Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Depression hit Van Buren County

If you have a copy of Around Pittsburg with Grandma Reed and Friends, by Maxine E. Hughes (1975), you will note that Pearl Reed gave a vivid description of the dismal conditions in our vicinity during the 1930s.

Most people didnít have the money to pay their premiums and had to drop all insurance policies. When they couldnít pay mortgages and bank loans, the banks foreclosed, then rented out their farms either to them, or to other farmers who moved about looking for a satisfactory farm and landlord, where they could once more make enough profit to get back on their feet.

The traditional moving day on March 1 presented all kinds of difficulties, as there were no vans and trucks. Instead, they relied on teams and wagons and moved their livestock by foot. Rugs had to be laid in the new home while stoves and stove pipes were carefully taken down and reassembled. All canned goods and jars had to be wrapped in paper to prevent freezing and breaking of glass.

Emphasis was on finding good ground for farming, so wives had to make do with whatever house existed on the grounds. It was quite a job to fix curtains for all the windows, since the family could not afford to spend what little precious money existed. Younger people today (in the 1970s) couldnít imagine the lack of necessities their parents and grandparents experienced.

Most people only had one or two sets of clothes, so they were worn from one wash day to another--a full week--and often needed mending. Washing was on Monday and clothes were put on lines outside to dry in the sun (or inside the house on stormy days). Moms would wash out school clothes at night and iron them early in the morning before the kids were awake. Most kids wore hand-me-downs, with one good outfit kept back for Sundays to wear to church.

What stands out about her discourse on the Depression years, is that on the morning of December 31, 1930, her husband discovered that the Pittsburg Store they operated had been broken into by thieves during the night. The perpetrators had made off with more than $200 in merchandise. Half of that value was in cigars and smoking materials and chewing tobacco. The rest included blankets, overshoes, gloves, socks and sugar.

Cigars were a nickel in those days and other items were very cheap as well. Thus, $200 worth of merchandise was a large amount of goods that would have required a vehicle to haul from the premises. It would take a lot of future sales from the little store to recover losses.

Mrs. Reed does not mention anything else about the robbery, so we can assume that the thieves were never caught or apprehended.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick