Welcome to The Ohio Department of Aging

Skip Navigation

Please Note: You are viewing the non-styled version of The Ohio Department of Aging. Either your browser does not support Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or it is disabled. We suggest upgrading your browser to the latest version of your favorite Internet browser.

The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Story Projects

Great Depression Story Project - Volume 3

Return to the Great Depression Story Project home page.


Food, Cooking and Eating During the Great Depression

"I never tasted ice cream until I was eight years old; it was in a soda and I didn't like it (imagine that). We never took second helpings at dinner time to make sure the hardest workers had their fill. In fact, the younger kids ate last."
- Marge Bacon, age 86, Montpelier

"We had very little to eat with no variety. My mother worked very hard trying to come up with healthy meals. In the summer, Dad grew things in our garden, which helped. I never tasted steak until I went into the Air Force in 1943, at age 18. One thing that sticks in my mind is eating at the 'soup kitchen' every Wednesday at noon. It was on South Main Street and run by the Salvation Army. Before we ate, everyone sang 'Oh Buelah Land.' I still sing this song."
- Robert Bohyer, age 84, Lima

"My mom could go to a 'bare' cupboard and make a meal. It may not have been much, but it held body and soul together. We had milk from the cows, eggs from the chickens and fruits and vegetables from the garden and orchards. We would let the milk get sour, Mom would skim the cream and we would churn great tasting butter. Then, we would have the best buttermilk. She would strain the rest of the milk curds and cream them for delicious cottage cheese, and we would feed the whey to the pigs, which they loved. When we needed meat, my dad butchered a cow or a pig. We ate chicken quite often... My mom had us pick apples and she would peel them and make apple butter or spiced apples, then she would cook the peelings and cores, strain it and make apple jelly. To this day, I DO NOT like apple jelly."
- Bonnie Brunner, age 75, Lorain

"We lived on a farm and had an abundance of food. We had beef, pork, chickens, milk and eggs. We churned butter and baked our bread. We raised a large vegetable garden and canned fruits and vegetables. We had a cave for storing potatoes, apples, squash, pumpkins, cabbages, gooseberries, canned blackberries, raspberries and carrots. We made many jams and jellies also. We had plenty to eat, but very little money."
- Mary Cole, age 91, Cadiz

"I remember so well in the summertime my mother would send me or my sister to Behrendt's grocery store down at the corner of our block to purchase 10 cents worth of bologna to give us a delicious sandwich with a slice of fresh tomato and mayonnaise. Still today, it is among my favorite sandwiches."
- William Cox, age 85, Sylvania

"For food, we lived off of the land: large garden, fruit trees, strawberries and grape vines, also wild berries for eating and jelly. We had chickens, ducks, goats for meat and milk and hogs we butchered. We cut hay with a scythe for livestock food. Our food was a large pot filled with home cooked meals. Bread was made from flour received from a relief program. Water was from a well with a hand pump. Food was cooked on a wood burning stove. Heat was from a wood and coal furnace. Coal was gathered from a 3-mile hike along a railroad track."
- Helen De Gifis, age 83, Warren

"There was no store nearby, so biscuits were baked in the morning, cornbread for dinner and all leftovers were used at suppertime. Everything left after that was mixed with the dishwater and fed to the hogs. Grandmother made all her own buttermilk, skim milk (we called it clabber) and butter."
- Bernice Dixon, age 80, Galloway

"My dad worked on the railroad. We had pigs, chickens and a cow. We had our own butter, milk, eggs and, about once a year, my dad and friends butchered a hog to keep us in meat. We also had a very large garden, which supplied us with a lot of food. Then, my mother canned everything she could. During this time, we supplied some of our relatives with food from the garden. I can remember how people stood in lines downtown to get the rations they were handing out. I remember them getting prunes, bread and other edibles."
- Evelyn Eckert, age 90, Crestline

"Our fried bread is now called French toast, our fried mush is now called palenta and our cracklings from the hog butchering are now called pork rinds. We butchered hogs, cured the hams, made and fried sausage patties and put them down in crocks of lard. We rendered the pig fat and made lard from it (sure made delicious pie crusts!)"
- Mary Alice foster, age 89, Reynoldsburg

"Mom was a whiz in the kitchen. No food was wasted. In the morning, she made a large pot of oatmeal, and for each of us, a bowl of that was our breakfast. At Thanksgiving, we had roast chicken and all the trimmings. Then, she boiled the carcass, getting every bit of good from that chicken. To the broth, she added homemade noodles, and that was a meal. Our lunch for school was mainly made with a thin layer of peanut butter, an apple or a pear, because we had trees for them."
- Mary Elizabeth Stillwagon Glass, age 88, Cambridge

"Mother canned everything she could in season and made a lot of sauerkraut. We had a large potato garden planted in what now is the Zoar Garden. Since we had only a few chickens, it was a real treat when we got to eat eggs. I remember getting a soft-boiled egg to eat when we were ill. My mother also baked our own bread and rolls."
- Irene Class Haueter, age 94, Bolivar

"I grew up in southern Ohio during the Depression. There were five of us children at home. We went barefoot in the summer to save our shoes. Mom grew two patches of strawberries for jam, which she made by the huge kettle. The house smelled so good when she made the jam. We kids washed fruit jars by the dozen for canning. Usually, Mom canned 400 quarts or more each summer. That was so needed for the winter months. Nothing went to waste. She canned deer meat, and the watermelon rinds were saved, washed and made into preserves. We grew huge amounts of potatoes, and they were stored in a hole dug out of a hill, which preserved them and gave them a slightly sweet taste. They were so good fried. We couldn't afford store-bought light bread for our school lunches, so Mom made loves of yeast bread or biscuits for our school sandwiches."
- Iona Hervey, age 77, Spencer

"Food was always on the table, as we raised a large garden. Mom canned vegetables, fruits, etc., for winter. We raised all our potatoes and meat with very little bought from a store. Being on a dairy farm, we were up early seven days a week. Early in the morning, we would pick strawberries and deliver them door-to-door in Prospect for 10 cents a quart or 3 for a quarter. We walked to town and back on Sunday to purchase a paper for 10 cents."
- Louis Hughes, age 85, Marion

"We would butcher pigs and a cow. We would cure the hams and mother would can the beef and sausage so that we had meat in the summer. We would also have chicken to eat. Mother would boil maple syrup and make it into sugar to to sweeten food. She baked our bread, cakes, pies and cookies. We had our own flour and lard. Mother would brown wheat in an iron skillet and grind it and use it for Postum to drink. We could afford coffee sometimes. Many times we would not have any eggs or money and we would just have to put more water in that coffee pot and boil it one more time. The coffee would be pretty weak, but it was still hot. My sisters would think that because we did not have Corn Flakes, bologna and hot dogs, we were poor - not realizing that we had more than most."
- Phyllis Spohn Johnson, age 81, Butler

"With very limited funds and time, Mother was a very inventive cook, creating delicious dishes for us! One was 'tepeters' (our name for it), a tasty concoction of sautéed onions, tomato bits and peppers. Another we called 'CPOs' (corn, potatoes and onions). The only meat we could afford was flanken (soup meat), and we kids hated it! But every Friday night, we did have roast chicken for dinner."
- Mina Kulber, age 86, Lyndhurst

"During the Depression times, George remembers his mom making big bowls of 'mush.' They ate warm mush as soon as it was done, then his mom would pour the remainders into cake tins to let cool and get hard. They would eat mush all week for breakfast. His mom would slice the mush and then fry it so they'd have something to eat each morning. They didn't have any snacks during that time, but always had a supply of bread in the house. Whatever they found to put between the bread was what they ate, ranging from just mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, jam, and even mashed potatoes from the garden. They would get excited when it snowed, because they'd gather it up and call it ice cream. They raised chickens for meat, about 200 at a time."
- Rick Prentice about George Hibbs, age 75, Grand Rapids

"During this time, my dad worked at a meat market on Saturday and he worked in his little room downstairs grinding hamburger. Then it was three pounds for five dollars. At the end of the day, I came up there and cleaned his room, his utensils and swept the floor. Then, I took a bag of meat home on the bus. My mom would salt the meat, put it in a big pan and we would store it under the front porch. It was cold there and we had no refrigerator then."
- Edward Machuga, age 86, Canton

"There were nine of us chlldren, my mom, dad and grandpa living in a small house in Woodville, Ohio. In the spring, my mom would plant a big garden expecting the children to help her take care of it. From the garden, we would have fresh vegetables to eat, plus she canned vegetables from the garden for winter use. Mom made homemade ketchup that we would eat on bread and call it a sandwich, I can still remember how good it tasted. When the wild strawberries would appear, mom and some of us young ones would pick them so Mom could make them into jam for winter. As other wild fruits became ripe, we would pick them so mom could make jam and jelly. Pears and apples would be eaten fresh, and also canned for the winter. All the full jars would be placed under our beds, and by the next spring all the jars would be under the beds empty to be refilled for the next winter."
- Thomas J. Miller, age 90, Elmore

"My brother, sister and I attended grade school... and when we came home for lunch at noon, my mother would give me some money to buy groceries at the M and K store. I would buy a loaf of bread for 10 cents, a pound of bologna or spiced ham or spanish loaf for 20 cents and three nickel candy bars for a dime. I usually got a Power House bar becaus it was huge and almost a meal in itself. Sometimes, instead of candy, I would buy two pounds of bananas at five cents a pound. All of this for forty cents, enough to fill our bellies."
- Irvin Pfalzgraf, age 85, Massillon

"In the fall, when cooler weather came, a hog or two was butchered. The hams and shoulders were smoked and sacked so that the flies would not get to them. Sausage was hung and then fried down. After it was put in jars, a small amount of grease was added, sealed and turned over. Usually a beef was butchered also."
- Deskey Posey, age 82, Chillicothe

"Fortunately my mother was a thrifty person who could serve for us three girls. My brothers would go on the hill and clear a place, and the rest of us kids would put in a garden. We didn't have any water up there, so we had to carry water for our plants. When fall came, we would take a wagon and bring down potatoes, tomatoes and whatever we raised. My mother would can whatever she had. In our yard we had apples and pears, which she canned."
- Rosemary Rausch, age 83, Plain City

"Everyone planted a garden and, as the produce became available, our Mothers did their best to can everything available. The saying was, 'We eat what we can and what we can't we can.'"
- Bob Reichard, age 86, Willoughby

"On Saturday evenings, I would help my dad get soft crawls from the creek as well as help him hold the seine to get minnows. With this bait and dough balls, he would trudge up the Scioto River at 4:30 on Sunday mornings to fish. He would come back at the same time we kids would be walking a mile to Sunday school, with usually two large 20-pound carp. My mom would fry the brains and all. It took my many years to learn to like fish. He also caught turtles, my mom would fry and make turtle soup."
- Betty Shay, age 83, Delaware

"The scariest memory I have is when Mom was crying because we had no meat for our Sunday dinner. Dad left the house with two friends and returned later carrying a gun and two dead furry animals. I had never seen my Dad carrying a gun. I couldn't understand why he had a dead squirrel and rabbit. Later that day we were called to supper. My sisters were fighting over who could have rabbit instead of the squirrel. I was horrified that my Mother would cook a little bunny and the silly little squirrel who played in our garden. I decided my parents were horrible people and I didn't like them any more. I left the table but came back for the biscuits and gravy."
- Betty Jo Spaulding, age 74, Pickerington

"I was six years old on Jan. 4, 1916, and on January 22, my Father died. My mom could not keep six kids together. My youngest brother was four and was sent to live with an Aunt. The rest went to live with whoever would take us. I lived with four different families before I settled with a family in Louisville, OH. I stayed there until I was eleven years old. I remember the lady of the house sending me to the garden to pick pumpkin blossoms. She would dip them in whipped milk and egg and fry them to eat. Times were tough back then and we mostly ate pork, chicken, rabbit and other game."
- Melvin Stermer, age 93, Hartville

"Many meals of biscuits and gravy that today at Bob Evan's is high on the menu. You made your own bread for the week. (Due to) my mother's Austrian background, we had food that our friends never heard of: gnocchi, pizza, white homemade noodles, spaghetti. Today, even Polenta is on the Food Network. My mom could make a meal out of nothing. She made sure we were't hungry, and we had the cleanest house in town. She worked in the kitchen for friends that had a bar and food. She didn't take money, we got food and they were more relative than our blood relatives."
- Geraldine Vincenzo Szymialis, age 81, Flushing

"A loaf of bread cost 12 cents and that old, oak table held a big aluminum kettle of macaroni, milk and butter every nite! We drained the pan and never complained. Every once in a while, Dad would shoot a rabbit, squirrel or pheasant and we feasted. I once traded my Christmas fountain pen for an orange. Dad was lucky to be the butter-maker at Isaly's Dairy for 25 cents an hour. He brought home cottage cheese that Mom flavored with coffee grounds and we carried it to school for sandwiches wrapped in newspapers. (I don't eat cottage cheese today!)"
- Joy Thomas, age 80, Canfield

"We raised chickens and rabbits in our back yard for eggs and meat. We also had red raspberry bushes. One summer, my dad, mom and I went to (I think) Ben Blinn farm and picked a bushel or two of peas. By the time we ate all the peas, we were getting tired of them. My mom canned a lot of fruit and vegetables. We had a Sun Ray gas stove with space under the burners. In early spring, we raised baby chickens and ducks under the stove."
- William Thompson, age 80, Columbus

"My mother planted a big garden every year and canned vegetables and fruit from the orchard. Dad butchered a young steer and a hog every fall and salted down hams, bacon, ground sausage and hamburger. My mother canned beef. We had milk from our four cows, eggs and chickens. We churned our own butter which, with no refrigeration, would soon become rancid. Mom also made bread, which would become sour after a few days, but we ate it anyway."
- Carol Vincent, age 86, Centerville

"The next evening, as we were eating supper of home-grown green beans and potatoes, a man stopped in, look at us and said: 'For heaven's sake, don't you even have a dime for oleo?' I had been with mother at the grocery store when it was purchased. The 'oleo' was a white substance, wrapped in a sheet of heavy paper, and stuck in it was a capsule of 'yellow' food coloring, which was to be worked into it. I did this many times. We enjoyed the 'oleo' and soon it was gone."
- Mary Jane Willis, age 89, Wadsworth

"Six of us children were born during the Depression years. We had no electricity or running water. Making use of everything we had, we canned our garden vegetables and apples or pears picked from feral trees. We found blackberry patches by their bright white flowers in spring, going back for the fruit in July. We picked wild strawberries along the railroad tracks in June, making jelly and putting up preserves, sealing the jars with paraffin. We went down the road in the fall, looking for walnut and hickory trees by the roadside, gathering nuts from ditches, and taking them home to dry and store for winter. We stored root vegetables in the cellar.

Mommy made our bread. She used two cups flour, three teaspoons baking powder, salt, a spoonful of lard the size of a goose egg, and milk (or water if the cow was dry). Daddy said he never got filled up on light bread anyway. We had fried potatoes noon and night, bread and milk or coffee for breakfast, soup beans every Thursday, cooked on an iron cook stove in the kitchen. We kept a bucket of well water and a dipper on the back of the stove, right above the bread bin."
- Beverly Zeimer, age 60, Harrisburg

Return to menu.


Schools and Education During the Great Depression

"I remember taking my lunch to school. There were no hot lunches. Everybody took their lunch. We had no money to buy lunch meat, so I don't even know if they had it back then. I took cold fried egg sandwiches and cold bacon or sausage that we had at home for sandwiches. I was lucky enough to have a thermos bottle, which Mother would put milk or drinks in, or sometimes hot homemade soup."
- Marjorie Angst, age 84, Hamilton

"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."
- Nicole Boggs, 10th Grader at Madison Comprehensive H.S., about her grandfather, Linus Bishop, age 86, Mansfield

"I did not reach college age until 1937, but none of my five older siblings could afford to even consider a higher education. In fact all but one of them had to leave high school before graduating and seek work."
- Emmet Bongar, age 89, Niles

"School was another experience. There was no such thing as a 'free lunch'.I carried my piece of homemade bread wrapped in the newspaper. Sometime it even had jelly or oleo on it! I leaned down to eat close to the newspaper so no one could see what I had. How I envied those with white store bread, and the smell of baloney made my head spin. Sometimes I had nothing and leaned close to the desk and pretended to be eating. There was a program where if you brought in a dime on Friday, you got a small glass half-pint of milk each morning the next week. I never had a dime. Occasionally when someone was absent the teacher would put a bottle on my desk. I was in Heaven! Emptying it, I would suck the end of the straw and lick the cardboard cap."
- Edward R. Brienz, age 85, Farmdale

"My folks sacrificed many times in many ways to make ends meet. For example, in 1937 (yes the Depression was still going on), an excursion was planned by the schools of Logan County. The train would leave Bellefontaine early in the morning, go to Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan, to the Henry Ford Museum, and return to Bellefontaine late in the evening. The trip included everything and cost each student $4. I remember Dad and Mother discussing how they would do without this or that in order to come up with $8 for the two of us boys to make that trip."
- George Clapsaddle, age 85, East Liberty

"It is 1930 and I entered first grade; kindergarten is not offered. I was a first-generation Italian kid living in a WASP neighborhood. We lived with the stigma of 'hunky, dago and wop,' and we ate garlic - a no-no at that time. My teacher, Ms. Rose, was caring but I never had 25 cents to pay for my work book. Our class room was disciplined and with regimentation."
- Helen De Gifis, age 83, Warren

"Going to school, we started walking down the hill to where my mother and grandmother went seven grades, Webster School. Our teacher would always have oatmeal on the woodburning stove for us. We would be in combination classes. After seventh grade, my father went to Carpenter, IN, and bought a school bus. He drove us to Columbiana High School and picked up anyone that was interested in furthering their education. Laws on the bus were no chewing gum. Every Saturday, we would hose the bus down. The State came along and bought his bus. He became a state employee and superintendent of the Bus Department. It was so wonderful my parents received a check."
- Charlotte Oesch Greene, Chagrin Falls

"We were attending Coy School, which was quite a distance away. Each of my brothers would grasp my hands tightly. My feet barely touched the ground and I would arrive at school with the legs of my black bloomers falling halfway down my legs, much to my dismay."
- Ruth Jacquillard, age 83, Millbury

"I remember those four years I attended the University of Cincinnati traveling from Park Hills, KY, riding the Green Line streetcar for a nickel and then taking a streetcar to the school's Clifton campus, paying with a nine cent discount coupon. Tutition was $125 a semester for an out-of-city student, as was I. Resident tution was $45."
- Jack Klumpe, age 88, Monroe

"I was lucky enough to graduate with a high average and get into Earlham College in Richmond the next fall. I had no money but went on a scholarship and worked at the college. I swept the floors and washed the blackboards on the second floor of Carpenter Hall each evening but all the wages went into my account for books and food. I went through the entire school year without having a nickel to buy a Coke. I was hoping to find a job to get a little money for the next school year, but this was June, 1935 and there was no work anywhere. Even most of the college graduates that year could not find work. "
- John Lamb, via e-mail

"A recent snow storm permitted my mind to drift back to a storm in 1937. It was the first storm I remember that caused school to let out early. But the main reason for remembering was that it did not dismiss early enough. By the time the old GMC high-wheeled bus got out of town, the snow was drifting. Not far out of town, a milk truck had stalled and a highway truck, attempting a rescue, was also marooned. Our driver turned around and headed back to town. By the time we were back in town, school officials knew there would be a lot of guests in town that night. So, they directed us to the janitor's house. His wife had the table set for ten people. They fed us and put us up for the night. Country folk in those days had no telephones, so our parents spent the night not knowing where their children were. By next morning, the snow had stopped, the road was open, but school was called off. The bus started home with us and met my dad near town coming to find his kids. He was a welcome sight to this third grader who probably had never before spent a night away from home. He was driving our team (Mike and Ike, a white team of horses) pulling a bobsled. I only remember one other bobsled ride on the farm, and it was for pleasure."
- Wendell Litt, New Concord

"In 1931, DeVilbiss High School was opened and I went there as an eight grader. Many of the students came from Westmorland, which consisted mostly of professional families. I was quite aware of my social status. There was no way I could compete with the wardrobes of some of my fellow students or other aspects of their lifestyles. I was a good student and managed to join some school clubs and then get a post on the school newspaper (The Prism). I made friends with many students who lived in Westmorland and, even though we didn't have much of a social rapport, we were on the same playing level at school. I graduated in the top 20 percent of my class, but never went on to College."
- Mildred Malare, age 91, Toledo

"I think the generation of my and my husband's parents hungered for education and learning. They wanted their children to have what was out of reach for them. As I look back on those years, I now realize how hard my parents worked and sacrificed to make it possible for all four of us children to have a college education. As a college employee, Dad was eligible to send us on half-tuition. Since we lived in Bluffton, we were spared board and room costs. In the summers, Mother and we girls helped with the annual cleaning of the college buildings."
- Alma Mast, age 94, Walnut Creek

"My school days were great, in grade school I loved and enjoyed doing the outdoor exercises and looked forward to the Maypole Dances in May. Most of all, U wanted to learn all I could. I liked my teachers and never had any problems. In Jr. High School, I went out for track, at which I excelled. I wanted to be a nurse, but my folks disapproved, so down went my dream. In Lincoln Jr. High, I had typing and bookkeeping in the ninth grade, and passed with the highest grade in bookkeeping and was awarded a pin for typing. I could have gone to work immediately, but was needed at home, as Mother was very ill. But, what I learned resulted in later years in my becoming a Legal Secretary for 26 years."
- Madelyn L. Naples, deceased, Youngstown

"We had to pack our lunches, so we had no warm lunches. The teacher had to carry wood and coal in and build a fire to get the school warm. All of the eight classes were in two rooms, and we got drinks from a pump outside."
- Evelyn Peloquin, age 89, Genoa

"We always carried our lunch to school. It would consist of a ham, egg or peanut butter sandwich. Peanut butter was not homogenized in those days, so it stuck to the roof of your mouth. We always had apples, but I envied the kids who had an orange or banana. Our school pencils were a disaster; they were made of unfinished wood with the lead in one end and the eraser in the other, and could be sharpened at both ends. They were scratchy and unpleasant to use. They cost a penny. Every time we needed a new tablet, we had to go through the third degree. Our parents just had to be sure we weren't wasting paper."
- Delcie Pound, age 92, Medina

"To get to school, we walked. Most of the time, we went to school hungry. We had a cafeteria, but we didn't have the money to pay for lunch."
- Elizabeth Rollins, age 72, Columbus

"I graduated from Bellaire High School in 1934. At that time, my class ring was $7.50, a year book was $1 and a new suit was $17. My parents did not have the money to purchase these things for me, so they cashed in a life insurance policy. Being immigrants to this country, I was the first child to graduate from high school. They were very proud of my accomplishment."
- Matthew Sabatina, age 94, Akron

"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."
- Esther G. Schwartz, age 77, Columbus

"The school was a typical one-room building heated by a pot-bellied stove located near the center of the room. The girl's desks were on the right side of the room and the boys on the left. The usual attire for boys was bib overalls, and for the girls, feed sack dresses. There were shelves at the rear of the room for our lunch pails and the water bucket. Our library was a small wall cabinet located near the front of the room. I would guess it contained thirty or forty books. I remember two of them: 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Moby Dick.' There was no artificial light, just the windows. The school site also included two outhouses and a coal house. The playground was on the east side of the building and a small stream was on the west side. The public road was in front of the school and railroad track was just past the road. Drinking water came from a spring on the east side of the school or the well at the country store. When a fresh bucket of water was needed either two girls or two boys were selected to get it. A common tin dipper was used to remove water from the bucket. Some students drank from the dipper and others poured it into personal collapsible tin cups and drank from the cups... I think the one-room school provided an opportunity for a good education, because each of us not only participated in our own learning experience but had the opportunity to observe other classes recite many times. If one started in the first grade they would have the opportunity to observe eighth graders recite seven times before they were an eighth grader."
- William M. Shaw, age 87, Sarahsville

"My siblings and I attended a one-room school, the teacher having eight grades to teach. We did not have snow days. We all waded the snow drifts. School was only 8 months... I started high school in Indiana, PA, High School, which was a consolidated school. No school bus was available, so I walked the four miles for a time. Our school principal had a program that we girls could stay with a family in town, doing household chores to give us a place to stay. Occasionally, I was given $1 for spending money."
- Beva Stonebreaker, age 89, Cadiz

"As a child, I attended a yellow brick school with two rooms on the first floor, two rooms on the second floor and eight grades altogether. Every other year, I shared a classroom with my older, well behaved sister. Those years were a strain on me because I often got into mischief. Needless to say, my miss-steps were reported at home by Norma Dean. On the outside of the school were big black metal fire escapes leading up to each room (I have a picture I painted of this school hanging in my dining room). A hard, fast rule forbad students from ever climbing the fire escapes. The neighborhood kids often went back to play on the school ground after hours. I don't remember that even the orneriest kids ever considered climbing the fire escapes. In those days, we learned to respect the rules set down by adults. We knew there would be consequences if we did not."
- Julia K. Swan, age 76, Cambridge

"School books were used year after year, and we signed the brown jackets to tell that we had used (and not abused) them. We carried our lunches in lunch pails and the bathrooms were three holers in the back yard of the school (one for the boys and one for the girls). There was also a big ball diamond and a pump at the well for water. "
- Ernestine Van Asdale, age 86, Columbus

"I still don't know how my parents did everything with so small amount of money. My father had become disabled from a hunting accident, so when I graduated from high school in 1934, I didn't expect any gift, but there was an Elgin wrist watch I still have today. It brought tears to my eyes, as I was old enough to understand our financial situation. "
- Robert Vensel, age 92, Canton

"I can't remember a 'snow day' at school. We all walked to school, only the farm students had transportation to school. One January, the flu closed school for several days because both teachers and students were sick. There were no antibiotics. Students that stayed well enjoyed an unusual vacation. School always started the day after Labor Day in September. We had one week for Christmas vacation. Memorial Day in May was the last of the school year. The farm children needed early dismissal. They were needed to work on the farms."
- June A. Young, age 84, Worthington

Return to menu.


Self-Sufficiency, Resourcefulness and Frugality

"Most of our clothes were hand-made, and when sheets got worn in the middle, they were cut down the center and you slept on a seam. Towels would be cut so the ends became hand towels, and hand towel ends became wash cloths. I suppose the nice, worn centers were used for cleaning"
- Arleen Berger, age 92, Columbia Station

"We lived near the railroad. It was the responsibility of the older siblings to collect coal each day that fell from the coal cars traveling through Columbus. We used this in our coal stove for heating. We also would collect ice pieces that fell from the 'ice cars' for use in our ice box. Once in a while, the attendant at the ice house would be kind and give us a large block to take home."
- Madg Conti Browning, age 92, Columbus

"'You wasted nothing in those days,' said Csire. 'You weren't sure when or where you'd get your next meal.' The Hungarian immigrants were extremely thrifty. Every yard had a vegetable garden and nearly everything they had was used up or recycled. They made their own clothes and furniture. During the 1920s, many households kept chickens. 'Some of our friends sold their chickens instead of eating them,' said Csire. 'I remember sometimes we even paid doctors' bills with produce. We canned fruit and even made our own toys. Christmas was always more special if we received a real toy instead of clothes.'"
- Lynn M. Grayson, about Elizabeth Nagy Csire, age 93, Columbus

"Worn out clothing was torn into strips and woven into rugs. Grandpa Waters carved me a special wooden needle to weave the rag rugs. Flour sacks were made into clothes and quilts. Nothing was wasted; everything had to have a purpose, for there was little money to be spent. We learned quickly the difference between our priorities and our wants."
- Josephine DiBell, age 103, Cortland

"My brother paid his tuition to The Ohio State University by growing and selling lima beans for l0 cents a quart and strawberries for 15 cents a quart. My folks bartered eggs, chickens, milk and cream for dental care and music lessons."
- Mary Alice Foster, age 89, Reynoldsburg

"How I made money during the Depression was by gathering up all the walnuts I could find. I would hook up the mule team to the sled with high boards on it. I would pick up walnuts by the bushel and bring them to the barn and hull them. I would use the old crank corn sheller to take the outside hull off. I put them in the barn loft to dry out. I would crack about a bushel at a time. Every night after supper, we would pick out the kernels. I have taken twenty-five-pound sugar sacks full of the kernels to the old country store to trade for sugar, coffee, tea, spices and other things that we needed. I got 15 cents a pound for the half pieces and 10 cents a pound for the small pieces. "
- Earl Miller, age 94, Chillicothe

"People living in four suite apartments used to leave pop bottles outside their back doors (I think they did it on purpose), so we would 'steal' them and cash them in for two cents each. They kept doing it, so we kept stealing."
- Joseph Rogers, age 81, Madison

"Think of the throw-away world we have become. Can someone mend it, fix it or improve it so that it is useful again? What a great way to involve the family and encourage them to think, or even work and put the money for a replacement in a jar. Check the accumulated amount often. It will add up pretty fast the more you get into doing things and having fun doing it. Slow down and smell the roses. You don't have to be the Lone Ranger. Involve everyone. This is your time to teach so much to your children."
- Grace M. Schuler, age 83, Napoleon

"When our parents lost their Cleveland home to bank foreclosure, dad had to sell his car and cash in a life insurance policy as partial-payment toward the 100-year-old farmhouse that they bought in North Royalton. Because of the loss of the car, dad walked the country roads looking for work. He was a bricklayer, but could do any kind of construction, except electrical and plumbing. He was fortunate in finding odd jobs to keep the family afloat. Those days, his pay came in money (sometimes), but mostly in fruits, vegetables or meat."
- Larry Taddie, age 82, Parma

"My best friend, Alice, lived on a farm around the corner. She had three sisters and two little brothers (and very little money, remember). When the rubbers on her shoes wore thin and stretched out, her mother held them on her feet with red can rubbers. That, to me, really summarized the Depression."
- Ernestine Van Asdale, age 86, Columbus

"Our house was small - three bedrooms, no central heating and no plumbing. We had two wells: one at the barn and we carried water to the kitchen from the other. We sold eggs and whatever we could that we grew. We had a large garden and sweet corn fields where we grew beans in with the corn. Manure from the barn was spread on the garden and corn fields every spring. We did not go hungry, for we canned vegetables, fruit and meat. We killed the old chickens when they quit laying and butchered a couple of pigs in the fall. We had a large water-filled dryer for sweet corn on the large coal kitchen stove and dried peaches and apples on bed sheets in the attic in August. We made our own cottage cheese and butter."
- Rita Anderson, age 87, Reynoldsburg

"We raised chickens in the back yard. My mom got new chicks every spring. We kept them in a box in the dining room near the heater. When they grew a little and the weather was warmer, they went to the coop out back. We also had a large garden. Mom grew and canned all she could. So with veggies, potatoes, eggs and chickens, we had food. But our special Sunday meal was often "hamburg," baked with elbow macaroni, tomatoes and onions - A one dish meal. A lot of our meals were one dish."
- Minnie Blose, age 83, Niles

"We learned to do so many things; wash, mend and sew our own clothes, grow and can food, plan ahead, stretch our money, keep warm, help each other. Other people helped us, too. Friends took us on errands when we needed to go where they were going (we usually had no car). Clothes were given to us; sometimes food and garden surplus. And we tried to help others meet their needs, too."
- Margaret B. Edwards, age 89, Gibsonburg

"My mother had a treadle Singer sewing machine. She would transform hand-me-down clothes given to us into good wearable garments. She was creative and never wasted anything. We were given a Billy goat, but we didn't have him very long. He broke through the screen door and chased my mother out of the kitchen. Shortly, Dad traded him for a wheelbarrow."
- Ruth Jacquillard, age 83, Millbury

"We lived on a farm, and were already in the habit of buying only the necessary staples, and clothing. My mother canned hundreds of cans of home-grown vegetables. We butchered our own cattle, so had plenty to eat all through the depressed years. We were among the lucky ones, as there were seven of us kids, all good eaters. We all had our jobs. As teenagers, we did a man's work. That was the only way that we could exist."
- Harry G. Moll, age 92, Wauseon

"Perhaps 95 percent of citizens in the Township lived on farms, and family members operated the farm. They raised grain crops, cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and guineas, raised a garden and milked cows. Grain went to the local mill to be ground into flour and oats ground for feed for livestock. Every farm had an orchard and many a berry patch. You could have a good variety of food if you were willing to work at it - most families did."
- Viola Reed, age 95, Barnesville

"We didn't have much money to spend, but on the other hand, there wasn't much that we needed to spend our money on. Most every family had a garden. Fruit trees were plentiful, especially apples. Most were free for the picking. I remember an orchard on Libby Road where we picked apples that my grandma peeled for use in pies and sauces. Chickens provided meat for Sunday dinner and eggs for breakfast. When a piece of meat was purchased at the butcher shop, the butcher would throw in a free soup bone and a piece of liver. Add some homemade noodles and a delicious meal was almost free. Many of the expensive things we find so necessary today were either not available or not yet in such widespread use as to be considered a necessity."
- John W. Straka, Jr., age 91, Maple Heights

"We felt so lucky. We didn't know we were poor. We grew everything on the farm and butchered our own meat and smoked it or canned it. We made our own apple butter and churned our butter. We made cottage cheese and maple syrup, and bottled root beer we made. We had our underclothes made out of bleached feed sacks. We worked in the garden and shelled corn until our hands had blisters."
- Maxine Vargo, age 80, Akron

"A family friend gave clothing to my mother. Some of it, she altered for me to wear to school. I felt embarrassed and ashamed to be wearing the hand-me-downs. In school, I had to take 'brown-bag' lunches when other kids were able to buy. As a result, in adulthood I've felt cautious about what I spend. On the other hand, my daughter points out that I've purchased multiple items to 'stockpile' - I enjoy the security of knowing I now 'have enough.'"
- Margaret B. Carver, age 91, Cortland

"I saw very little difference with the start of the Depression in the 1929 Stock Market crash and my life before that. We were, what I would call, a frugal family. We were a strong and close family but, as far as our spending was concerned, my parents always had a plan, like the toys that were bought were always toys they expected us to share; the clothes were always what we needed, not what we wanted; our furniture was what we inherited from my grandparents and was well broken in. We didn't get the latest gadgets when they came out; we got an electric clothes washer when my mother took ill and it was a need; we never got an electric refrigerator; we didn't get a radio until someone gave us a cast-off battery set. We kids never got an allowance because our parents thought they provided all the necessities: food, drinks and snacks. As for snacks, you never got a whole candy bar, you shared with your sibling. We also made our own root beer and ginger ale from a kit. None of that changed during the Depression."
- Louis J. Leibold, age 93, Centerville

"We were all in similar circumstances and didn't think too much about how bad off we were - we thought it was just normal. We were always careful to use up everything. Many of us have habits like using every scrap or bit of everything - scraping pans and dishes for the last bite, using scraps of clothing or food for a good use."
- Marian Seilheimer, age 89, Tiffin

Return to menu.


The Comforts of Home

"The only room that generated heat was the kitchen, by a coal stove used for cooking, baking and heating a non-electric iron, with which mothers would press the clothing. Mothers would also use the iron to warm the sheets before the children went to bed."
- Frances Daubert, age 80, Centerville

"We had cozy feather beds in the winter. There was a large coal and wood burning stove in the kitchen with a side unit for heating water. There was a pot-belly stove in the living room with a register above it in the ceiling to help heat the bedroom above it."
- E. Marie Dornbrook, age 87, Parma Heights

"When the weather was cold, my dad cut wood and fired up the cook stove and pot-belly stove to keep the bedrooms and living room warm. Sometimes, they could afford to buy a few pails of coal to keep a fire going overnight in the stove."
- Ruth Hahn-Shrayer, age 78, Holland

"We used baking soda for deodorant, brushing teeth and cleaning silverware. We used vinegar and baking soda together for cleaning copperware. We used vinegar and water for cleaning windows, and dried them with newspapers."
- Era Harper, age 93, Bedford

"My grandparents had outside toilets and kerosene lamps. A cave carved into a hill in their yard with wooden shelves was for food that needed to be kept cold. Grandma had a small pump in her kitchen sink to supply cold water inside. We gathered eggs from the hen house."
- Jeannette Mellott, age 78, Plymouth

"Our log cabin home had no modern-day conveniences. We had dirt floors, our beds and tables were made from timber that my dad and grandpa had carved. Our bed mattresses were made of feed sacks filled with corn shucks. We also always had to fight the bed bugs. Our lighting was with kerosene lamps. Our washing machine was an old wooden wash board and rock. We hung the clothes up to dry."
- Norma 'Beni' Nolen, age 77, Columbus

"We had no electric or gas, only hanging kerosene lamps. We had no water heaters, but a copper boiler to fill and heat on the old coal and wood cookstove. We had no refrigerator or ice box. We had to carry our water from a well about 50 feet."
- Evelyn Peloquin, age 89, Genoa

"In the house built by my dad and brother-in-law in 1929-30 was a Delco light plant. Rural electrification came through later. 'The house was build when times were hard' they'd say. A hand-dug ditch to which a galvanized pipe was laid below the freeze line from the house to a hill almost a quarter of a mile away, led to a man-made reservoir. This supplied water to the upstairs bathroom without a pump. In the summer, a kerosene heater was installed to heat the water in the tall water tank. In the winter, the heater was replaced with galvanized pipe going through the bathroom floor to the Heatrola stove in the living room and back up to the water tank. What an ingenious idea!"
- Posey Deskey, age 82, Chillicothe

"After the strike, we moved back to Akron, Ohio. Our home did not have indoor plumbing or water. A pitcher pump outside the back door provided the water. A two-seater privy about fifty feet from the house was our toilet, with the Sears catalog. A small room beside the kitchen door had a round table where nine children and their parents ate our meals. Short-armed persons had it rough. Two rooms up a flight of stairs provided sleeping area for the three boys in one and six girls in the other. A burlap bag served as a curtain. Saturday night was chore for bathing, as water had to be heated in a tank on the kitchen stove. A galvanized washtub provided a place to bathe with smaller children going first, and older ones hoping the water lasted and was warm. Our parents had their bed in one end of the living room. The house and land was being bought by dad on land contract for $15 per month. The owner did not want father to pay any extra if work improved."
- Alvin Reece, age 83, Mansfield

"We had a gas cooking stove that you had to put 25 cents in to get gas, and it would invariably run out right in the middle of cooking supper. It had no gauge to show the amount of gas left. The hot water heater in the bathroom needed ten cents, and when put your dime in, you had sit in the bathroom and wait for the water to heat, or someone from another apartment would use your hot water; and we both tried to get showers for one dime."
- Nell Rudolph, Elyria

"People started to get indoor plumbing in their homes (ours around 1926); my what a nice improvement! We were glad we already had it before the Depression, because such things as plumbing and refrigeration supplies took a long time to get."
- Marian Seilheimer, age 89, Tiffin

"Our home had a hand pump in the kitchen. We had a four-room house with outside toilet. Our coal furnace in the basement was near where the car was parked under the house. My mother pumped water and heated it in a large broiler on the kerosene stove. When she baked, there was a large oven that was put on the burners."
- Ann Shilling, age 80, Canton

"Monday was cold and dark. Our house was cold and the little black heating stove in the living room was not very warm. Someone knocked on our door and told Daddy to get to the feed mill right away. We gathered up buckets, baskets and feed sacks, got in the car to go to the feed mill behind the store that sold hardware, animal feed and some groceries. All of a sudden someone yelled 'stand back, here it comes.' There were about 20 people there. I looked up and corn cobs stripped of corn came flying out of a big door in the side of the old noisy building. Daddy said, 'Pick up the corn cobs and fill up the sacks.' It was snowing and sleeting. My little hands were stiff and my nose was frozen. Everyone was working fast to get their share and back into their cars and trucks. I had no idea what it was all about until we got home. Dad was carefully arranging the corn cobs with the chunks of coal in the little black stove. Mother was busy hanging up our snow-covered coats and hats on the back of the kitchen chairs she brought into the room. Mother made ovaltine (like hot chocolate) for everyone while we put on our nightgowns and sat around the little black stove warming our feet and hands."
- Betty Jo Spaulding, age 74, Pickerington

"Our heat was from a coal furnace. We had a coal bin in the cellar where coal was stored for the entire winter. I loved to see the coal truck coming. I stood there and watched the coal going down the chute. 'Only the best,' said my Dad, 'New York anthracite'"
- Gladys Case Stent, age 84, Columbus

"With whatever money they could scrape up, our parents bought three acres of farmland with a small farmhouse (reputed to have been an old log cabin over 100 years old). This small farmhouse had to be moved about 400 feet, across the 100-year-old grape vineyard, to the basement and foundation, which our dad and his loyal friends hand dug, hauled away dirt and built. Our inspection of the 'new' home, introduced us to a living room, a kitchen and one room on the second floor, which became the bedroom for the entire family (no bathroom facilities, no toilet, no plumbing, no furnace and no water). Our family sure had loyalty and strong family love. Why we didn't run away at this time, I will never know."
- Larry Taddie, age 82, Parma

"We had to move nine times because of back rent. Most of the homes we rented had coal furnaces and wood or charcoal cooing stoves. Outdoor outhouses and potties indoors. At night, for lights in the home, we used kerosene lamps or gas, even candles."
- Joe Trolio, age 83, Hubbard

"For water, we had two kinds, which later confused our city sister-in-law. The 'soft' water was rain water that came off our big roof into a cistern in the wood house on the rear corner of the house. We used 'Old Settler' in it once in a while to settle the leaves, dirt, etc. into the bottom of the cistern. We cleaned that out periodically. We had two wells. One at the barnyard for the animals and one at the house. That was a deep, pure well used for drinking and cooking. It had a lot of minerals in it, and wouldn't make 'suds.' It curdled. It also covered the inside of the tea kettle with minerals."
- Ernestine Van Asdale, age 86, Columbus

"This farmhouse had all broken windows, no indoor plumbing, no central heat and no electricity. I can still picture my Mom getting water from a cistern, rain barrel, and a nearby pond using a hand pump. On some weekends, we would all go to the home of relatives in the city for a nice tub bath. My mom had to write to her cousin in Philadelphia to embarrassingly ask for enough money to buy a kerosene stove for cooking, and an oil burner for basic heat. She would heat bricks, wrap them in cloth and take them to the cold upstairs bedrooms to warm our feet. Hot water bottles were also used. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting."
- Elmer Viertel, age 78, Canton

"I used to tell people that we had running water because Mom would say 'take this bucket and run down to the spring and get some water.'"
- Charles Warrick, age 81, Barnesville

"The farm was typical of the times, with no running water in the kitchen and no bath. There was a pump at the sink and an outhouse out back - I hated the dark, stinky place. Water was heated on a wood stove for bathing in a galvanized tub on Saturday night. Aunt Ida heated the water, washing the clothes on a scrub board, using handmade soap. Aunt baked her own bread, which was very good with the butter she churned herself. There was a pot-bellied stove for heat in the kitchen and a dumbwaiter she raised on ropes from the cool cellar, where she kept the fruits and vegetables she canned and the meats our uncle butchered for the table."
- Ada Goss Weygandt, age 86, Grove City

"Believe it or not, (and this is not pretty), we did not buy toilet tissue! We used old newspaper and crumpled it up to make it soft. No one complained one bit. I brushed my teeth with baking soda and a clean cloth. Grandma said the soda took the stains off my teeth better."
- Dolores L. Younger, age 79, Westerville

"Our food was kept cool in the 'ice box' by a cube of ice brought by the 'iceman' in a truck. We had a card that we hung on the front porch that told him the size of ice we needed. All the children in the neighborhood would chase the ice truck in hopes of getting a sliver of ice to eat."
- Minnie Blose, age 83, Niles

"About ten o'clock at night you could hear a newsboy singing out 'Journal Night Greener - read all bout it.' News junkies could buy a copy for the latest news. When fruit was in season, peddlers would come around with a crate on their shoulders singing out 'Straaawberieees.' Once a week, a traveling grocer with a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables in racks on the bed of a Model-T truck came by. Housewives could step into the truck and buy. Other times, mother would go to the neighborhood grocer with a list of food items she wanted. The grocer stood behind the counter and got each item as she named it - very labor intensive by today's standards. The iceman came around twice a week to deliver 25, 50 or 75 pounds of ice, as housewives needed. Kids would 'steal' chips of ice on the truck bed while he was delivering."
- Russell S. Fling, age 82, Columbus

"My Dad worked less and less and things got so bad, we had to start charging everything. Even groceries. We always traded with Lloyd Yocum, manager at the IGA store on Queen Stein Middletown. Mr. Yocum was a life saver. He let us charge groceries and let my Dad pay so much when he got paid. When he did pay, Mr. Yocum would treat Alice and me to a big sack of candy! That was great. We called him our hero! Later on we called it the 'I Get It All' Store."
- Mary Jane Grimes, age 87, Monroe

"My father was one of the local ministers in a small Ohio town in 1930. He had two pastorates, one in town and one in the country. The country people had no money to pay him, but they had lovely meat after they butchered. So they gave us fine handmade sausage, fine beef roasts and steaks. We had no room in our ice box for all this meat, so we stored it in dishpans on the roof of our back porch and shared it with neighbors who were hard hit by the Depression. "
- Emilie Kirkwood, Hilliard

"Communications were radio, telephone, and newspaper. When I was twelve, I got a paper route. To get special news to the public, it was our job to get the papers around to the neighborhoods and sell extras. Sometimes this happened at 2 or 3 in the morning."
- Raymond J. Mock, age 85, Centerville

"Milk was delivered in a glass bottle with three to four inches of cream on top. You could see the dividing line. An old icebox in the dining room was replenished weekly by the burly man with the curved black tongs, balancing a huge block of ice on his shoulder. He emerged from a horse drawn wagon. We thought he was handsome, and we girls used to get very giggly and flirty when we saw him. The horses left huge mounds of droppings in the street, but I don't remember anyone worrying about sanitation. I suppose they were eventually hosed down."
- Ann Shook, age 85, Akron

"We had no running water, no paved roads, no electricity, only two fireplaces at grandmother's home for heat. She had to buy coal because wood was not available. The beds were made from feathers and, yes, even cornhusks! Yet, in the spring we papered the walls and painted the floors and everything was kept clean, even the picket fence around the yard got a new coat of whitewash."
- Bernice Dixon, age 80, Galloway

Return to menu.


Jobs, Schemes and Other Ways to Make Money

"Daddy made $10 a week on W.P.A. and I made $4 at the laundry. I also helped several ladies within walking distance of our home. I watched an English bulldog on Saturdays so the Winslows could go shopping. I helped make supper when they came home and had supper with them. They would give me the leftover gravy to take home for our family."
- Virginia Beeman, age 86, Walbridge

"Mornings, mother would go and wait with a group of people outside the Powell Pressed Steel plant, and sometimes a boss would come out and select a few people to come in and work for a few hours for 25 or 30 cents an hour, for a few hours. She also went house to house in the city looking for housework and accepted food or old clothes if cash wasn't available. One of mother's projects was the 'Greek Restaurant' at the center of Hubbard. They couldn't afford to hire her, but if she came in at night after they closed and scrubbed the kitchen and anything that needed cleaning, she could collect any leftover food and bring it home in a bucket. To this day, I can see her in my mind's eye: bitter cold snowy night, hands wrapped in rags to keep warm walking way down Maine Street to the tracks then east to the end of the street then down to the house by the tracks. Shaking the stove to try to get it to warm up a bit. Kids watching from the bed where they were cuddled up to stay warm. Seventy years later in a casual discussion, a woman mentioned living in Hubbard when she was a little girl and her grandparents used to have a restaurant at the center. I took her hand and said, 'thank you and your grandparents, Mrs. Limperos. If it weren't for them I don't know if I would be here today.'"
- Edward R. Brienz, age 85, Farmdale

"My brother, John, and I were slim and lean, hustling cardboard and rags to Berkman's junkyard. We sold newspapers on the streets, in the Moose, Eagle Club, BPoE."
- Frank Chihocky, age 77, Amsterdam

"Daddy was also good at playing the saxophone, clarinet and fiddle (he always felt that he didn't play it well enough to call it a violin). Daddy belonged to the musician's union and he picked up work playing in many bars, night clubs and fraternal organizations. This type of work did nothing to please my mother, however, because my father was gone nearly every weekend to play at some bar or nightclub, and there were nearly always strippers in those places. Daddy gradually became master of ceremonies for many of the Friday and Saturday night entertainment venues and he became a rather well known personality. Mama sometimes went along while I stayed with either her parents or Daddy's over the weekends."
- Doris V. Curmode, age 78, Columbus

"When my Dad lost his N.Y. Central Railroad job in March, 1931, my parents bought a small, neighborhood grocery and meat market store in Cleveland, Ohio. We lived with my grandparents behind the store in a two-bedroom apartment. The store got us through the Depression. However, it dictated our lives. For example, if chicken didn't sell, we cooked it for supper. If pork didn't sell, we cooked it for supper - sometimes, eating it for 14 nights in a row... And, we never complained, as we had food while most people were struggling for the basics. To help our struggling, unemployed neighbors, grandma made a big pot of soup and coffee to have on hand for the neighbors who came to the door politely asking for a little food, daily."
- Audrey Dvorak, age 75, Gates Mills

"I cut neighbors' grass for pennies or home-baked cookies or fruit for our table. I carried packages of groceries home for customers at the grocery store for pennies or a nickel, and later worked after school as a packer in Foodtown, Cleveland's early supermarket. Occasionally, I could splurge a little: a movie matinee cost five cents, a stick of gum a penny, an ice cream scoop was a nickel and, after an endless period of saving, a comic book cost ten cents."
- Lawrence Forbes, age 78, Cleveland

"Later, my father was able to purchase a team of horses and a wagon, and we began selling baled hay. My dad would mark each bail with a card listing the price of each bail at 10, 15 or 20 cents. My father, my older brother, Bill, and I would head off to Hillsville, Carbon and Briar Hill, selling hay to people who kept one or two cows. As I recall, we did this about once a month. We would return with enough money to buy staple food at the store."
- Alfred M. Glass, Cambridge

"On the morning that I was born, May 15, 1931, my father left the hospital after my birth and went to his job as a salesman for household and commercial refrigeration that was part of a large hardware store in downtown Hamilton, Ohio. When he arrived at work, he learned that half of the other employees had just been laid-off due to the Depression, but he was a survivor. He and the remaining employees had 'survivor's guilt' and, after realizing how much they would miss the laid-off employees, went to the owner and offered to take a 50 percent wage cut so all the employees could stay on. This was on the day that I was born, with all the hopes and dreams my parents had for me as their first born. The owner said 'yes' and all the employees were able to continue to work."
- Richard Haid, age 78, Hamilton

"During the years 1936-40, I was a newspaper carrier. Nothing noteworthy about that, but in the space of those years, I peddled three different newspapers in succession: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Times-Press and Akron Beacon Journal. The Plain Dealer at that time was not much of a factor in the Akron area, and its routes were very spread out. I quickly seized the opportunity to change to the Times Press... (The Times-Press) printed the latest stock sales summary, and included in this summary was the total daily sales number. The final three figures of this number were used as a gambling number. People would predict and bet with bookies on their numbers choice. As I walked my route, people constantly hollered, 'Hey Dan, what's the number?' I usually answered, but sometimes I'd say, 'Buy a Times-Press!'

"The competition between the Beacon and Times-Press was very fierce, and when rumors circulated about the papers merging, I became a Beacon carrier. The Beacon did buy the Times Press and moved production to the newer building on the corner of East Exchange and High streets. To keep good carriers, both newspapers gave awards for exemplary work. Awards were usually certificates, T-shirts or caps, but the Times-Press gave us live turkeys or chickens. I can recall walking from our pick-up location on Howard Street (the Ritz theater was later built on that spot) to my home on Nebraska Street near City Hospital. Those birds gave me problems with their flapping wings as I proudly took them to my mother for Sunday dinner.

"Newspapers have experienced many changes since my career as a carrier ended in 1940. Rumor has it that it won't be long before newspapers will give way completely to the Internet. If this happens, many young boys and girls will miss a great learning experience."
- Dan T. Hayes, age 84, Akron

"My parents owned and operated a mom-and-pop restaurant in Cincinnati called 'the Victory Diner' during the Great Depression. It opened in 1931, during the worst of times, when most businesses were failing. Many street people wore signs saying, 'work for food.' With no money for the purchase, my parents agreed to pay out of their minuscule daily sales the price to purchase the restaurant - a sort of lease-buy. The Victory Diner was an elongated diner car with two large and two small booths up front and a long counter that ran down to the end of the car, about 18 seats. Staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was tough. My dad did the night shift from midnight to noon; mother took the other 12-hour shift. They met crossing paths between home and restaurant."
- Alice J. Hornbaker, age 82, Cincinnati

"In 1929, I was 19 and was engaged to be married. But that had to wait when the Depression hit and my Father lost his job. I was the only one in my family who could find work. My parents, my older brother, who had a chronic lung disease, and my three younger sisters depended on me. So I moved to New York City, where I had a house-keeping job. My duties included caring for the children and doing housecleaning and laundry after the children went to bed. I worked six and a half days a week, getting only a few hours of on Sundays. Visits home to Toledo were not possible, since every cent I earned was needed for my family's food, clothing and medical expenses. Letters were my only contacts with my family and my fiance, Al Johns. I became very homesick and am not sure I would have been able to persevere. But then I found a similar job for my 17-year-old sister, Betty, and she joined me in New York. How we treasured those few hours that we had together each Sunday!"
- Mary Johns, age 97, Tiffin

"My brother Joe and I sold papers downtown for three cents a paper. Once, a man gave me a nickel for a paper and I didn't have two cents for his change. He told me to keep it. With our earnings, Joe and I went next door and bought hot dogs and root beer for five cents each. The ride home on the streetcar took the balance of our earnings. After school, I worked at a mom-and-pop grocery store, where I would sweep the floors, grind the hamburger and do other odd jobs. In those days, people went to the grocery store several times a day. My week's pay was five dollars and a bag of penny candy. The five dollars went straight home to mom. In strawberry season, Joe and I took a bus downtown, transferred and took a second bus to north hill. We were picked up there by farmer, who took us to his strawberry farm, where we picked strawberries for a penny a quart. On a good day, we could pick a hundred quarts. Later in summer, we retraced our route to the strawberry farm to cultivate a new patch. This time, we carried our hoes with us on the buses. We worked ten hours for ten cents an hour."
- Frederick M. Kovacic, age 82, Akron

"I started out job hunting at 7 a.m. and went every day until 5 p.m. for two weeks before I found work at Atlas Underwear - 40 hours a week, 30 cents an hour, for all of $12 a week. I had talked to the Woolworth Store Manager several times and he talked like he might hire a stockman in October. He had also told me about a Woolworth manager training program. The middle of October, I started to work for him for $18 a week, for 56 hours, but usually worked helping the assistant manager trim windows at night and working on the sales floor when I could. I was working those extra hours for no pay. On Jan. 1, 1937, I started as a manager trainee and had a regular income with a future so the Depression was over for me. "
- John Lamb, via e-mail

"When I got out of High School, it hit me that there was a Depression. My father always had employment, so we were able to keep afloat but, after my graduation from high school and I started to date, I needed some cash of my own. I felt I had to help with the family finances and I found getting a job wasn't easy. I was lucky, I did have people who could help me, but it wasn't always a steady job - house work here, unloading a boxcar there, or yard work, a couple of months on Public Works Project. It was touch and go, but it did give me spending money. Then, through one of my leads I did get a steady job as a night watchman, this gave me time to get some schooling in to prepare me for the accounting work where I finally ended up."
- Louis J. Leibold, age 93, Centerville

"Dad was a motion picture projectionist (movie operator) and worked at a small theater on Superior Street. In spite of the dismal condition throughout the country, the Royal enjoyed a full house every day. Homeless men could panhandle passers-by and get a dime, which was just enough to get a ticket to the Royal. That ticket provided them with shelter for the entire day."
- Mildred Malare, age 91, Toledo

"My dad and grandfather had a small florist business raising annuals such as geraniums and petunias for spring trade, followed by chrysanthemums and carnations for fall cut flowers. We were lucky, as there was always work - not much money, but work to give you a sense of worth. Of course, you had to sell the product, which wasn't always easy. Memorial Day was a big event in the spring. Most everyone decorated the graves in the family plots with geraniums or petunias. Usually, the greenhouse benches were almost empty of geraniums by Memorial Day. I remember my dad standing by a bench of solid-color red two days before the holiday in 1933. You could not see where a pot had been moved out. Tears were running down his face. How were we going to make it? A neighbor stopped by with some advice: 'Basket them up and take them to the market down on Woodland Ave., in Cleveland.' We did, and they sold. We squeaked through another season. Not much money, but doable"
- Martha McMahon, age 85, Medina

"The agent at the B&O depot would blow a whistle outside when he received a telegram to be delivered in Utica. The neighborhood child who got there first could deliver it for five cents."
- Jeannette Mellott, age 78, Plymouth

"Our family was fortunate. My father had a job at a local lumber yard. The owners of the lumber yard told my father to close it up - there was absolutely no business. My father said this was all he knew and asked if he could stay and work on. My father was a cabinet maker by trade. He used what little lumber he had to do little jobs. During the summer months, when I was out of school, my father would take me to the lumber yard office. I would wait for phone calls or if a customer walked in, I would press a buzzer and my father would come running."
- Raymond J. Mock, age 85, Centerville

"I lived on a farm during the Depression. My father farmed 120 acres with his horses King and Queen. He walked behind a plow, pitched hay on the wagon by hand and milked the cows by hand. My brother helped with the milking when he grew older. At hay-making time, I drove the horses when Daddy pitched the hay onto the wagon. In the summer, I, with an adult, would take a jug of water to the cornfield and hoe the weeds."
- Helen Oliver, age 83, Poland

"Children, and sometimes adults, had paper routes. They delivered local newspapers daily for a fee. In larger towns, men sold single apples, pencils, etc., on the sidewalks. People with gardens raised starter plants like sweet potatoes and tomatoes to sell to the public. There were a variety of berry patches, where people could pick their own or buy them by the quart."
- Helen Cook Railer, age 95, Burlington, IN (formerly of Greenfield)

"My Father was a tinsmith by trade and this involved sheet metal roofing jobs for farmers or the installation of coal furnaces for both farmers and townspeople. Very often, he would come home after completing a job with several bushels of potatoes or apples as part of the pay. We were never hungry, but we knew we should not ask our parents for anything special; we did not want to embarrass them by their having to say they could not afford it."
- Bob Reichard, age 86, Willoughby

"Boys my age carted a shoeshine box downtown to shine the shoes of those could afford a dime... Most people walked to stores, their place of work or a welfare agency. They walked before the Depression also; cars were scarce in my neighborhood."
- Tony Rugare, age 83, Highland Heights

"I was the fourth child of five, and went to work at the age of 9 1/2 selling the Blade at Swayne field. I sold the most papers at Swayne Field, and I moved up to selling scorecards at 5 cents each; we would receive 1/2 cent each. All of the games were played in the afternoon, and at a single game, I would usually sell about 50 score cards, earning about 25 cents daily. At a double-header I would usually sell about 80 scorecards and earn about 40 cents. I progressed to turning styles and earned 40 cents for a single game and 75 cents for a double-header. I finally moved up to usher and earned 50 cents a single game and 75 cents for a double-header. I ushered for slightly more than two seasons, and upon graduation from high school, I went to work at Sherlock Bakery at 40 cents an hour. I worked there for almost five years and then became a substitute U.S. letter carrier in April 1941, at 65 cents an hour. I retired after 32 1/2 years at age 55. Although the wages were low, so were prices. We could buy two hot dogs, a piece of pie and a bottle of pop for 25 cents."
- Willis Ryan, age 90, Toledo

"I remember a lot about the Great Depression. I was only seven or eight years old. We lived on a farm; that was to our advantage. We were able to have fresh eggs, milk and meat. We could raise our own crops. Our family was able to help many others as much as we could. Dad sold calves for $8-10 for 200 lbs. Eggs sold for 8-10 cents a dozen. Gas was 12 cents a gallon. Grain and oats were 11 cents a bushel, wheat 40 cents a bushel, and ears of corn sold for 100 ears for 50 cents. We made do with what we had and not much else able to buy."
- Leo Seasley, age 85, Bloomville

"I had to quit high school in my junior year, as my step-dad lost his job at the railroad and only earned 32 cents per hour at his new job. So, I had to go to work and got a job on a farm working from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for 50 cents per day plus food and a bed to sleep in. When I was 18 years old, I got a job at the Superior Sheet Steel plant, and when I was 20, I got very ill. The doctor said I was going to die and funeral arrangements should be made. My girlfriend (future wife) asked her Pastor to come and pray for me and he did. A couple weeks later, I could get out of bed a little at a time, and several months later was able to return to work."
- Melvin Stermer, age 93, Hartville

"Young boys and even some men would walk to the golf courses and work all day for a meager wage as a caddie. Other boys went to town as shoe-shine boys. I would walk miles with a basket to a shop that sold chickens, where they would tie a chicken in the basket so I could take it home."
- Esther R. Sukosd, age 91, Carrollton

"My father bunked with his brother-in-law in Cleveland while he looked in vain for a job. He heard of a printing job in Chicago and hitch-hiked there. He shaved with a piece of broken glass for the interview, but when he applied the job was already taken. One day, after looking for work in downtown Cleveland, because he didn't have car fare, if he wanted a bed that night he would have to walk more than 100 blocks to near the Fisher Body Plant where his brother-in-law lived. He saw a bus token on the ground at a trolley stop. He picked it up without breaking stride and was able to ride."
- Betty Curtice Taylor, age 85, Akron

"My father had many different jobs during his life. He was excellent no matter what he did. During the '20s and '30s, he was in the house construction and repair business. Things got tough and he went to the mortgage company and told them he could not make his house payments. The company found out he could repair houses and gave him a job for their company. I remember one winter when the City of Columbus was paying citizens to shovel snow downtown for a dollar or so each night. My dad and a neighbor man did this. I think they had cardboard patches in the bottom of their shoes."
- William Thompson, age 80, Columbus

"My mother would help make money, too. She would take roosters from the coop, tie their feet to the wash-line and cut their heads off. They splattered blood for a while, I hated seeing that. When they quit bleeding, we would scald the chickens. Then, I would pull the feathers off and Mom would gut the chickens. One of the grocery owners in town ordered the number he wanted to buy. As we got the chickens ready, we would put them in cold water until the order was filled. Then, Dad would take them to the store. I'm glad they had refrigeration."
- Marie Vaughan, age 85, Bucyrus

"Dad decided there must be another way to provide for his family. We owned a 1923 Dodge 4-door sedan. That was useful. He contacted a nearby Bohemian baker who made good rye (light) bread with caraway seeds to ask if he would bake bread for a possible route in Parma, Ohio. Dad made several shelves and placed them over the back seat of the car and accessible to the front seat of the Dodge. He built up a steady route and worked five days a week. Coffee cake was added on Saturdays. Dad was a proud man and he never had to apply for welfare (relief). Going was tough, but he provided for his family."
- Sally K. Weil, age 89, Bartlett, IL (formerly of Cleveland)

"Both of my parents were physicians. We had more than the average family at the time. We weren't rich, we weren't poor. When a loaf of bread was five cents and a doctor's home or office call was $2 ($1.50 if paid in advance for several visits), an income of $5,000 was a good wage. Our home cost $5,000 with a 10-year loan. There was a struggle to make the payment. Not all office or home visits were paid in cash. Many times, a patient would trade their resources. Either before or after a doctor's visit, the patient would stop at our home. They'd open the unlocked door, walk into the kitchen and leave their payment on the counter or refrigerator. The payment could have been in the form of meat, chicken (if alive it would have been left in a cage outside), vegetables, pie or cake. We never knew what the menu was for the week, it was always a surprise. We had a large refrigerator. We did not have a freezer in those days. To preserve food, we canned. These were families that had no refrigerator and were lucky to have an ice-box. Some had no electricity, they couldn't afford it. There were other professions that traded for medical care. Our family treated the dentist's family and he treated ours. Trading was a norm, not the exception. "
- June A. Young, age 84, Worthington

Return to menu.


Family, Community and Kindness Toward Strangers

"My uncle was a window dresser in the same store where Dad worked. The company had transferred him and family to Flint, Michigan, to open a branch. A decision was made not to open the store, so they sent Dad, with the truck, to Flint to bring their furniture back. This was in February or March, when the temperature was 10 above zero. When they got back to Youngstown (cold and tired), they had no place to stay, so they moved in with us. That made five more people in a two-bedroom house. My two cousins and I slept on two army cots. I think my sister and cousin slept on the floor."
- Robert Brown, age 86, Youngstown

"I used to walk downtown to pay Mom's bills and ask neighbors if they'd like me to pay theirs - this way I could make tips. My mother not only took care of all her children, but also neighbors' children when they needed a babysitter. She never charged them. She also helped neighbors who were too ill to care for themselves, cooking or anything else to help."
- Sally Carrico-Baum, age 75, Columbus

"Back then, they learned to be a very close-knit family, which is one of the life lessons we still continue today. The community was close, also. If someone needed help, anyone and everyone lent a hand without thinking twice about doing it. If something needed to be repaired in their house, they fixed it themselves. They didn't have the money to have someone else repair it, so if they couldn't fix it, a friend helped them out. My grandma described it as being almost like the way the Amish live today."
- Meg Denman, sophomore at Madison Comprehensive High School, about her grandmother, Marcella Denman, age 92, Mansfield

"My brother and sister were older than me and they each got married during this time. My brother and his wife had a room in our house, and also my sister and her husband. We didn't think anything of it. That was a way of living. It was just what you did."
- Magnolia Fielder, age 93, Cincinnati

"I was born in the Depression. I was the oldest of seven. I remember that Dad had to go off and find work. This was hard on my mother and the family. I was the oldest and had to take on the responsibility of helping with my brothers and sisters. When Dad returned home, the money was little. It was rough on my parents, but yet it made us strong as a family, everyone with duties. We raised chickens, so that was a help. We had a ration book for powdered milk and corn meal. If we had a meat bone, mom would make soup and make it stretch for days. I was not able to finish my education, for I had to go off and find work. Mother made clothes and we always had hand-me--downs. They were tough times but, as a family, it made us strong."
- Paul Gies, age 77, Bloomville

"Neighbors helped neighbors back then. 'We knew everyone within 10 miles. Everyone was friends. When it was time to thresh wheat, all the neighbors would come and help. We canned in the summer and had enough for winter. Field work was all there was back then for the kids to make any money.' Jo remembers working for a couple hours a day for 10 cents. Pickles were the worst job, but paid the best. There was a pickle factory down the road in Neapolis. 'We'd get in trouble if one yellow pickle was found in the field.'"
- Rick Prentice, about Jo Herr, age 84, Grand Rapids

"Times were different then because folks just helped one another as the need arose. We would butcher a hog or veal if we needed it and hang it overnight to set (usually in the cold weather), then call the neighbors to help dress it and cut it up and prepare it for canning or rendering the lard. We would share whatever the neighbors needed and they would do likewise whenever they could. There was never any money exchanged, that way we helped when we were called on."
- Myron Johnson, Barnesville

"'You mean it's my turn again?' I asked my sister. We took turns taking my grandmother's 'slop jar' to the little house out back. Our paternal grandma lived with us until she died. Nursing homes, visiting nurses and hospice were unheard of in the late 1930's. There was the old folks home, but that was for only the really poor or those with no family to care for them."
- Martha King, age 83, Carrollton

"More than anything, I remember the sharing that my parents engaged in. There were always kettles of soup or extra pies, cakes and cookies being wrapped and delivered to friends or other family members. Mother was a good shopper and knew how to stretch her grocery dollars. There were now three children to feed and clothe, and sharing was also impressed upon us. My middle sister and I shared a 'wardrobe' (meager but ample) and Mother, who was an excellent seamstress, was able to add to it from time to time."
- Mildred Malare, age 91, Toledo

"People worked together! They made sure no one needed anything. Without them, we would have had a hard time. With their help, it made things easier. We never went without a meal. Neighbors were just great! Breakfast was always great! I thought everyone liked me. What it was, was my fathers pancakes. That's why they used to spend the night with me. They enjoyed his pancakes! It wasn't me!"
- Eli Mitchel, age 74, Delaware

"During a Saturday night in July, an ice cream social was held for all members of the community. The storekeeper would bring packets of ice cream from the produce company and the women would bring cakes. Games were played and a good time was had by all. The store served as a meeting place for patrons of the local telephone company. They would meet to discuss the condition of the line, buy needed supplies, decide the amount each patron was to pay and plan work days to repair the line. There were about twenty households on our line. To talk with someone outside our community, we had to go through the central office in Sarahsville."
- William M. Shaw, age 87, Sarahsville

"Because everyone was in the same boat financially, people were more willing to help each other. My sister, Kathleen, remembers that Mom sometimes handed out food to people who were down on their luck. When times were too tough for us to buy food at Jim Vittori's neighborhood store, Jim would keep a tally and let Dad pay the bill a little at a time until he got caught up. On payday, Dad would go first to Jim's and pay him what he could before he would pay any other bills. The two older boys sometimes passed out Jim's grocery ads to earn a little extra money. When Mom and Dad decided to leave the neighborhood near Armco and try to buy their first house, Jim was instrumental in helping them get the house they wanted."
- Wanda Stubbart, age 78, Columbus, Vic Thomas, age 83, Middletown and Kathleen Lambert, age 80, Middletown

"In March, 1928, my mother took me, age four, and my brother, 15 months, to visit her mother in Tennessee, where there was no electricity or running water. She didn't intend to stay long. While she was gone, my father lost his job, the house and the furniture, which he had put in storage. My mother had no home to come back to. We were at my grandmother's three and a half years."
- Betty Curtice Taylor, age 85, Akron

"At about age two, I lived with my brother and parents in a small rented house, until my father was laid off. As a result, he missed several rent payments and we were evicted. A farmer passing by noticed all of our belongings sitting in our front lawn. Feeling sorry for our situation, he offered my dad the free use of an old abandoned farm house on his farm. All that he asked in return was for my father to work full-time for him as an all-around farmhand. My Dad took the offer and had to work hard night and day, but was very grateful, especially since we could raise most of the meat, eggs, milk, produce and fruit that we needed."
- Elmer Viertel, age 78, Canton

"At threshing time, the farmers came in overalls from all around to help, taking turns helping each other. Aunt fed them at noon with a big spread of wholesome food. Everything was homemade from scratch and nothing wasted. She even grabbed and killed her own chicken by chopping off its head with an axe on a wood tree stump, throwing it in scalding water, plucking off its feathers, calmly cutting it up and frying it in a big iron skillet with lard. Aunt used or sold the eggs from the chickens she raised, milked the cows and used or sold the cream she separated."
- Ada Goss Weygandt, age 86, Grove City

"Church life was very active during this period. Everybody was in the same circumstance... Even my church, which was not the custom in a Protestant church, held Sunday night BINGO. It was different, however, as all the prizes were donated by the church families. The mothers excelled in this regard, by showing off their donated goods (canned fruits and other canned foods and talented sewers of various materials, clothing, etc.) A three-cent BINGO card and three hours of BINGO netted some support to keep the church functioning."
- William L. Zurkey, age 84, Boardman

"I remember homeless people would come to our door asking for food and help. They were never turned away we always shared our food and whatever else we could. No one ever was sent away hungry. Everyone was willing to help whoever was in need back then."
- Madge Conti Browning, age 92, Columbus

"I also remember men occasionally coming to our home about meal time and begging for food. If we were fortunate enough to have meat for dinner, my mother cut the meat in half and gave half to the needy person."
- Richard Haid, age 78, Hamilton

"As a young boy in Illinois during the Depression I was not aware I was deprived because I had few toys. There were many fun things to do. A favorite game in my neighborhood was hide and seek. We found a great place to play this game just a few blocks from my home. It was a corn field. There were usually four or five of us but sometimes there were only two and that made it more difficult. One late summer afternoon, my friend and I were the only ones available. My friend did an excellent job of hiding and it took me longer than usual to find him. It was an overcast day and starting to get dark before I found him. As we were heading for the street and home, we saw something glowing in the field. Of course, we had to find out what that strange light was doing in the corn field.

"As we approached the site, we recognized an old chicken coop. The door opened and we saw and old man and it scared us to death. In a very gentle voice, he said he didn't mean to scare us and would we like to come in and talk for awhile. We looked inside the door and saw he had a lantern, a pile of straw which was his bed and an old wooden chair. He had a big coffee pot, but we didn't see a stove. We decided to go in and the old man told us he had walked from Iowa and searched for a job along the way. When he got to my town, he saw this old chicken coop, which was not being used and asked the farmer if he could sleep there for a day or two. In those days there were few if any shelters for the homeless but there were soup kitchens in most communities. We visited the old man every,day and enjoyed his stories. Then, one day we found he had moved on to another town and we really missed him. He was the first of many homeless men I met, and many found our home a stopping place where a modest lunch could be had on our back porch."
- Paul C. Messplay, Mansfield

"Some men hit the hobo trail, thereby eliminating one mouth to feed. I remember a song that became popular. It went something like this: 'We free bums, we jolly old bums, we live like royal Turks. We have good luck in bumming our chuck, God Bless the man that works.' In the midst of despair, there still survived a tiny spark of humor."
- Harold Russell, age 85, Gratiot

"One day, my sister and I were walking to the store. A man passed who was dressed very poorly. My sister said, 'let's see if he stops at our house.' Sure enough, he kept walking and looking and when he got to our house, he turned in. He was a tramp (we never called them bums). My folks thought our house was marked as a place where a tramp could get a hot meal - at the table, not on the back porch where many people gave them a meal. I learned very early to treat everyone as equals. I remember one tramp who came at supper time. After awhile he realized he had worked for my dad years ago. My dad went in and found the time book and he had worked for my dad."
- Ferd Thoma, age 82, Newton Falls

"Often, men out of work, whom we called hobos (although usually they were just desperate men trying to survive), would come down the road, and if any came by early enough, Dad might hire one for a day's work. His pay was a delicious dinner at noon. Dad worked hard, planting and harvesting the crops using our two workhorses to pull the equipment. Sometimes, because of bad weather, Dad would still be picking corn in December snow."
- Carol Vincent, age 86, Centerville

"The most vivid memory of that time was of the 'tramps.' They came begging at our doors; they were hungry. They would work for a meal or anything to eat. Most rode the freight trains into town. They camped in groups or singles under or near the railroad culvert at the local tile factory. It was a mystery to me how the men would pick a house, passing many on the block before stopping at another. They were always different men, but then they chose the houses as those before had. One day, finding the culvert empty, I ventured to explore where the men stayed. On the culvert walls were secret markings. These marks were for the arriving men. It gave directions to homes that were likely to feed them. We were not afraid of the men. They were a common sight in town, on the road and in rail cars. Some were educated, teachers, business men. Others were uneducated. They were fathers, grandfathers, husbands, sons, young men or boys. They were clothed in wrinkled suits to tattered outfits. They didn't want to live like this. The Depression had chosen for them."
- June A. Young, age 84, Worthington

Return to menu.


Lessons, Values and Advice from the Great Depression

"You'd work to get something; if you could save it you'd save it, and you did not overspend. I think that probably one of the biggest lessons I got, and a lot of my generation got, was that you didn't buy a lot of stuff you didn't need."
- Dean Bailey, age 82, Lordstown

"The little money we did earn went a long way. Maybe this was the foundation that caused many of us to become part of The Greatest Generation. I like to think so. I believe it made us believe in patriotism and fighting the greatest war in the history of the world. Not being a part of the World War II war effort was anathema to me and my friends from Jackson-Milton High School."
- William E. Bletso, age 82, Youngstown

"We were taught to respect our parents, grandparents and educators and be tolerant and to share with others. People thought we were poor, but they were wrong, we ate gourmet every day, our food was organic and no pesticides."
- Rachel Clara Patrone Boyd, age 78, Niles

"A phrase I heard frequently while growing up came, I am certain, from this period in my family's life: 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' Good advice in today's economic climate as well!"
- Stephanie A. Burke, about her mother, Mildred Burk, age 88, Middletown

"We learned not to go into debt, explained Ms. Christian. 'If you borrowed money or went on the books, you paid that money back as soon as you got it.' Another important lesson the ladies learned during the Depression was to use everything until it was completely worn out. They did not replace something if it broke, but rather got it fixed. Ms. Weber's husband still wears his socks until he has worn holes into the soles."
- Emma Polly, about Julia Weber, age 87, and Hallie Christian, age 87, Olmsted Falls

"Now as I think about it, I was learning during those years something good about the value of the American dollar that has stuck with me throughout my entire life. My sister, Mary Jane, and I were never given a weekly allowance as so many children have today. We felt lucky as we were growing up if we had a penny or a nickel or a dime in our pockets. Money just didn't grow on trees."
- William Cox, age 85, Sylvania

"I live with the satisfaction of knowing that happiness is having what you need. The Depression taught us how to be strong and that hard work is the source of your strength and success. Our only guarantee in life is to cherish the moment."
- Helen De Gifis, age 83, Warren

"It seemed that if you owned a piece of land, had a cow and a garden you could make it in the thirties. You learned to manage. During all the hard times, we never had to rely on the government; God took care of us."
- Bernice Dixon, age 80, Galloway

"To get through a Depression or recession, to my way of thinking, it is imperative to have a faith, family and friends to help or be helped, to keep physically and mentally fit, to learn the 'new' and to be flexible in wants and needs. Life, for me during the Great Depression, was 'do-able' because I was blessed with these!"
- Florence Field, age 91, Willoughby

"I never knew we were in a Depression until a decade afterward. I started working part-time when I was 12 and never thought I was sacrificing. Now, I feel sorry for the kids who cannot do that. Wide work and play experiences taught me many lessons."
- Russell S. Fling, age 82, Columbus

"Our motto became: 'Eat it up, wear it out, or make a rug out of it.'"
- Mary Alice Foster, age 89, Reynoldsburg

"When it comes to tough times, a human being will take care of himself and family, and others hopefully. Sorry to say, but those people who do not know or learn from tough times will go for the easy way out: robbing, stealing, killing. The world has always been like that from the beginning of time. I would not mind living back in my younger days. To me, they were so much simpler than they are nowadays."
- Daniel P. Gentile, Sr., age 70, Parma

"What is happening today does not even compare to the Great Depression. People need to learn to save and not buy over their heads. We learned how to save, we had to. You couldn't borrow money back then unless you had almost 50 percent of the loan value already in your pocket."
- Earl Gorsuch, age 88, Lebanon

"A word to the wise, try not to pay more than 25 percent of your monthly income for house payment. Buy only what you can afford and try to save some money for any emergency that may arise."
- Charles Green, age 87, Columbus

"It is said that period was the worst of times, but to many it was the best of times. I became a stronger person because of it. I learned the art of volunteering and giving because everyone was in the same position at that time, and neighbors and friends helped each other."
- Violet Hardin, age 89, Wapakoneta

"I remember food was scarce, and if we had soup for lunch, we had soup for supper. Life was simple but hard. I think it made us stronger. We had nothing and expected nothing. We made do with what we had. We got along as a family. I recall how the whole neighborhood would get together and play, it was so much fun."
- Geneva Hawkins, age 88, Bloomville

"They never remember having it that bad because of the food available on the farm, but they did remember never getting any toys for Christmas. 'We hung stockings up by the fireplace, but never got anything. All the kids would go down to the local Fire Station, where we would get candy and fruit'"
- Rick Prentice about Jo Clifford, age 90, Grand Rapids

"I think back and remember the Depression as a good thing since we learned to do with and without what we had. We were never jealous of anyone. We were always glad when someone got something new. Life was good in many ways, and still is."
- Phyllis Spohn Johnson, age 81, Butler

"As I was growing up during the Depression, if someone asked me whether I felt deprived, I would have said 'no.' We lived no better, and no worse, than anyone else in our community. And, maybe most importantly, my parents never seemed very worried about the future. They made us feel safe and secure."
- Evelyn Brewer Neff Mitrione, age 86, Pickerington

"Just know that people do survive hard times and carry on with their lives. I am 91 and have lived a very good life. So can you. Don't give up. We should all join together in helping where we can. There are other things to develop, perhaps from a hobby. Something you have done well can be developed into a new business. American people have all been known for their ability to learn new things and how inventive they can be. So get in there and show the rest of the world what winners we can be!"
- Margaret Obenour, age 91, Marion

"Growing up in the early forties in Brooklyn, New York, we were dirt poor, but then so were our neighbors. In those days, people were happy to have food, clothing and a roof over their heads. We, as children, tried to keep our parents in every way; doing chores for our neighbors and our family was a duty, not just a favor... Life was far more simple; not everyone had a car, money was tight, and we never demanded what our parents could not provide...

"The younger generation has many life lessons to learn, and nothing is learned without great pain and hard work. Reach out to offer a helping hand to someone more unfortunate. Be of good spirit - and don't give with strings attached. Make life worth living by doing what you preach, and being an example of loving kindness. You'll never go wrong!"
- Leona M. Osrin, Beachwood

"With the bank holiday in 1933, all banks in the nation were closed for audit. Those with sound operations reopened, those without closed permanently. Many people lost their life savings. The Depression was here - and it hurt!! Many businesses were in jeopardy, but the American dream was the driving force that kept the nation alive. Men, women, children, rich and poor all worked together at recovery. It was not easy."
- Viola Reed, age 95, Barnesville

"We went through hard times, but with the help of our dear loving mother, we managed to finish high school. So today we have a lot to be thankful for. If we just stop spending so much on material things we don't really need, less eating, drinking, and partying, and work together to help those less fortune than we are, then God will bless us and help us through these hard times facing us. So let's stop complaining and be thankful for what we have."
- Elizabeth Rollins, age 72, Columbus

"There were several important lessons from the Depression years. Get an education - learn how the other half lives! From my father: no sacrifice is too great for the welfare of your family. If adversity strikes don't whine, adapt! As much as some may complain about big government, it was big government that got us through the last Depression (with a little help from Hitler)!"
- Tony Rugare, age 83, Highland Heights

"It was humor that brought us through the Depression. We were all in the same situation. Neighbors were close and helped each other. Each one the same. We never heard of allowances. We had our chores. We didn't expect it, didn't have it, but respected our parents."
- Blossom Schmoll, age 98, Berea

"In all, looking back, people had better character, and many times a handshake sealed an agreement. People enjoyed and appreciated each other and any small gifts of good or necessary items. They were simpler times where we joked and had fun just working and then playing together. We worked hard and weren't allowed to feel sorry for ourselves."
- Marian Seilheimer, age 89, Tiffin

"This was a time when people looked out for each other. Honesty and industriousness were highly valued. If we kids got out of line in school, we caught it at school and got it again from our parents when we got home. And we knew we could count on it!"
- Ann Shook, age 85, Akron

"As children, we never felt that we lacked anything important, although we knew that we didn't have a lot. But we learned at an early age that people can't always have everything they want, and we learned to value the things we had… The surviving members of our family still talk a lot about the advantages of growing up during the Great Depression and of being part of a large family. We feel that the experiences we had as children equipped us to be self-reliant and content with very little in the way of this world's goods. We wish all children could grow up in an atmosphere such as we enjoyed in our childhood because of our loving and nurturing parents. Without their determination to work hard to supply the things we needed, our story might well have been a tale of woe instead of a recital of rich blessings."
- Wanda Stubbart, age 78, Columbus, Vic Thomas, age 83, Middletown and Kathleen Lambert, age 80, Middletown

"Neither of our parents completed high school, but what they lacked in formal education, they more than made up for in common sense. What they taught us was love of family, a belief in each other and a work ethic that has carried throughout our lives. I think that the greatest thing they taught us was to work for what we wanted or needed. On this basis, we would always survive."
- Larry Taddie, age 82, Parma

"We always had and gave love, showed respect, were honest, knew both pride and humility and lived on perseverance. Our patriotism and reverence to God were real."
- Joy Thomas, age 80, Canfield

"From The Great Depression my parents learned to save as much money as possible from every paycheck. They also learned to buy one thing at a time, pay off any balance and then go on to the next consumer need or appliance."
- Mary Ann Wasserman, age 78, Toledo

"Make changes and surely don't live in the past. Be aware of your problems. Sacrifice and make adjustments where necessary. Share with family, neighbors and friends. Don't let the doom and gloom that is the main topic of the media these days get you down. Keep that great American spirit. We have always faced adversity, but we know how to band together and overcome it. Things may not get better for a while, but they will with each of our efforts and attitudes. As bad as things were, we remained relatively happy and optimistic. We didn't have the mass media preaching doom and gloom. Today's generation needs to accept the realities of the time, make needed adjustments, appreciate life's blessings and reinforce their sense of family. We are Americans and have inherited the spirit of overcoming adversity and surviving hard times. We have done it repeatedly in the past and will do it again. We owe it to coming generations and to keeping our country great."
- Bill Williams, age 79, Perrysburg

Return to menu.


Medical Care and Home Remedies

"Illness and injuries were handled much differently in those days. There was no emergency squad nor emergency room. Most people did their own doctoring. They used castor oil, soap and water soaks, Epsom salts, scalded milk for diarrhea, warm oil put in an aching ear or someone who smoked blowing smoke into an aching ear, inhaling Vicks or some other inhalant over a boiling teakettle or maybe Camphorated oil rubbed on your chest when you had a cough. Other ointments were bought from the traveling Watkins man. When I was four years old, I was knocked unconscious by a rock thrown by another child. The children carried me to a nearby house, where I was revived and the blood was washed off my head with a cool wet cloth. The children carried me home. No doctor was called and my hair has covered the untreated scar for 81 years. I had whooping cough, chicken pox and other illnesses without a doctor. People had no money for doctors. When my finger was shut in the neighbor's car door, my mom had me walk around for a couple days with my finger in a cup of warm water that had turpentine in it. The finger is crooked but it works. We learned about deaths when a neighbor hung a black wreath on their door. And when I was in the third grade, I learned how a big orange sign on a porch that said 'QUARANTINE' and a red-eyed mother saying 'Don't stop for Rebecca anymore' told me that my best friend had died."
- Maxine Bartelt, age 85, Columbus

"No need for a doctor - plenty of skunk's grease and castor oil on hand."
- Wilma Blasiman, age 88, Lake Milton

"Mom's mother, my grandmother, cleaned houses and businesses to supplement her husband's (somewhat sporadic) income. Around this time, she developed some severe dental problems and had to have most of her teeth pulled, but could not afford dentures. However, the owner of the beauty salon she cleaned had a client whose husband was a dentist, so Grandma cleaned the salon, in return for which the salon's owner did the dentist's wife's hair, and the dentist made Grandma a set of beautiful dentures that lasted until her death at age 90!"
- Stephanie A. Burke, about her mother, Mildred Burk, age 88, Middletown

"I was born during World War I (1918). It was a home delivery and the doctor charged $5. People in those days scarcely went to a doctor. I never remember my parents ever seeing a doctor for an illness. When I went to college, it was necessary to have a physical, and when they gave me a thermometer to take my temperature, I didn't know that it went under your tongue. When a new baby was coming, people bought white outing flannel and made diapers for the new arrival. They had not made Pampers yet! On one occasion in the 1940s, a neighbor came for me one night, as his wife was in labor, and they had no money for a doctor or hospital. I went and by the light of a kerosene lamp, with a pair of scissors, a bottle of alcohol and two strings, delivered a big baby boy. He later went on to college and graduated Summa Cum Laude. It didn't cost them a cent for the delivery and now it costs a fortune to get all the things needed for the new baby's arrival."
- Mary Cole, age 91, Cadiz

"In the middle 1930s, I broke my arm playing leap frog and the Doctor just couldn't get it set right because it was an elbow break. So, he came to our house several times to break it and reset it again, to no avail. It's been crocked ever since, but has never given me trouble. Another time, we had the thresher gang at our home, and all the fellows were washing up in a large tub in our front yard. I reached up to pet our neighbor's dog, and he grabbed my face. Poor Dad had to drop everything and take me to the doc. It took six stitches with no painkiller. The doc told me I was a brave little girl - never screamed or cried. That scar is still there today. I must have been one of their most expensive children."
- Dorothy Orthwein Fundum, age 82, Malinta

"I broke my arm when I was 6 years old. Dad walked down to the neighbors and asked them to come and take me to the doctor's office in Waterville. The doctor x-rayed it and said he could not set it because it was too bad of a break. So the neighbor took Mom and me to Toledo Hospital to have surgery to set and operate on the splintered elbow. We stayed all night in the hospital. All these emergencies and no telephone yet at our home."
- Ruth Hahn-Shrayer, age 78, Holland

"Since father was gone from home a lot with his work, Mother was left to raise us. When I was thirteen, my sisters and one brother came down with scarlet fever. My parents were also ill with other medical problems, so I was the one to care for them. We were quarantined for six weeks. I made bread and many pots of soup. The doctor came once a week to check on everyone and bring needed medicines and supplies, and neighbors helped with chores."
- Violet Hardin, age 89, Wapakoneta

"No one could afford to go to the dentist or doctor unless it was a real necessity. Each year, in school, the school nurse would look us over and always said my tonsils needed to be removed. Since we couldn't afford to have that done, I got arthritis as a child. After the Depression, when I was about 20, I got them removed and my arthritis went away."
- Irene Class Haueter, age 94, Bolivar

"Frequently, there was a new baby in the big laundry basket. We never had a crib. Just before the baby arrived, the doctor would come with his black bag and go upstairs. We always thought he brought the baby in his bag."
- Frederick M. Kovacic, age 82, Akron

"The county healthy nurse came to school once a year and gave examinations for eyes, ears, throat and teeth. I think they also checked for head lice, impetigo and ringworm, since these were very contagious. The nurse sent several notes to my house before my Dad finally went to the City Loan and borrowed enough money to take me to the dentist. I still have my own two front teeth, thanks to a persistent county nurse."
- Donna Lehman, age 86, Eaton

"In those days, we didn't run to the doctor's if we had an ache or pain or the sniffles. We had home remedies and we had to be tough. When I see these youngsters today, I often wonder how we survived, but I've lived to be almost 90 so I guess it didn't hurt us."
- Evelyn Peoloquin, age 89, Genoa

"(There were) signs on our home for every childhood disease that came around. Nobody was allowed to visit us and only my Dad could come and go to work. We were all stuck in the home until we were free of what ever germ we carried. We had almost all childhood diseases, including whooping cough! (We got) no such things as a hair cut or a perm (others did, but we never had the money). The dentist was free at Lincoln High School; doctors came to your home."
- Doris Portmann, age 76, Navarre

"Mom made a lot of home remedies. I remember gathering old field balsam, boneset, snake root, ginseng and black cohosh. She made cough syrup from the bark of shellbark hickory and beech and honey. Luckily, we never had much in the way of illnesses - just colds, croup, tonsillitis, etc. None of us ever broke a bone or needed braces."
- Delcie Pound, ag 92, Medina

"Mother was in bed with the flu for two weeks in 1937. While the county nurse stayed with her, I stayed with friends. I was to live with them if she died."
- James Randolph, Columbus

"Father worked one day a week and got food from Akron welfare. Through school, tonsils were removed from three of us at the childrens hospital one year, as no money was available for this or a dentist. Our teeth were repaired with lead or pulled out. I was not allowed to join the scouts, as dues were five cents a week. My eyes were checked and after the exam of ten dollars my father took me home, as he could not pay for glasses."
- Alvin Reece, age 83, Mansfield

"Professionals in the community would barter their services for farm products. One physician, who was a relative, received much of his pay in the form of farm products and baked goods. He never turned anyone away and always accepted what was offered. When he received more than he could use, he would call someone he knew who would be glad to come and pick it up."
- William M. Shaw, age 87, Sarahsville

"If we got sick, a neighbor lady looked at us and decided what was wrong and just waited a few days and were better. When we were going to have our baby, my husband's family had a player piano. He started putting $1 bills in a roll of music. When the nine months were up and I went to the hospital for 10 days, he played the music and had $50-$75 for the hospital - 10 days for me and my son - and $25 for the doctor. Cash on delivery."
- Margaret Smith, age 94, Barnesville

"Home remedies took care of all our illnesses - sometimes one dose that was so bad it was a real cure, so we didn't need the second."
- Beva Stonebreaker, age 89, Cadiz

"I badly needed dental work done. Many times, I went to school with my face swollen from toothaches. It was painful and embarrassing too. I couldn't take care of the problem until I graduated from high school in 1939. Then I went to a friend and she took me to the bank, signed for me and then I could go to a dentist. In those days, there weren't any credit cards. In the meantime I did housework for people, making 50 cents a day."
- Margaret Willford, age 87, Plymouth

Return to menu.