Monday, December 24, 2012

Last Time the Rich Hijacked the Economy - My Father's Story
These are my father's memories of the money woes of the 1930s - caused by the same type of people who are doing it today.
  Most know the movies were silent until the late twenties and that color came to the silver screen in the late thirties, but I doubt they grasp the shock most of us experienced the first time we heard voices from the screen.  What these folks don't understand is how hard it was to come by the 15 or 20 cents required to get in a movie house if one went early in the day - at night the cost might be as high as 35 cents, a staggering amount then for a picture show.  By the time I was scrounging for picture-show money, most workers were fortunate to be making twenty to twenty-five dollars a week, and there were a dozen men for every job.  The thirties were hard times, I can tell you, but for fifteen cents one could dream in a movie and forget the hard times for a while.
If one was laid off at work, there was no unemployment compensation nor job bank to turn to; you were on your own in a non-welfare state.  Until the FDR years, there was no minimum wage law, and you worked for whatever a business was willing to hand out.  These were indeed the 'good old days', but only for a very few.
The economic difference between the twenties and the thirties was almost one of daylight and dark.  Hardly anyone really understood the 'stock market crash of '29', surely not us children, but every home I knew of suffered greatly, and even we kids knew the world had changed indeed.  For adults, the crash and the resulting depression (which forever altered the meaning of the word) was a life or death struggle, and quite a few of them never made it.  My family was more fortunate than many, for, while Dad was out of work for some time, he did land a career job in the Madison Water Works.  The loss of the home on Fairfax was a disaster he never got over.
In the first years of the '30s, I was able to see a host of men and young boys 'riding the rods' as hard-time hoboes.  I had not then heard of Woody Guthrie, but I knew the bad times he wrote about.  Mother fed many of these formerly well off people on the back steps of our home.  They, and the people I saw at the improvised soup-kitchens set up in Centennial Park are still clear in my mind.
And we have people in Congress who would see us like that again.  Raise your voice!   

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