My name is Marlene Thomas and I am a Great Depression survivor. I was born in Leesberg, Virgina in 1914. My parents, Jim and Avery Thomas, worked in factories to support us kids. I have three brothers and one sister. With the five of us, mommy and daddy had to do real well to support us. But with my daddy's big stock market investment with the oil companies, we got by pretty well.
Mom got by making a few cents around the cities cleaning people's houses. My siblings and I were trouble makers. We loved to play outside and wander the streets looking for fun. But as a kid growing up near the capital, we mostly heard people blabbering about the economic radicals and the The Palmer Raids caused an awful fright for our family. Lucky for us, we had things pretty good at home and seemed somewhat normal.
My sister and I grew pretty close together and stuck by each other growing up. We often prayed together and thanked God every night for our lives and that we didn't have to deal with the war scares.
My sister and I grew up loving jazz and the Charleston. We loved the tradionalist lifestyle, much like our parents. We were often intrigued by the Flapper culture and would often spend our nights out with friends at dances and parties.
It was an ambitious lifestyle and we loved every second of it. When I turned 10 years old, I wanted nothing more than to visit Harlem, New York, and The Harlem Renaissance. The idea of lights and people everywhere intrigued me. I loved the poetry, the diversity, the excitement--all of it! My dad gave me train tickets to see Harlem as a birthday present and it is still my most favorite gift to this day.
I lived a luxurious lifestyle filled with friends and great materialistic things. One of our favorite weekend past times was helping Johnny Wheeler and his gang of bootleggers. Due to prohibition, alcohol was illegal to sell and buy. That's why we had to illegally ship it from Leesburg to Richmond over the weekends. People would pay top dollar for liquor as long as they didn't get caught. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the money to make a speakeasy in Leesberg, so we usually traveled to RIchmond to go to their speakieasies.