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Remembering the tough times

ENID, Okla. (AP)--Enid resident Roy Hollrah remembers well the heartbreak of the Great Depression.

"My mother died when I was 9 years old," Hollrah said, staring straight ahead with eyes filled up with the past, "and my older sister had to kind of take her place. And then my father took his own life. That was during the Depression."

Hollrah is one of many seniors remembering the lessons of the past these days while struggling with the economic problems of the present. Some economists say figures on the current economic crisis haven't been recorded since the 1930 Depression era.

"I can remember my friends being so hungry, that they didn't have anything, and they were so glad my mother would give them something," said Velma Roggow, "and I can remember, I just vaguely remember these old tramps coming to the back door and wanting to know if there was any food, and my mother would feed 'em. I can remember that, but I didn't suffer, but I know that others did."

Because Roggow's father worked at the rural Imo elevator, her plight was not as bad as some in Enid. The farmers would give the family food or small farm animals to raise, she said, and they had large lots next to their Enid home in which to grow garden vegetables.

Her husband, Herman, said his family fared well on their farm near Breckinridge. "You just lived life as life, and that's all there was to it."

Chester Berruti managed to get a job after college, and that made the difference for him.

"I can remember going to work for the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. I got a check every two weeks for $55 a month, and I was able to put back a little bit of money, 'cause my dad told me a jackass could work but it took a smart man to save it."

Jefferson Schlesinger also said having a job staved off the worst of the effects of the Depression.

"I wasn't hurt as bad as a lot of people who didn't have any job. See I was working for a flour mill, and the flour mills kept operating mainly because people had to eat and make bread and that sort of thing."

Life was pretty good, too, in the grocery business, said Dorothy Harbough, whose family ran the only store in downtown Arkansas City, Kan.

"I don't think it affected me one bit," she said, "and I've tried to figure out why, because that sounds kind of funny."

Those hard times are remembered well by Edith Finley, who lost her chance for college because of a lack of money. She did find experience in the work force, however, and was able to help her family financially.

"I had to help my family," she said. "It just took all of us to pay the rent and all that.

"Well, it was just tough. When you got low on food, we ate a lot of beans and cornbread and fried potatoes because potatoes were cheap, and beans went a long way."

Also during the Depression, people got really good at surviving, Schlesinger said.

"Everybody got by one way or another, you know, they had to," he said. "We relied on ourselves. In other words, we raised all the food we could, and, what we couldn't eat, why, it didn't go to waste. We just, we canned it, you know, and took care of it."

Gardening is a major theme when it comes to discussion about surviving the Depression, according to many who lived during those times.

Living on a farm, Roggow said his family raised their vegetables and chickens and cattle, too. They did their own butchering and sold eggs in town.

Lois Lauppe said her mother's friend, who worked in a dry goods store, used to give them material scraps they could use for clothing and quilts.

"Otherwise, my dresses were hand-me-downs or given to me from other families."

"The Great Depression. You didn't come instantly aware of it," said Finley. "It trickled down, and it took longer to trickle down than it's probably going to take this one."

Finley said people now are going to have to change their buying habits.

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think we haven't really felt it here yet."

Fellow Golden Oaks resident Harbough agrees, and she's not sure people today understand how serious the situation will become.

"Well, it's pretty bad. I don't think people know how to save money. I just don't think we're used to living that way, and I think some of those people who made those outrageous salaries need to be tied up and shot, and need to have them divvy up half of what they have, and maybe times wouldn't be so bad," she said, referring to bank and corporate officials who earned large salaries while their companies were going bankrupt. "You know someone has it, and that's not right."

While she is not sure young people today can take care of their money, Harbough said they need to learn.

"Well, someway or how they need to be taught the value of a dollar," she said. "I don't know how Mother or Dad can do that very well, but I think it ought to be one of their primary steps."

Edna Wilson, who will turn 103 on her next birthday, thinks people today are too spoiled, but fellow Greenbrier resident Nation said they will have to learn to do without.

"There just isn't any money," she said.

The same could be said 75 years ago, Berutti said, but there is a difference today.

"Families were closer together. This is one thing that I think has changed drastically," he said. "Things were a lot different morally.

"It's a different world, as far as that goes, I'd say," Roggow added. "You didn't go into debt like they do today. Them days, you kind of slipped into it and kind of thought things over ... is this the right thing to do?

"I don't think people took as much chance then as today," he said.

Back in the days of the Depression, Schlesinger said, the man worked, the woman raised the family and they worked through their hard times together.

"I think that's probably part of the problem right now," he said.

But Schlesinger said it is not all doom and gloom: "You take things as they come, and do the best you can with 'em, because you never know what is going to happen."

Finley's advice is to accept times will be hard and prepare for it.

"I don't know how long this will last," she said. "I hoped it never would again in my lifetime, but it has, and I will face it ... I have been wanting to tell people who say, 'Look how hard I've got it.' Look at me. I'm 94. I survived."



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