Rushville Republican

February 28, 2013

Ward: Times were tough but we got by

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — There recently has been what many called a depression in our country and the world. Certainly things have been difficult for many, but compared to the Great Depression we have had it quite good. Back in the late 1920s, when the depression hit, things were a great deal different than today. In reality, there was no unemployment available to the masses. If you lost your job that was it, no outside help and no unemployment. For a year or two, nothing. You were on your own. There was no FDIC that insures your bank deposits now I believe up to $150,000. Then, if a bank went belly up so did your money. Your checking account, savings, all could be and usually were lost. There were no national credit cards or much that they have brought to us. We had to pay cash for our needs and desires or do without. Today it is way too easy to run up a huge credit card balance that needs to be paid off.

There was no Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid at this time. In fact, health insurance was not something many had. Of course, office calls were usually $5 and nowhere near as much on the prescription side as there is today. No food stamps, only what religious and civic organizations handed out. If you had a pension you were in the minority and if the company went bankrupt your pension did too. Today, I believe there is a fund where by one may get at least something from a company pension. Then and now those pensions were not too large and hard to get vetted in.

Then as now many lost their homes to the banks and as usual all bankers were really bad mouthed to their faces and behind them. Many found that they had no money left because of the bank failure so had to find some employment to survive. Many lost their savings either in the stock market or by banks calling it quits. And yes, there were numerous individuals out selling apples for a nickel a piece and glad to do it. Some others sold pencils at the same rate. Soup kitchens were opened by many churches and other local organizations, usually not governmental.

My father was an auto salesman and this was a difficult time for that entire category of workers. No money, so not many cars sold. Dad would work on radios, an effort he had taught himself. He would buy used cars and spruce them up then resell them for a small (and I mean small) profit. He worked on cars, repaired radios, detailed autos, anything to bring in a dime or two. Almost everyone was hit and hit hard by the depression of the ‘20s, even those with a lot of money. If you lost your home you were on the street and that was it. Homeless was a word a large number of our friends and neighbors had attached to their names. Friends and family did what they could, but many were in almost the same shape as those they tried to help.

The thought of something like this occurring again had a lot to do with the government doing as much social engineering as they have over the last 80 or so years. Those who are jobless today are much much better off than they would have been in the Great Depression. We moan and groan about how hard things are and were, but not many are left today who actually remember this very difficult time for our entire country. Today we really have it made compared to then. Many men (women were not highly involved with work places) found themselves in dire straights during this period and did anything they could to put bread on the table. Gardens and home baked goods were prevalent and you only purchased something from the grocery if you just had to.

In later years, I remember Grandma Abernathy managing to get a large number of cabbages and making a huge galvanized tub of cole slaw and sauerkraut and then canning them for use all year long. I was intrigued with the slicer she used for the cabbage; it fit over the tub and all she had to do was shove the cabbage over the knife in the slicer and then it would fall shredded into the tub ready to can. I still today love sauerkraut and cole slaw, just don’t have it enough for me. I was born at the end of the depression and remember how my father would regale us with tales of the hardships he went through during this time. My brother was young at the time but he also would tell me of times he remembered of the slim times everyone seemed to have.

Rush County and Rushville were lucky because they were in an agriculture area and the food was much easier to obtain than in the city. Of course, the local furniture industry suffered as much as the rest of the county because of no money to buy furniture. Times were difficult, but at the same time they were good to many. We found our good points and our bad ones too. The feeling of neighborliness and helpfulness were prevalent and I wish they were once again today.