An EVICTION notice! With a family of four boys and after nineteen years of backbreaking work, Mom and Dad had a huge new problem: eviction. Dad asked a friend who sold real estate, "Any farms you can't sell?"
"Lots. Let's look them over," came the reply. After a selection was made, Dad asked the realtor what his commission would be.
The realtor responded, "five percent."
Dad had no money to pay either a down payment or a realtor's commission, but offered instead "a note" as payment-in-full for the five percent. This was a first for the realtor, but he knew that if Dad ever got the money, he'd be paid and if Dad never paid it, they'd at least had a nice visit together. They went to a savings and loan where the realtor said that yes, he had been paid in full and that amount met the required down payment. The loan was completed. We had a house to live in.
Our family moved to eighty-three acres that could barely grow thistles, and into a shabby house that the wind blew through. All the household furnishings were moved on an open wagon along with what was left of the livestock, three weary horses and some heavily used farm machinery.
Very quickly after settling in, Dad planned how to pay off his debts with no thought of declaring bankruptcy. First he went to the feed mill and asked how he could work off that bill. The owner was unsure; no one had ever made such an offer before, but after months of Dad's hard work, he had a clean slate at the feed mill.
Then on to the lumberyard, where he received a definite NO. The owner didn't need help because he wasn't selling anything. Nonplussed, Dad asked, "Do you have any paint you can't sell?"
Then Dad asked, "If I scrape and paint all your buildings, would you consider my bill paid in full?" They shook hands, and Dad started scraping and painting. He said he hadn't realized how many buildings were in a lumberyard, but finally another bill was paid and he had made another friend.
Through all of this, it still seemed that we lived in a fun house. In fact, we were the preferred playground for the neighbor families and the choice meeting place for Farm Bureau and 4-H club.
The land needed everything. Manure and straw were hauled in from neighbors' farms where the owners had given up. Lots of lime was spread. Dad called it the poor man's fertilizer. The lumberyard now had a friendly customer who was buying material to fix up his house and outbuildings. It sure wasn't easy, and as I write this, I wonder how my parents and brothers ever did it and still maintained their sense of humor.
However, growing up on a farm during a depression had some advantages. We had lots of exercise and we ate. We ate because we grew it. In fact, if we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it. Somehow, Mom fed us, clothed us and kept us moderately clean. Canning and drying fruits and vegetables went on all summer, and turned into a frenzy in the fall.
Running water was me running to a pump; electricity hadn't yet come to our road; no plugged-up toilet because we had an outhouse, so in the winter, you were either quick or constipated. But even with a lack of what we now call essentials, we didn't miss them much because we didn't know what they were. Well, at least we didn't know any neighbors who had them.
But we did have fun. Dad used to say, "If you're not having fun, you're probably doing something wrong." We had very, very little money but our family, neighbors and church provided the stability and foundation for our lives. Looking back on it after 77 years, I think it wasn't such a bad way to grow up.
Story collected for the Ohio Department of Aging Great Depression Stories Project 2009.
(Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.)
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