SH: But they didn't have a place to live after their house burned down.
JT: They'd move in with kin folks or rent a couple of rooms somewhere. Money was scarce and prices were cheap. A Saturday matinee at the movie theater was a dime. Bread was $0.07 or $0.08, gasoline was $0.15 a gallon, and a good pair of shoes was $1.50. One thing was all of us kids wore either overalls, or, they didn't call them blue jeans, they were dungarees. They were cheap, $0.69 a pair. I swore, if I ever got to the point where the choice was mine, I would never put on another pair of overalls or blue jeans. (Laughs) So far I have not done it! Here in town the people did better than those in the country because we had city water. Our garden was 100 feet by 150 feet. We raised enough potatoes, beans, butter beans, peas, and tomatoes, so that we had vegetables and my mother canned them. We had a great big chicken yard, so we always had fresh chicken. The people out in the country, even those next to a creek, couldn't water a garden carrying a bucket. Most of them had wells where you drew water up with a bucket. A lot of those wells went dry and a lot of the creeks went dry. If you think about how it is now and how it has been, except part of 1980, after the first of July there was not a blade of green grass to be seen anywhere. That put me out of the yard mowing business. (Laughs) When the grass grew in the summer, I mowed six yards in the neighborhood. That would pay about $1.75, That was my picture show on Saturday afternoon and it kept my bicycle going and I'd have a little money left over occasionally. That is about the way the situation was then.
JT: You have to understand that people were totally different back then. I'll tell you a little story about a family to illustrate my point. The Red Cross was about the only agency equipped with the funds to help people and they helped a lot of people. (They helped) with the staples: flour, sugar, lard, etc. Now, my father was the county superintendent of schools. The Red Cross director came to him and asked if he knew any families where the kids didn't attend school because they didn't have clothes or shoes. He told my dad to let him know so he could give them a voucher and they could go buy what they needed. There was a family that lived north of town that had six children, all of school age. My father went to check around with the teachers and principal at the elementary school. They said only two of those kids at a time came to school. They would send a big kid and a little kid to bring back what they had learned that day and to teach it to the rest of the kids. My father told them (the family) that there was stuff available to help them and if they wanted to they could go up to the Red Cross office and get a voucher. Then they could buy clothes so the kids could go to school. The man said that they didn't need any help. It was rough but they would make it. He turned it down and acted like he was insulted because he didn't want anyone to give him something. Of course, it was a tragedy for those kids to miss school. My father went to the family's preacher and the preacher persuaded them to get the vouchers and send the kids to school.
JT: Now, that is a basic difference between people then and now. Now if you announced that you were going to give away clothes, people would knock you down coming to get them. This was the case all over up until 1934-35. Then the W.P.A. and other relief programs got going. By that time, people were so desperate they would do anything. Another thing about the time bugs me to no end. If poverty produced crime that would have been the most crime ridden time of all, but it wasn't. Except for the big gangsters, (John) Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd. Our house didn't even have a lock on it until up in the late 1940's. Nobody would bother you. That was some of the principal differences. I guessed I noticed them more than many kids because my father was a teacher and he made sure that I noticed, knew, and remembered those things. I want to think there is not as much talk about the drought and Dust Bowl as there was with the Depression because people did not want to talk about their problems. Has your class read The Grapes of Wrath ?
SH: No, we haven't.
JT: Well, you better read that because it tells the story about as well as you'll get it. See the movie. I can't think of the famous actor that played the movie role. If you see that old movie, be sure and look at it. Now what's next?