The American Great Depression was a period of financial instability and uncertainty for many people all across the nation. Unemployment and homelessness rates fell.(Laibman). Youth life during this time was very tough and brought many issues. The radio was not the only form of entertainment people had, but it was very popular during this time, and many people had one. Money complications created many headaches for almost everyone. Farmers were under a great amount of stress during the Great Depression, and many lost land. The pricing during this time was not comparable to the prices we have today. Life during the Great Depression was challenging and came with many problems; therefore, many people were not able to live the life they envisioned.
During the Great Depression, the economy of the United States was atrocious. At the start of the Great Depression, the financial system started to become very fragile. Many people were in debt, and businesses started to drop payroll. Because of this, citizens were not able to to pay off all of their debt, which left them in a bad predicament. Unemployment and homelessness began rising during this time, and the standard of living dropped (Laibman). In order to make a little bit of money, some people would work to maintain dirt roads for three dollars an hour (Musbach 34). The laws that were in effect during the Great Depression also had a big impact on the economy. Many people were protesting Prohibition, causing issues between the people and the government. Gangs ran speakeasies, which were illegal bars. Also, beer being sold during this time led to beer wars (Collins 116). Between the years of 1930 and 1938, the number of children that were five years old and enrolled in school dropped 17.3 percent. Within the same years, there was a 16.1 percent drop in kindergarten enrollment. One factor that played into these drops was the birth rate fall during the Great Depression (Collins 30).
Growing up during the Great Depression was a struggle for the children and parents. One of the responsibilities of the mother was to teach the children right from wrong. Although most children wanted to stay in school, many children had to drop out. One reason they had to drop out was to work in factories to help make money for the family (Thiel-Stern et al. 163). Another reason children couldn’t stay in school was because their family was moving around so much. Also, the lack of transportation, clothing, and money forced children to stay at home. Many children during this time wrote letters to the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, asking for help and necessities (Collins 29). Children also played games to keep themselves entertained. Popular games during this time included Cowboys and Indians (better known as Nazis and Soldiers during this time), Hide and Seek, and Hopscotch (Thiel-Stern et al. 168). Their most prominent time of play was after dinner out on the banquette, which was what they called a patio during the time (Thiel-Stern et al. 173). During the Great Depression, many little girls looked up to Amelia Earhart and Shirley Temple (Thiel-Stern et al. 170).
During this time of unemployment, people were searching for a way to keep themselves entertained. Many people would tend to gardens or tap trees for syrup. Also, they would pick fruits off of trees such as apples, pears, and cherries (“Growing Up During the Great Depression”). Playing board games was very common during the Great Depression, and two popular board games were invented. Scrabble was created by Alfred Butts, and Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow (Collins 86). Going to baseball games was a popular past-time before the Great Depression, but once the Great Depression started, the tickets became too expensive. Although many people couldn’t go see the games anymore, the radio started broadcasting games for everyone to hear. Baseball stadiums became lit, which allowed the games to be held at night. However, the baseball teams were still segregated during this time (Collins 92). Another way people kept themselves busy was by reading. One of the most popular books was Joan of Arc (Thiel-Stern et al. 170). Many people also read pulps. These were short fictions printed on cheap paper (Collins 58). The radio also played a huge part in the entertainment world during the Great Depression. Families would sit in their cold, unheated living rooms and listen to whatever the radio played (Thiel-Stern et al. 172). Many would listen to war reports or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats in the evenings. When there was a big election, everyone would gather around their radios and listen to the election results (Thiel-Stern et al. 173).
Weddings during the Great Depression weren’t anything special, and they were kept very inexpensive. There were no bachelor parties or after rehearsal dinners. The bride’s wedding dress was very cheap and plain. Most of the weddings during this time had a very small and private ceremony. Although the ceremony was small, many people celebrated their wedding for almost three days. Also, at some celebrations you could pay a dollar to have a dance with the bride (Collins 15).
One of the main issues during the Great Depression was financial stability. Many people lost all of their savings in the stock market crash. People lost their jobs, which led them to lose their homes (Collins 20). One of the big factors taking most of the money was the health care system (Laibman). Due to all of the issues dealing with money, men moved away from their home and family to find new jobs. Men also felt bad about themselves because they weren’t able to provide for their family (Collins 15). Many homes couldn’t pay for electricity (Mussbach 33). There was no running water or any heat. The stove in the kitchen was the only form of heat for many homes (“Growing Up…) .
Being a farmer during the great depression was a struggle. During the war, before the Great Depression, farmers increased their productions to meet the demand; however, after the war, demand and prices dropped. This left farmers with all the crops, and no one to buy them at the price they were grown. Because of this, farmers lost a lot of their own land. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers were forced off their land because of this money predicament (Musbach 34). Most farmers could only afford four cows and bulls, two or three hogs, and a few calves, chickens, and horses. Farmers also didn’t have the money to have machines do a lot of the work, so the horses were used in place of machines (“Growing Up…). Only one in five farms had electricity during the Great Depression, and only one out of ten of them had indoor bathrooms. If a farmhouse had a radio, it was most likely battery powered. Since many farmers didn’t have any electricity, there was no form of refrigeration. So, when farmers created cream, they sent it to town to have it stored and refrigerated. Although iceboxes seemed like a good idea, they didn’t help because they would have to go to town to get the ice. People would keep cans cold by lowering them into a wall near the house. 16 percent of farm families made over $1,500 a year. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers made less than or equal to $350 a year. The average per capita farm income was $167 (Musbach 34).
The prices during the Great Depression were very different from prices today. People were able to go and enjoy a movie for only ten cents a person (Thiel-Stern et al. 174). Nuts would cost around 20 cents, a shirt would cost around 79 cents, meat would cost around 55 cents, a goose would cost around one dollar and 43 cents, and pig feed would cost around eight dollars and 75 cents. A car licence would cost someone about five dollars and 25 cents, and then another 85 cents per gallon for gas (Musbach 39). Bread would cost around 35 cents, and butter would cost 30 cents (Musbach 40).
In order for families to stay on budget, there was a recommended intake for each person. The recommended milk intake was one quart for children and one pint for adults. They should have had a serving of fruits or a tomato three or four times a week. Having one potato a day was also recommended to stay on budget. One serving of vegetables a day, and a leafy vegetable three or four times a week was recommended (Collins 22). Having three or four eggs a week was recommended. Also, crisp bread for the kids helped with tooth development (Collins 23).
Having a meal plan during the Great Depression was essential for families to stay on budget. A family on a strict income would have very little food, and would have to make the food they did have stretch across a long period of time. For breakfast, they would have hot cooked cereal with milk and toast with margarine, and then wash it down with coffee or milk. For lunch there would be scalloped mac and tomatoes, cabbage salad, bread with margarine, toast for kids, and cocoa. Dinner consisted of lamb stew with potatoes, onions, carrots, bread with margarine, toast for kids, indian pudding, and milk to drink (Collins 25).
Life during the Great Depression was challenging for many people. The economy was falling apart, and the financial system was on the verge of breaking. Growing up during this time was also difficult due to the need of schooling, but also the need to work and help the family make money. There wasn’t much a person could do for entertainment, but the radio played a big role in the entertainment world during the Great Depression. The money problems people had during this time were enormous, and many people lost everything they had. Many farmers were affected during this time due to the change in demand for crops, and many were forced off their land. The pricing of things during the Great Depression were very different from what they are today, and planning meals according to budget was a challenge.
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