[Podcast] When the Banks Closed

I’m reading a book about the Depression called ‘We Had Everything But Money’. One chapter is titled ‘When the Banks Closed, Our Hearts Opened’. Even though the hard times our world is experiencing right now are different from those of the depression, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the courage and endurance of the people in those days.

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Hard times forced many to sell apples on street corners to support their families. Those who still had jobs did their part to help by buying the produce. In story after story, the hard circumstances that people found themselves in gave birth to a real care for their families and for one another.

For example, a farming family deposited a check for about $1,200 that they’d earned for the full year’s crops, keeping out only $5 for groceries. A few minutes later, the bank closed – permanently – and that $5 was all the family had. To make matters worse, their six-year-old tried to find something in a dark closet by lighting a match and although he got out safely, their home burnt to the ground.

The family temporarily moved in with relatives. Soon after, all their friends and neighbours got together and brought whatever they could spare from their own homes so that this family could be encouraged and begin their lives again.

There were no jobs in the 1930’s, even the farmers weren’t hiring. Thousands rode boxcars in hope of finding work. Thanks to the generosity of those who shared their food, many of those men didn’t go hungry.

Here are some of the stories and comments from the people who lived through that time in history:

* “As we look back now on those long-ago years, we realize they weren’t all that bad. We not only survived, we may well have become better and stronger people for the experience.”
* “Depression years, yet I always remember them with a smile.”
* “In both good times and bad, our parents always had time for us. We never had much money, but we had all the love any parents could possibly give their children.”
* “My grandparents taught me a lot about life, They taught me not to judge a book by its cover, and that money means nothing compared to decency and character. When someone wandered by and needed a meal, they found some small task for that person to do so that they could feel they’d worked for their food.”
* “The Depression was terrible in some ways, but taught many Americans a better way to live. We began to not only think more about others, but to help them.”
* “I’ll never forget those years, neighbors helping neighbors, sharing whatever good fortune came their way, doctors rendering services regardless of patients’ finances, and worship with friends whose faith far outdistanced their troubles.”

I hope in spite of the fear and violence and uncertainty about the future that’s swirling around us today, that we can learn to love and have faith for what lies ahead. Just like the generations before us learned to do.

Have a great day,



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  1. Reply

    One of my readers, Kathryn, wrote me the following comment (used with permission): “My grandfather cut wood for a dollar a day. They lived in Bookton which is only a dot on the map in Norfolk County. They had 11 kids, with 9 surviving, my mother being the youngest. They had.a big garden and some chickens for eggs and a cow for milk and some pigs so they never went hungry. My mother would talk about the kids who had lard sandwiches for lunch because that was all they had. The hardest thing for my mother is that she didn’t get to go to high school. There was no busing back then. She was offered a place to stay with a family in Norwich but my grandfather had his pride. He saw that as charity and his family didn’t take charity so my mother went to work at 14 as a kitchen helper on a farm. The war, as awful as it was for a lot of people, was a saving grace for her. She was able to join the Air Force and eventually became a Corporal of Stores and while stationed in Ottawa for awhile she eventually worked at the base in Hagersville which wasn’t too far from home for her..”
    Kathryn J.

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