Aging: Visit renews memories of Great DepressionWith the discouraging talk today of recession, old fogies like me especially are probably thinking a wee bit about our U.S. depression in the 30’s known as the Great Depression.
By: Bernie Hughes, The Daily Telegram
With the discouraging talk today of recession, old fogies like me especially are probably thinking a wee bit about our U.S. depression in the 30’s known as the Great Depression. Depression was a good name for it. Money was hard to come by, we were financially “depressed” and folks that desperately needed money were certainly depressed psychologically. That was a long time ago so young folks (any young readers out there?) probably only have a dim perception. Mine was recently renewed.
I visited an old friend (WWII days) from Superior who now lives in Menomonie. Bob tells the story of how his father had come to Superior from Sweden and first had to learn English, but he did that well and ended up teaching. He subsequently married a teacher, also in the Superior School System.
How did the Depression effect them? His wife, Bob’s mother, had to quit teaching. Two incomes in one family was not allowed since too many families didn’t even have one income. Bob’s father had been doing city construction work in summers and that was denied him as well since teachers were paid a yearly income. They spent those Depression summers on a small piece of land out near Solon Springs where gardening was more productive and financially helpful.
Bob’s wife, Penny, was a Superiorite too and told me a story that I hadn’t heard before. Her father had purchased script from teachers and later used them to pay his taxes. I had heard the name, script, used but needed research to help me with details. Script was officially entitled, Certificates of Indebtedness. The first issued in Superior was August 12, 1933. They were issued in denominations of 25 cents, $1, $5 and $10. The last were issued on Oct. 28, 1939, when the need no longer existed.
What tickled me about her story? The city issued the script because of the lack of money and in this case they were receiving script back when they would have preferred the money they so desperately needed. But what could they do? It was paper they had issued.
The Depression was a dramatic worldwide economic downturn climaxed by the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1939. That date came to be known as Black Tuesday.
There are many theories and speculation about the many potential causes of the depression:
1) Bank failures and the stock market crash.
2) Debt — businesses and individuals were deeply in debt.
3) Regulation or lack thereof — government guarantees and Federal Reserve banking regulations were ineffective or not used; 9,000 banks failed during the 1930’s.
4) Investment lack — capital investment and construction ceased or slowed dramatically.
And that list goes on and on. Benjamin Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, is checking his hole card at this point in time — again and again and again. Even economic illiterates like yours truly are truly concerned about the large debt this country is running up primarily because of the misbegotten war in Iraq.
Can you fault me for not being able to find some humor in the economic realm? But another old fella’ sent me the following and said I could use them if I didn’t use his name:
“I was thinking about the status symbol value of cell phones today. Every one seems to have one clipped to their belt or purse. I can’t afford one so I’m wearing my garage door opener.
I spent too much money on deodorants before I realized that people didn’t like me anyway.
I was thinking about old age and decided that I still have something on the ball, but I’m too tired to bounce it.
Women with a missing husband, that they truly wished to locate, might consider putting his picture on beer cans.”
Bernie Hughes, Ed.D., is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at Bernie1@cpinternet.com.