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It was a time of simplicity. A time of stay-at-home mothers who were always there when you came home from school. Families only had one car and the father used it for work. There were fewer brands of shampoo, soap, canned goods and food staples to purchase. Advertising was done largely by catchy jingles, which most of my generation still remembers and can intone:
"Pepsi Cola hits the spot, 12 full ounces that's a lot..."
"Won't you buy Wheaties, the best breakfast food in the land?"
"Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya"
"Poor Miriam... neglected using Irium... Pepsodent toothpaste."
We didn't have store-bought glue. When we needed paste, my mother would mix a small batch of flour and water, which worked perfectly. A bandage was a strip of cloth from a clean, but worn-out sheet or pillowcase. A scratch or scrape was treated with iodine (ouch!) or merthiolate, which was pink and much preferred.
We kids were outdoors much of the time, even in inclement weather. We rode bikes or walked to our destinations. The first day of school, which always started after Labor Day, we had a new goldenrod tablet (two cents), a box of eight Crayola crayons (five cents), and a pencil. All books and other supplies were provided by the school system.
During the 30s, a penny was a small fortune. Whenever I was lucky enough to beg a penny from my mother, Barth's Confectionary had many choices. B-B Bats and Dum-Dum lollipops were two for a penny. Licorice cigarettes in a domino-printed box were a penny. Wax lips or wax teeth were a penny. Very rarely did I have a nickel for a Clark Bar or O'Henry. Broughton's Ice Cream had sodas and sundaes for 12 cents, while an ice cream cone was a nickel.
S. S. Kresge was full of wondrous items you could buy for a nickel or dime. There was no high-fashion branded clothing. We had one pair of shoes, worn until they were outgrown. Watches and toys were not "collectibles."
We entertained ourselves, playing board games, outdoor hide-and-seek type of games, and roller skating as fast as we could around the block. We listened to radio serials such as "Don Winslow of the Navy" or "Jack Armstrong." We read a lot of books from the library. We learned about the outside world from LIFE magazine, a large glossy format that was a veritable history of memorable photographs. The swimming pool season ticket was $2. Going to a movie cost a dime. There was no air conditioning, but the Ohio Theater was comfortably "air cooled" with fans blowing across blocks of ice.
The 30s were years when we didn't know we were poor. The quality of life was not about material things, and was still rich and fulfilling. Parents provided a normal as possible life for children. We had few store-bought toys, and used our imaginations.
Story collected for the Ohio Department of Aging Great Depression Story Project 2009. (Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.)