Archive for the ‘great depression’ Tag


The following Sunday, the talk at church turned to the annual affair to raise money. It wasn’t just money the congregation needed, but something to lighten the heavy mood. It would have to be something that gave everyone a chance to do something different and feel good about it. So a talent show was planned to be held on the second floor stage of the firehouse at the end of September. There would be a bake sale, a white elephant table, and a grab bag for the children. John Havir would be the auctioneer for items contributed by members of the congregation, and even some local businesses.

From Carl and Jennie’s family, Harvey would do a violin rendition; Thelma would contribute a reading; and Carl would be the tenor in a barber shop quartet. Jennie would be sure Thelma had a special dress for the occasion. Others would offer vocal performances, and there would be at least one dancer. Linnea Johnson would lead a committee to provide for the sale of refreshments. There would be plenty of activity in the next months preparing for the event.

The Church event in September was a success. People bought each other’s white elephants. Some friends and neighbors showed up, happy not only to enjoy a good show, but also to buy the baked goods for which the Swedish ladies had such an excellent reputation. Parents dug deep to give their children pennies for the grab bag. The free will offering far exceeded hopes and expectations. Like the Torsäs neighbors who had given from their poverty at Carl’s departure party, the church members had given beyond what they could afford.

At the end of the evening, Harvey was filled with the warm satisfaction that he had performed his solo well. Thelma was swollen with grown-up pleasure in her faultlessly delivered reading. Jennie and Carl were happy with their contribution. Mona felt the joy as she rode on her father’s right arm as if in a royal carriage. It was a good walk home from the firehouse

HOPE   10 comments

It’s ironic I know, but I am finding hope in the fact that we’ve been here before as a nation. The same problems bug us – different faces – same issues, having led us not to resolutions, but rather to more of the same. Why hopeful? I’ll be darned if I know. It should leave me feeling even more distressed, verging on despair. I guess it’s the fact that the things we live through have meaning only with the perspective of time, so I perceive myself (and you) living in the maelstrom, out of which will come who knows what. And the fact that my father died in bed at age 86. The world had not collapsed entirely during his journey.

OK, let me give that first paragraph some perspective. As I think I have mentioned, I am working on the fictionalized biography of my father, born in 1890, emigrated from Sweden to the United States in 1909. I have several sources to draw on for specific information about him, but I’m also searching sites to give me background on the times in which he lived.

One book that has delighted me with useful, and, in some cases nostalgic, information, is David E. Kyvig’s “Daily Life in the United States: 1920 – 1940.” There’s lots to comment on, but my focus here is the recognition that “Oh my goodness. We’ve been here before.” Weather changes creating financial havoc (the dust bowl). The great depression; the poorest suffering most, long before the fall of the stock market hit the upper percent. Government intrusion into personal life with the Volstead Act, created by the very people who argued against government intrusion.  (In my mind equivalent to the current incursion into people’s reproductive rights by those who argue against government control). The unanticipated negative results of banning alcohol – ie. Rampant law-breaking and mob violence. How interesting to see that which was once part of the culture becoming “illegal.” Was there an element of anti-immigrant sentiment? It apparently did destroy the French restaurant business, for example. Technological advances leading to job loss and ultimate creation of new jobs.

Questions whether this time the period of creating replacement jobs will happen quickly enough to save the middle class.

So, why be hopeful? It’s some crazy twist of my own psychology, I guess. Sometimes I advise folks that it’s better to give up hope than to keep on wishing for that which cannot happen. Maybe that’s it. I’m not ready to give up wishing that things will get better if we keep on trying.



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