The Great Depression
The Great Depression is known as a time of economic disaster, and for its impact on the social structure of families. As times got harder, the family way of life changed. Families that were well off did not suffer as much as those that were already struggling. When men lost their jobs they also lost the ability to support their families. Children were forced to leave home and find work without adequate schooling. The Great Depression affected people both physically and psychologically. It was an era of unemployment, family struggles, and the way they survived.
The Great Depression was an era of unemployment. One of the main causes of unemployment was the combination of the greatly unequal distribution of wealth throughout the twenties. The unequal distribution of wealth had gone on forever. Money was distributed disparately between the rich and the middle class, between the United States and Europe, and even between industries and agriculture. The unequal distribution of wealth had created an unstable economy. Companies were losing money because of this unstable economy so there for they had to make some changes. The first thing that had to be done was to save money and they did this by cut the pay role. Employees of many years were fired or took massive pay cuts. The employers only kept a select few workers that they had to have.
If one did not make the employer’s expectation, they were fired.
Monte Cristo had a list, a little roll call.
And one by one he took them each for a ride
Saying One and Two and Three and so on
Till the names were all crossed off
And he had cleabsed the world of a giving number
Of betrayers who had personally wronged him.
He was judge, jury, and executioner
Finding a replacement was not difficult since everyone; men, women, children, and even grandparents, were looking for work.
I’m not asking for social equality,
All I want is a job with a decent wage,
To exist now and provide for old age.
So kindhearted employers, my case is up to you,
Give me something to do.
With few job openings and so many people looking for them, job security was a big threat. Because of this threat, employees started to form labor unions.
Thursday, October 24, 1929 was a very important date of the Great Depression. This date is commonly known as “Black Thursday” or some time called “Black Monday” This is the day that the stock market crashed.
On Thursday, Oct 24, 1929, the bottom began to fall out. Prices dropped precipitouslyBy the end of the day the market had lost four billion dollarsBy the end of the year the stock values had dropped by fifteen billion dollars.
The crash affected everyone; rich, pore, middle class, and yes even banks. Everyone had money in the stock market and everyone lost his or her money. The unstable economy aided the crash in some ways. Because if the business had maybe put the money that they had invested in the Stock market to some good use like paying the workers a little raise or something. This
Would have made it possible for the middleman to maybe save some money and not have to try his luck at the stock market. Some of the families had lost all there savings to the crash and the ones that didn’t lose there money in the stock market crash could not get it from the bank if they wanted because the bank had lost there money to the stock market.
Families coped with unemployment in different ways. Some families had a little money saved and would use it to pay the house note. In the meantime, they would try to find odd jobs in order to pay the next bill.
The reason why I’m appealing to you
I’ve got a wife, four children and a mother, too.
And they are depending on me for financially
They would get food from soup lines to save any money they could. Families that kept their jobs, took massive pay cuts; therefore struggling, but still managing to put little food on the table and a roof over their heads.
They carry lessons and warnings
They do what they must
They are beyond argument.
A few families were left in terrible situations. They had no job and savings left because the banks had closed. These people were forced to move out of their homes and live on the streets.
To Proud to beg, to honest to steal
Employers please listen to my appeal
Night and day I’m walking the streets,
Noting to eat and nowhere to sleep,
Give me something to do.
Some families made due with their loss of everything, while others freaked out over their losses. Fathers of some families were so devastated over the loss of all their possessions; they took their own life so that they would not have to deal with the agony of being broke.
Friends, many days I feel I can die
I feel like committing suicide
Some kindhearted employers, my case in up to you,
Give me something to do.
(Proudbeg 29 – 32)
Families did all kinds of things to handle the problems of the Great Depression. Some families split up and went their own ways to try to find jobs, or whatever work they could. In some cases the kids were split up from their parents.
What shall he tell that son?
“Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.”
And this might stand him for the storms
And guide him amid sudden betrayals
And tighten him for slack moments,
In fact most families did not split up; they stayed right where they were and fought through the hard times. Some children joined the National Youth Administration. This ensured them of some sort of work if there was any work.
I was about fourteen when I joined the NYA. I used to get paid $12.50 every two weeks. Making footlockers. I gave half to my mother. This was the first time I could buy some clothes.
Families tried to help each other in their times of need. They would open their houses to friends and relatives in need. This would help them to pay the rent and also keep them from living in a “Hoover Ville.” Which was a small town environment with makeshift homes all made of cardboard and other materials they could find.
The Great Depression was a real eye opener for both the people of yesterday and the people of today. During it they had dealt with unemployment and families had to learn to live on hardly anything. They learned the true meaning of money.
Today it would be difficult for us to imagine not having food or hot water. People get mad today if the cable television goes out or if the Internet is down for a few hours. The Great Depression was truly a tragedy but there is nothing we can do about it now. People then learned a good bit from it. They learned; how to group together, how to save money, and just what a dollar was worth.
Let the nickels and explain.
They are made for the people
Millions everyday study the buffalo on the nickel,
Study before the nickel, the dime is spent.
A lot of the people today have long forgotten the lessons that their parents had taught them. Today people really do not appreciate the value of a dollar, but they know all about “plastic,” or commonly known as credit cards. I think a small dose of depression would do people today some good but not too much, because I think we would have a lot more people killing themselves and others just because people have fewer moral values today.
Hawes, Joseph M. Children Between the Wars. Ed. Joseph M. Hawes.,
N. Ray Hiner. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997.
Proudbeg, Jim. “Poor Nut Ambitious (too Proud To Beg).” 21 Apr. 2000.
Sandburg, Carl. The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.
Underwood, Mark. “Black Thursday.” The New York Times on the web.
1 May. 1996. 4 Apr. 2000 <http://sac.uky.edu/msunde00/hon202/p4/nyt.html>.