Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things Aren't Always What They Seem

My Darling,

We are here at the hotel and the rooms are spacious and comfortable. The restaurant in the lobby serves hearty meals and the diner down the street makes flap jacks almost as tasty as yours. We have been out looking for work and hope to have something pinned down in a day or two. Don’t worry I will be able to send money soon.

Until we can be together again

Your loving Husband.

My grandfather wrote my grandmother a letter similar to that in 1929. It was the depression. There were bread lines and tent cities.

Ok it probably went more like this:


We made it. We are fine. There is a real nice hotel here. Will be home as soon as possible.


It sounded as if my grandfather and my great uncle who was along on the job hunting excursion were doing well doesn’t it. I mean they were sleeping in a hotel right? They were eating in restaurants and diners so how bad could it be?

The truth behind this letter was that he and his brother-in-law were both sleeping on the courthouse lawn in a tent. They were bathing in the fountain and eating at the local soup kitchen. They were lucky and thankful if they both were able to eat one meal a day. They picked up any work they could find and were happy to do it. Times were tough but you know what people were tough too. They knew how to make things last and they knew how to fix things themselves.

My grandfather was a stalwart no nonsense type man. He was a hard worker and believed that the only way you got anything in life was through hard work. He was a carpenter by trade but the housing boom that had been started with the end of the first World War was coming to an abrupt halt. The stock market had crashed and our nation was being thrown into a recession. There was an ill and dusty wind blowing on the plains that would all too soon become known as the dust bowl. Getting a job of any kind was not easy. He left his young wife and daughter at home. He and his brother-in-law loaded up the model A and drove over rutted dirt roads to the nearest place that might have work. They ended up on the courthouse lawn in Weatherford, Texas. They arrived there to find a tent city set up on the lawn and no work. Not wanting to worry his wife he went into the nicest hotel on the town square and procured through a ruse a couple of sheets of stationary and an envelope from the hotel management. He penned the letter to his wife and then proceeded to live on the lawn for several weeks.

My grandfather never complained about it and only told the story matter-of-factly later in his life. He told me this story when he was in his late seventies and laughed as he told it. He said here he was stinky and dirty sneaking into the nicest hotel, pronounced by him as ‘Hoe-Tell’ to get some paper to write on and not get run out of the lobby for being a vagrant. He and his brother-in-law stood in a bread line for hours waiting to get watery soup and a hunk of stale bread. They saved the bread just in case they found work they would have something to eat.

My grandfather eventually went home and got a Hostess cupcake truck. It doesn’t matter how bad times are everyone wants a cupcake. He ran that route until the depression was over and World War II had begun. You know I learned a lot from that old man. When times get tough you do what you have to do. You don’t complain, yeah I’m still working on that one, and you keep on moving forward.  

Now you want a cupcake don't you?


Suzy said...

My mother never let us have Hostess Cupcakes. We were only allowed Snoballs. I still hate her for that.

Staci said...

The folks back much better understood a work ethic, huh? Instead of a government handout when things aren't so good.

Gladys said...

Suzy - I hate her for you! I mean NO HOSTESS CUPCAKES? What kind of cruel and unusual punishment is that?

Staci - Yes that was my point exactly.

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Conspicuous consumption is the devil's work, I tell you. It makes me sick how much waste there is. Having said that, I don't know how to fix a dang thing. I make myself sick.

Gladys said...

NGIP- I'm the same way thank goodness I have Kahuna. He has repaired my coffee maker, my blender, my mixer and many other things. I just keep breaking them and he keeps fixing them. We are quite the team.

LiLu said...

Mmmmmm. I was always a sucker for the Swiss Cake Rolls. NOM.

Coffee Bean said...

What a wonderful post. It made me cry...

Yes, I want a cupcake. Wretch that you are for bringing it up!

otin said...

This was really riveting to me! I really know nothing of my family from that period. We are bad at passing things down! That was amazing!

Katherine Aucoin said...

My father was a young child during the Depression and always told us our generation was spoiled and would never survive a Depression like the one he lived through. I'm betting he's right and hope I never find out. Now, where's my cupcake?

Jaime said...

mmmm.... i really want a cupcake. of course, i always want what i can't have :(