like the original, nothing has been changed.
Contributed by Mary A. Old
Transcribed by Taylor Hayes
Page contributed by Karen Mitchell
As I Experienced Them
We were married January 9, 1929. I had been working as a maid in the wealthy home of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Rood, of the famous Rood Candy Co. They were an elderly couple who had just had one child, a girl, Dorothy, who died when eight or ten years old. Her photo was everywhere about the house and also on one of the boxes the candy was packed in. I quit my job to get married. In those days, very few married women worked away from home. We rented a house, four rooms and a bath in East Pueblo, Colorado, in what was called the “Parkhill District”. We lived there less than six months, then decided to buy a home of our own. We bought, or contracted to buy, a large old house. at 805 E. 2nd St., Pueblo, Colorado. It was roomy but ill arranged. But, we were in love and happy. The house had a living room with a small room off one end. They were, or could be used as, one room or partitioned by portiers (drapes, curtains). At the front end of this room, making an L shape, was a glassed in room with a wide shelf for flowers. Lengthwise of the room was a built in window box seat, with hinged lid. This room was as wide as the small room at the end of the living room and had evidently been a porch at one time. There was a dining room, small bedroom, bathroom, and large kitchen. These were the rooms Melvin and I occupied. The other side of the house was two large rooms which we turned over to my mother and sister, Esther. They used them as bedroom and kitchen and used our bathroom. The room Mother used as kitchen had a picture window and, outside door in the rear. She also used this room as her living room.
Esther was just nine years old on December 29,1928. She and Mother moved in with us at our invitation the very day
we started housekeeping; about one week after we were married. My Father had just died November 15, 1928, and while Mother was bereaved, naturally, she never was a person to be joyful and the conditions at our home were not the happiest. Though Mother liked Melvin very well and he let her do and say as she pleased, I was between, a hard place to be. Esther was in school and, while she was a good kid and I loved her very much, there were times when I became very provoked. Mother never made Esther do anything unless it not only suited Esther, but Mother. She was spoiled.
Melvin worked at the Colorado Fuel and Iron, Steel Mills. He worked rotating shifts; one week days, one week swing, and one week graveyard shift. He rode the street car to and from work. One streetcar fare was seven cents. You could also get a transfer with the same seven cents.
We bought groceries from an independent grocery store. The owner's name was Nelson. The first year Mother and Esther ate with Melvin and I. After a disagreement with me, she cooked her own meals. Our house lot or yard was long and narrow. There was a garage at the rear of the lot. Also a small storage shed, chicken pen and chicken house. Also an outdoor privy with plumbing, the old-fashioned kind with an overhead water tank which you pulled a chain attached to it to flush the toilet.
Melvin kept rabbits. Their hutches were built along one outside wall of he garage. At the back of the yard, there was a gate into the alley. Also a small shed for coal. Our back yard was fenced with high board fence, front yard fenced by or with pickets. There was a large tree; If I remember correctly, an Elm, in the front yard. We also had rather small front and back porches.
Page 3 Depression Days
Melvin and I were quite happy. The first year he had steady employment at the steel mills. The second year of our marriage, 1930 it was, was the year of our great joy, a baby was born on May 6th to us. This child, a boy, weighed 10 ½ pounds at birth with nothing but a band on. All babies wore belly bands for several weeks or sometimes longer, in those days. Melvin let me name the baby and I had thought for years I would name a baby son, if I ever had one, for my Father and my husband. As I already had two nephews named David, after my Father, I chose his middle name, Albert. So the baby was called Melvin Albert. This made him Melvin Albert the second, as Melvin's middle name was Albert.
The baby, though large and fat, was always sick or so it seemed. He had ear trouble, first one ear, then the other; several times for both ears. Both ears had to be lanced. He also had trouble teething. Dr Ray Taylor, our family doctor, had to cut his teeth through, even the upper front ones. His gums would just swell and stay swollen weeks on end, causing the baby great distress, until the doctor cut the teeth through and releaved the pain and the swelling went down.
Mother worked for the some folks on a farm and kept Esther with her. That was the first time that Melvin and I ever lived alone together.
I became pregnant again and was pretty miserable. Melvin began losing days of work, money was pretty scarce. Mother took Esther and went to California to stay with brother Clayton and Lenore. They were expecting their third child. Their baby, the second boy for them, arrived when Albert was slightly over nine months old.
Page 4 Depression Days
Mother and Esther stayed in California for several months, visiting also at our sister Gertie's home. While she was in California our sister Bertha's seventeen month old baby died of quick pneumonia. He, along with the other two children, were recovering from measles, when he contracted pneumonia. He was ill about four to six hours then died. The doctor said one of his own brothers had died from exactly the same thing. Bertha's husband had died about six months or so before. Her husband, George, was a former brickyard worker, where he worked from about age fourteen or maybe younger. George seemed an old man, though he must have been about sixty years old when he died. His lungs were filled with brick dust. He was ill over a year but refused to see or be seen by a doctor. After the baby's death Bertha decided to go to California for her own health, though she wasn't really ill….just needed a change. The court refused to let her take the two children out of the state. I am not sure why.
Bertha was determined to go and asked me and Melvin if we would keep the children, David age six and Rae age three and a half, I think. We had to be intervieued by the Juvenile Judge who wanted to find out what kind of people we were. We were awarded the kids and, under the circumstances, it was anything but pleasant or a good arrangement. We had Albert, barely a year old and I was pregnant again, not feeling too well and Albert always had something wrong with him. Bertha's kids were just undisciplined, spoiled children; Rae always crying and David into everything. One day David got mad at me because I insisted he do or not do something and he calmly looked at me and then said “I will kill Albert”, “I will wait until you are out of doors, then.
Page 5 Depression Days
I will take him out of his buggy and put him on the floor and cover him up with a rug”. I was scared to death to get out of sight of the babies.
Money got scarcer and scarcer. Meantime, I felt worse. Dr. Taylor said I needed help. Melvin did manage to hire a young lady, daughter of some of our friends, for two weeks.
The summer weather was hot. Melvin had less and less work. It was getting harder for me every day. One morning we noticed that one of Albert's cheeks and his neck was swollen so Melvin said “I do believe he had the mumps”. In Colorado, especially at that time, all communicable disease had to be reported to the county doctor. As Albert acted normally and seemed ok otherwise, we never took him to our regular doctor. About ten am the county doctor, Dr. Stone, stopped by to quarantine us. Before tacking up the quarantine sign, he came in the house to check the baby. Quarantine signs were put up for everything, measles, chicken pox, mumps, whatever contagious illness was within the house. He took one look at Albert and said “that's not mumps”, “call your family doctor right away”. We were really frightened. The doctor never told us what he thought it might be, just left. Melvin went two blocks to a small store where he could phone for the doctor. Dr. Taylor could not come until the middle of the afternoon. By then Albert's neck and head were terribly swollen. He never fussed or cried, just lay quiet. Dr. Taylor said it was an infection set up in the glands of his neck by the molar teeth that he had been trying to get through for several weeks. We had to keep ice-cold epson salt packs on his neck and the side of his head. Albert lay in a semi-coma for three days and nights, then he began to recover.
Page 6 Depression Days
Were we ever relieved and thankful. Before his illness he was such a chubby fat baby his clothes were too tight. He lost so much weight from illness that all his clothes just hung on him. He had a curl which was directly over the middle of his forehead. He was a very pretty baby, often mistaken for a girl.
Mother and Esther returned to Pueblo just as Albert made the turn for the better. I had been too worried and busy to let her know he was ill. This was in August.
At the end of August, the steel mill where Melvin worked completely shut down. Thousands of people were out of work. Nearly every day at least one person knocked at our door asking for food. The streets were filled with men out of work.
One large grocery store, in Pueblo, named Tillers Grocery, had a huge churn, factory size in the center of the store; it was run by electricity. A man dressed all in white took care of the cream and butter. Cream was bought from farmers surrounding Pueblo. He timed the churning and then took the butter out with large wooden paddles. He molded the butter in on pound molds. A young girl, also dressed in white, wrapped the molded butter and packed it for refrigeration until sold. The churn and all of the work area were enclosed with a white painted wood fence. All counters or tables where butter was molded and wrapped were white. Everything was kept spotless.
In a corner at the front of the store by a plate glass window was a leather covered seat large enough for several people to sit. A person could sit and rest and at the same time watch the makingand wrapping of butter. Across the aisle one way was a large machine and a girl, all in white, to run it. You could tell her, if you wished, how much peanut butter you wanted and then
Page 7 Depression Days
watch while she ground peanuts and made butter with the machine. You could either buy it in a cardboard boat like butchers use or you could take your own container and the oil from the peanuts would not leak through, as in the boat. Another department a little further on you could choose your brand of coffee, put it in an electric machine, push a button and grind your own coffee, as you liked it. All of this in 1929. You told a clerk the groceries you wanted and he picked them up for you. The same store had a short counter near the front of the store, called “The Buttermilk Bar”, where for a dime you could drink all the buttermilk and eat saltine crackers, always kept in large bowls, until you were satisfied, no matter how much buttermilk you wanted. During the depression many a person made a meal of crackers and buttermilk.
Not far from where our house was, there was a donut store where they sold “Tasty Do-Nuts”, also the name of the store. They were huge, about twice the size of donuts today, and sugared. Were they ever delicious, just about the best I have ever eaten. Day old donuts were sold for five cents a dozen. Mostly everyone was so poor or shy of money they waited to buy the day old donuts. A nearby bakery sold bread five cents a large loaf of day old bread. Fresh bread went as low as ten cents a loaf. If it had not been for businesses such as these, many a person would have gone completely hungry. Needless to say, the donut shop went out of business at the end of the first year.
But, to get back to our own life. The people we bought our house from had built and moved into a new home. The man was a construction boss; a big, rough German man named “Lunderman”. When they moved, they left a lot of furniture in the house and
Page 8 Depression Days
bought new furniture for the new home. Some of the things would be almost priceless now. At that time, they came in handy, but I was not too happy with some of it. There was a kitchen or cook table. There was also an iron bedstead and an old springs. A Morris chair which was one of the first recliner chairs. The back was hinged to the back part of the chair seat and the back was so made that a metal rod supported the back at several angles. This had to be hand adjusted. It had loose cushions about four inches thick, the covering was a moss green velveteen. The chair was in good shape and, though it had been used a lot, we were very glad of it. Also and old-fashioned comode, which today is much in demand. But the thing or piece of furniture I had to use, but I certainly hated it, was an old vanity dresser. It had a high oblong mirror and on either side three drawers. Each drawer had a ring type pull. I think it was brass and had a small lion head where the ends joined to make a circle. It also had a marble top. The marble was probably about one or one and a half inches thick and of a whitish and slate gray mixture in color. It was a sort of creaky old dresser and I hated it. The top of the dresser was in three sections and pieces of marble. There were also several large pictures. One was a scene of Venice or something like Venice. The frame had a curlique type edge about one and a half inches wide. Altogether, I guess it was three inches wide. I did not like it and put or was going to put it in the garage but Mother got an idea. She wanted it, only remodeled. I took Melvin's saw and sawed the fancy edge off the frame for her. It was a real large frame and this was hard work. Later Mother painted the frame gold color again to cover up the saw marks. The very things I disliked the most are now much sought after. That old dresser
Page 9 Depression Days
would be worth considerable, if I had it now. So would the picture frame I sawed in half. Two other pictures I kept. One of lions; the frame was in three sections and finally got broken. The other picture is a dutch windmill and water scene painted with oil paints. I loved it and kept it until I sold my home in 1964.
After being out of work for several months, we finally lost our home. I kept the Morris chair and the two pictures. When I sold my home, I gave Nancy and Charles the picture with the Dutch scene.
Melvin hunted work everywhere, even in New Mexico. He had to hitchhike. I had had an electric washing machine but when we lost our house had to sell the machine to get food. It was really convenient. The tub had the motor underneath it. At one side of the machine was a metal frame where you could sit a tub, a wringer came up between the washer and the tub or basket. There was also a metal frame work leaf or shelf which could be raised, if wanted, or folded down when not in use.
Our second baby, a girl, was born October 18, 1931. Albert was 17 months and 12 days old. I started my labor in the afternoon and was told to eat some toast and tea and go to bed. Albert stood across the room from me so I said “come here and I will give you some” so he walked across the floor for toast. I was thrilled and I called out, “Mama, come quick”. I wanted to tell her Albert was walking, but Mother, hearing me call, thought I needed help and was frightened. We kept the poor little kid walking from one to the other of us as long as we or I could stand it. Everytime he had even got a notion to walk before that day, he would become ill and receive a setback.
Page 10 Depression Days
The new baby was born early the next morning. Melvin insisted she had to be named for me. My older sister, Mabel had written earlier that, if the baby was a boy, would I name it Arthur for her husband, who had always been a brother to me and, if it was a girl, name her Artie. If I would, they would send her five dollars. I objected strenuously though we certainly did need the five dollars. Mother wanted me to name the baby for Mabel. I was so put out or just plain disgusted with them all, I simply refused to name baby at all until forced to for her birth certificate. I wanted to name my baby “Florence Audrey”. Melvin really liked that name but still he insisted she had to be named for me. So, the poor little thing ended up being named Mayme after Mabel, Besse after myself and I tried to take the awfulness off the name by adding Arlene, which I had always liked very much and still do. Arlene has always blamed me for her name and never forgiven me for it. When I was named I was given the name of Bessie Ellen Geraldine. I always hated it, so I changed it when about 24 or 25 years of age. I dropped the Geraldine entirely and changed Bessie to Besse and that's what I had put on my birth certificate. I am just plain Besse E. now. If any of my family didn't like it, at least they kept quiet. All of my life I have been plagued by my name. Mare horses, cows, old sows, bitch dogs, anything and everything was name Bessie, even my own Mother called the slop jar or chamber pot Betzy and, at one time, we had a spotted cat named Betzy. Incidentally, we never did get the five dollars. Mabel made and sent me a baby layette. Beulah Jones, still my friend, sent a deep rose pink blanket for the baby.
Mother promptly nicknamed Arlene, Cricket, because she was so very Active. From the day of birth on, she has been on
Page 11 Depression Days
the go. As a child playing hard, as an adolescent and since being and adult, she is always working.
Folks thought for years that Albert and Arlene were twins. They looked quite a bit alike and had the same complection though Albert's hair was black. Arlene had black hair about two inches long when born, but it faded out, ending up in her adult years with hair like her Father's, a chestnut brown with auburn highlights. Melvin's hair was not red by any means but was a deep, deep, auburn.
Life was anything but easy. Melvin was ill for weeks with mastoid but, no money, no job, so he very nearly died before a doctor would operate. Coming straight from surgery to me, with out even removing his gown, the surgeon said “Mrs. Old, your husband is in critical condition”. The pus and whatever they call the fluid that gathers in ear passages, had not only injured his ear, but had eaten away all of the bee-cell like bone structure in that area of his head; uncovering the brain itself, for a spot as large as the doctors fingernail. Next, within hours, it would have started destroying his brain. I was doubly frightened; afraid he would die, also afraid he would recover with brain damage, which would have been worse than death, in his own opinion. I sent frantic prayers to God in his behalf. His head was already bulging behind his ear before surgery. But, thank God, he recovered normally. Mother cared for the children while I spent hours at the hospital. This was in '32. Already he had had two surgeries since our marriage, one for removal of his tonsils; ordinarily not considered such a major operation, with him it was. He had a great deal of trouble recovering from that operation. Then a hemorrhoid operation.
Page 12 Depression Days
We were living on beans almost exclusively, and bread. Arlene could not digest hardly andthing, and was a skinny little, crying, hungry, baby. Albert ate beans and oatmeal, same as his Father and I.
The doctor tried Arlene on seven different formulas besides I had tried breast feeding her but I had not enough milk for a kitten, much less a baby.
One day in the winter after she was born, in October, she was quite sick so, being unable to get our own doctor for some reason, Melvin had called a young doctor who was a pediatrician. Dr. Swear was his name. He came, examined the baby, said she was verging on edge of pneumonia; then he looked at me and said “you are far sicker than the baby” and then proceeded to prescribe for me. I knew I had a real bad cold. Melvin was hunting work and Mother was working for a lady she knew, so I continued taking care of the babies. We all lived.
One thing real funny happened shortly after Albert's birth. Esther, then a kid filled with questions, asked me “Besse, who named the baby?” Well I was busy, so continuing on with my work while standing with my back to her, I answered “I did”. I would name the boys, Melvin name the girls. Esther misunderstood me so shortly she went into their apartment and said to Mother “Mama, what did they do with the other one?”.
Melvin did anything and everything he possibly could to earn a dime. If you had a whole dollar, that was almost riches. He got a job one day for just the one day, digging out manure from cattle cars. This was deep winter weather and the manure was frozen hard to the car but he got it cleaned out. I had sent him
Page 13 Depression Days
some lunch; I suppose bread and a jar of beand, and a thermos of hot coffee. When he came home, he said “Sweetheart, why didn't you send me some coffee. It was so cold today and I needed some to drink”. I answered him “But I did send you coffee. Remember, I filled the thermos while you were eating breakfast and it ran over on to the tablecloth.” Well someone had not only stolen his coffee, they had very thoughtfully rinsed out the bottle. Melvin always called me Sweetheart.
Melvin tried fixing clocks, sharpening saws, mowing lawns, selling hamburgers, and probably a dozen or more other things, just to have work. There were so many thousands of men out of work that the merest hint of a job brought out a dozen or more men to apply for it.
One time I got a sack of ten pounds of potatoes. They turned out to be nearly all unfit to eat. They had been chilled and were rotting. So, in desperation, I went to the store, Mr. Nelson's, and in disgust, said to him “Do you have anymore of those nice rotten potatoes?” Not even batting an eye, he said “And how many did you get?”. So, when I told him ten pounds, he gave me ten pounds of nice potatoes. Then he told me this story. His teenage son wanted to go to a ball game, but Mr. Nelson needed help in the store so he put the boy to dividing 100 pounds sacks of potatoes into ten and twenty-five pound bags. The boy was so angry at having to work instead of playing ball, he sacked all of the spoiled potatoes and never told his father that the potatoes were spoiled and Mr. Nelson, all unknowingly sold them. He took an awful loss on the potatoes. I don't know what the boy's punishment was, but I bet he didn't play ball for a few days.
Dimes then were almost like dollars in the sixties. One time I bought a dozen eggs. Seven of the twelve were spoiled.
Page 14 Depression Days
When I complained the store manager gave me a dozen eggs. This was not Mr. Nelson, but a chain store. The manager told me that they place where they had been buying eggs from did not have enough eggs so he had to go to another egg dealer, who, he said, assurred him the eggs were strickly fresh. About half of all he bought were spoiled, so he took a loss also. We used to have a grocery charge account with Mr. Nelson. How he managed to carry on his business, I'll never know. We paid every penny of ours.
Our family doctor was Ray Taylor, son of a Doctor. Dr. Ray Taylor was a specialest in gynecology and obstetrics, but he doctored everyone who called him or went to his office, male or female, any color or creed, day or night, he went. Everyone liked, or loved him, would be more like the truth. He was about forty when I first met him, before I was married. He treated me for pains in my heart. A number of times I would get a coughing spell and end up coughing up blood; sometimes, quite a bit. I never told my folks, I knew Mother would be scared to death. So, I went to se Dr. Taylor. I had heard about him from Gertie, as he was their doctor. I had worked on the farm at home before Melvin and I were married. I had pitched hay, green alfalha, which is quite heavy, also shocked oats. The doctor, in finding out all this, as doctors have a way of doing, learning all your life history, told me to quit my job in Pueblo and go home and do nothing but rest. This was because the job I had involved my making numerous trips up and down two long flights of stairs each day, besides working long hours. So, when I was married, I continued on with Dr. Taylor.
After we lost our home on Second Street, we moved into a rented house farther out in East Pueblo, still in Parkhill
Page 15 Depression Days
District. Esther had to change schools, but we were much closer to the Park Hill Christian Church where we attended. I was baptised there before Arlene was born. Melvin had been baptised years before.
The house where we moved was four rooms, a nice fairly new house. We had a quite large yard and Melvin made the nicest garden and had quite a few cabbage plants which were headed up quite well. This house was in an elevated part of Pueblo. One day, I was alone with the two babies, Arlene about eight months old. I do not know where Mother and Esther were for sure, but, I believe, at that time she had gone to Oklahoma to visit her brother, J.C. Green, the only relative she had besides us kids and a couple of twice removed cousins in Kansas. Anyway, this particular day, I was alone. Just to the west of our house lived a young widow with a small boy. Her husband had died of a heart attack while on a family picnic in one of the parks.
Toward evening, the sky clouded over. By dark, it started raining. Rain in Colorado if rather infrequent. The rain became hard and harder. I left the children dressed and instead of putting them in their own beds, I put them both on our bed and still fully clothed. Also, with all my clothes on, I lay across the foot of the bed listening to the rain beat on the roof. I had left the light, a kerosene, or more generally called a coal oil lamp, burning. The water lapped my front door sill. I was up and wondering what to do, when the young man, who was “going with” or as we now say “dating” the young widow, knocked at my door and called to me. When I opened the door he said “Quick, put a blanket around your babies and come with me”. So I quickly kicked off my shoes, grabbed a blanket for each baby and he took
Page 16 Depression Days
Albert in his arms and I took Arlene in my arms. We went out in the worse downpour of rain I had seen for years. We waded across my yard and the neighbor girl's yard through water better than ankle deep. Though it was only a few yards, it was a long difficult walk. Bertha, the neighbor girl, was waiting at her front door for us and took Arlene into her arms and us into her house, dripping water everywhere. We shed our wet clothes, as much as we could, both of us were barefooted and his pants were rolled to his knees, but we were soaked to the skin. Bertha put the children in her bed. I do not remember them even waking up. We three adults sat up all night. Before dawn the rain stopped. The next day, the newspapers said there had been a cloudburst. I knew of several “cloudbursts” and flash floods during my years in Colorado.
When I went home in the morning, Melvin's garden was in complete ruin; either washed out and the large things, except the cabbages, covered with the sandy soil. Theccabbages were washed out and rolled about the yard. Melvin tried to salvage his garden, we really needed it for food. What few things he could, he scrapped the dirt off from over top of them, and reset the cabbages. It was a hard task and a grievous one but, we had all come through in fine shape.
Bertha remarried, her third husband. The first one she married while on the homestead, was a neer-do-well, likeable guy who used to sing in Spanish. He just left one day. I thought, and still do think, he had a good reason.
Her second husband was the older man, a widower, old enough to be her father. He had a grown son whom he never saw. George was a kind, quiet man and very hard working. He bought
Page 17 Depression Days
Bertha a house, fair enough but not fancy, and all new furniture. He was a good provider. Over the years he became more silent and taciturn,, with good reason, I thought, though Mother never liked him. I once heard my father say he thought the devil owed him a debt and paid him with sons-in-law.
After George had been dead a couple years, Bertha married another man; a hard working, uneducated man who had one son about thirteen years old. His wife had died several years before, in Oklahoma. Bertha had two children by George and she had lost two by death; one shortly after birth, a little girl, and then the boy six months after George himself had died. Bertha had a girl by her third marriage.
There was an old lady that belonged to the church who gave us a dozen eggs a week. She also gave me an armful of rhubarb. I cooked the rhubarb leaves for greens, like spinach, and though they weren't really very good because of a sour taste, we ate them. Here in 1969 or 1970, I read in the newspaper how dangerous eating rhubarb leaves.is. They are supposed to be poisonous. We weren't even faintly ill. The Lord protects the ignorant.
It was while living at this place, I had fixed a large dish pan of water and started to mop the kitchen floor when I suddenly had to leave mopping and go do something else. When I returned, in a few minutes, there sat Albert in my pan of mop water, happily playing. He looked up and said “nona, mama, nona”. He could say water as well as I could, but always water, whether a drink or in a larger quantity, was “Nona”. I never could figure out why he said this unless it was because at sometime, either myself, or someone else, had told him, no, no to keep him from being around water, fearing he might drown.
Page 18 Depression Days
Once when Melvin was away from home for a few days, hunting work, a rumor started that he had deserted me and the babies. I never knew about this until after he had come home. He told me he was going to apply for commodities from the county or city. Anyway, he said one of the first things the person in charge, a woman, said to him was “Mr. Old, what's this I hear of your deserting your wife and babies?” I guess he really told her an earful.
Another time, when he had first gone to the San Luis Valley, where we later moved, a rumor started that he had deserted me and the babies. Folks who knew us well, hearing this would ask my mother “has Melvin really deserted Besse and the children?”. Mother always set them straight by telling them he was trying to find work. He tried all over Colorado, the mines, everything, also tried to find work in New Mexico and the Kansas wheat fields.
We got commodities; such as they were. It's a long time ago, but I think I remember correctly. We would get, once a month, 25 pounds of flour, a bag of split pinto beans (which always cooked to a mush like consistency no matter how hard you tried), three cans of condensed milk and three bars of hard yellow laundry soap, and a bag of oatmeal or rice, once in a while both. Commodities then certainly weren't what they are in the seventies. Also you had to carry this home yourself. You were bawled out by those in authority if they ever found out you asked anyone to pick them up in a car and take you home with the groceries.
Another thing that made me particularly fond of the social worker was, one day in deep winter, snow everywhere and
Page 19 Depression Days
freezing cold; and, Colorado can really be cold. This gay young social worker came out to our house; beautifully dressed and wearing a fur coat. We were out of fuel. I had dressed the babies as warmly as I could and Arlene was in her bed. Albert toddling around after me. We all had bad colds. This girl social worker looked at me and said this house is cold, no wonder the babies are sick. Why don't you keep them warm. I pointed to the coal bucket, partially filled with coal dust and told her “that's all I've got. It doesn't burn very well.” This was in the morning, that afternoon they sent us one half ton of c coal. Also a business men's group sent us one half ton of coal. Mother did housework in one of the business mens' home.
I never have cared about social workers. I still consider them a sort of necessary evil. In my experience over better than half a life time, I have seen personally and also heard of t them doing the dumbest, wildest things; and, believe me while working at Fairview those eighteen years, I met and dealt with quite a few social workers. Just one I ever liked and she left off working at Fairview Home for retarded and moved to Montana, where she was instantly killed in a car wreck.
Even after Melvin did manage to get a little work at Del Norte, in the “lettuce shed” and was trying to earn enough for me so I could move over, someone started the rumor that he had deserted me. And yet again when Albert was three years old, I had gotten a ride from Monte Vista to Pueblo with the Rawliegh Dealer and his wife. Her mother belonged to the same church I did, in Pueble, the rumor was that I had taken the children and gone home to Mother. The truth of the matter was
Page 20 Depression Days
that Albert got sick and had to have minor surgery. At which time, Melvin hitch hiked to Pueblo to be with me. Folks sure tried to part us it seems, but we had 26 years, 9 months, and 19 days to the hour when he went home. We have never really been parted yet.
I wrote in another part about our life at Del Norte, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado and moving to Oregon.
After nearly eight years of being out os steady employment, just catch as catch can jobs, he got work with Hines saw mill at Hines, Oregon. This was the summer Nancy was born. You just can't know, unless you, yourself, have experienced it, the pleasure of having a dollar you can spend as you want to after years of not even having dimes to spend.
During the depression, I made and made over clothing of all sorts for all of us. Albert's pants were made from the less worn parts, namely the back of Melvin's overall legs. I patched and repatched and darned clothing endlessly.
Melvin mended shoes and cut hair for any family member; also cut hair for any neighbor or their kids, anytime they asked him, free gratis. As I have said before, Melvin was one of the kindest men I ever knew.
My homestead upbringing was a good background for teaching about lack of money, so we did not do so badly. As the popular song says “There Never Was a Time we Didn't Have Love”.
That's what counts, not money.
to the Pueblo County Index Page.
Please e-mail comments and suggestions to Karen Mitchell firstname.lastname@example.org
© Karen Mitchell