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My grandpa, Linus Bishop, now 86, lived through one of the worst times in American history, the Great Depression. This was a time when the economy was collapsing and millions of people were out of work. Overcoming the many challenges he faced as a boy made him who he is today. I have so much pride and respect for my grandpa for going through it all.
Grandpa grew up on a farm in New Washington, Ohio. During the Depression, the farm was all he had. In order to save their farm, his father became a bootlegger. "We had no money at all," Grandpa told me. "I only had two pairs of shoes and one pair of pants. I didn't even realize I was poor because everyone else was, too." Along with no money, they had no electricity, toilets or running water. Although they didn't have any of those things, they did have plenty of food. The farmers were better off than the people who lived in town because they hunted and had their own food right there on their land.
My grandpa became a hard worker who was willing to make sacrifices. He would have to do hard work on the farm every day, such as milk the cows, feed the animals and tend to the garden. At the end of the day, the family just barely got by. Having to do chores all the time meant he had to make a lot of sacrifices. My grandpa begged his father to let him go to school. He ended up going, and he was the only one from his family to graduate from high school. Having to do all these chores as a child and working diligently to get through school made him the hard worker he is today.
Although there was a lot of work being done, there was always room for fun. Grandpa gets a big smile on his face when he tells me about his childhood entertainment. Ice skating, baseball, hockey, checkers, track, square dancing and free shows downtown are what he did for fun. While the kids played, the adults enjoyed playing cards, eating popcorn and drinking hard cider. These community activities brought everyone together.
During the Depression, neighbors became family. Doors weren't locked and everyone was welcomed. "We would feed bums off the street so they wouldn't starve," Grandpa stated. With little government assistance, community outreach was essential. The neighbors all worked together and helped each other out without pay to survive the hardships of the Depression.
With the way our economy is headed, many fear that we will experience another Great Depression. "It's a possibility," Grandpa said, "but you can make it." With a chuckle he then added, "I'm just glad I won't be around for the next one." Although I was amused by his statement, it made me wonder if I would have to live through a Great Depression. Only time will tell.
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.)