Voices of Economic Survival

Lessons learned from the Great Depression

Today, if it gets worse, so many people are not going to know what to do. It’s at the point now where people are not really able to save. I guess there are little things we could do without, but it’s going to be hard for many people to do without the things they’re used to.

rosa-lee-johnston-current-photo_edited-1Rosa Lee Johnston, 83, Richmond, Va.

I remember [Herbert] Hoover was president. I think it was in 1929 going into 1930. At that particular time, I lived in Southampton County, Virginia, with my aunt. My mother lived in Richmond.

We didn’t have too hard of a time with food because we didn’t get the best of foods then anyway. We got cheese and stuff like that for ten cents a pound. They had salt pork — we got that for six cents a pound. My mother came and got me and brought me to Richmond and the Depression was still going on.

I was 6 or 7 when I lived in Southampton County, but when I got to Richmond, I was 10 or 11.

One of the main things I remember is different things being rationed. I remember shoes were rationed. Each family could get only a certain number of pairs of shoes, and that was it. But it didn’t matter whether shoes were rationed as far as we were concerned because we could only afford one pair anyway and we wore that pair until we couldn’t use them anymore. Sugar was rationed.  We saved money on clothes because all of our clothes were hand-made.

Because we remembered how hard things were during the Depression, we always believed in saving. My mother would save money at home. When I started school, I started saving money in the bank. At first we would start saving for Christmas – we’d save so much each week and then Christmas time we would have $50. If we didn’t have to use that $50 we wouldn’t spend it. We’d put it in a savings account. I worked in factories and I’d spend some of my money and put some in a savings account. Saving is something people should be doing more of today.

raymond-jenkins-_jpg__edited-11Raymond C. Jenkins, 53, Columbia, Maryland

If I were to compare the Great Depression – from what I’ve heard about it – with where we are today, I think the word ‘depression’ could be used to describe what’s going on. We already use this strong word – recession – and it’s getting worse. But President Barack Obama is in this to win this. So there’s hope. And with hope, you can move on to belief and you can move on to achievement. I tend to believe that this is a correction that needs to happen in the world. It is a world, global crisis. But I am very hopeful even though we are in this.

I have a good job. I work in sales. Like everyone else, I’m watching my 401(k) tank. I’m on pins and needles. I don’t know whether [I should] go in there and make changes and stop my losses and put all of my savings in bonds.

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