MEMORIES OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION CHAP. VII AUGUST 14, 2009
Like everything else in our memories, there are some incidents that stand out, while others are less distinct, but photos can bring about sudden recall. Last night I was sorting through some of pictures that I'd removed from an old album and there were some that verified many of my memories, others that helped recall incidents that I had supposedly forgotten.
One memory is the insurance man who came to our door every month to pick up a dime for a policy that Mom had bought, a $500 Life policy. In fact, she had purchased one for me, one for Charles and another for Eleanor, so he got thirty cents each time he came by. She had it all ready, three dimes, on top of the payment book, the day he was due to come by our house. You wouldn't think that anyone could make a living and raise a family on dimes, would you? But, people did, and that was the way this man made his living. Of course, he was always ready to sell us additional coverage, but it would not fit into mother's budget.
FAMILIES OFTEN SUBSISTED ON NICKELS AND DIMES When my brother and I began selling magazines to earn extra money, most sales were a nickel for either Colliers Magazine or The Saturday Evening Post. A manager drove around and met with his salesmen (us kids) every week, and delivered our week's supply to us and collected his three and a half cents for each copy we'd sold. If I had sold ten copies of Colliers, he collected thirty five cents just as if he were collecing a thousand dollars today. It was a business deal, and he had kids all over the area doing the same thing. He treated us with respect. We thought of it as a business and we knew how much we'd earned each and every week. There was a certain place that he'd meet us each week and all business was conducter from his car, then he'd go to meet another group. This was his income, and he built his route and hired kids who were recommended as trustworthy by other kids. We also had magazines that sold for a dime and a quarter, the last one earning us a nickel on each sale, and we returned any unsold copies to him. Everybody did their arithmetic and nationally all those nickels, dimes and quarters were the foundations of huge publishing enterprises, for that was the circulation that they guaranteed to their advitisers, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Motor Oil, etc.
We were to "shock troops" on the front lines, thousands of young boys and young men from coast to coast selling magazines, like the New York Daily News had boys on the street corners and newsstands all over the New York and New Jersey area selling the papers for three cents. With some families, such earnings were an important part of their subsistence to the father's earnings, in others that might be what they depended upon totally. Each was a micro-organism of its' own. They had their problems and they worked them out.
BANK TELLERS VISITED THE SCHOOL Even the bank down at the corner respected those nickels and dimes. Each week a Bank Teller would come to our school and visit each classroom, and most of the children had bank accounts in which they deposited a dime or more each week. The Teller noted it in out Bank Book and initialed it. In this way we were taught the importance of saving money for the future, and kids even bragged about having five or ten dollars in the bank. We did not draw it out and spend it frivously, it meant something to a young man when he got married if he had money in the bank. Prospective in-laws, who were almost always involved in such decisions, also looked favorably upon young men who were seriously preparing for their future by establishing a savings program.
We weren't taught to spend recklessly; we were taught to use our money wisely, sparingly, prudently. We weren't encouraged by our Government to go into debt, because that was foolish. We wanted to be solvent and we also wanted our government to be solvent.
Men weren't looking to the government to bail them out in those days, although the idea was growing more popular as they years of the Depression economy did not seem to be coming to end in the near future.