I survived The Great Depression By: Kaiya lindhardt

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 radicalsĀ and theĀ 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.

A couple weeks before my 16th birthday, the stock market crashed. Daddy's investment lost 37% of its value, which left him with almost no paycheck. After the horror of Black Tuesday, were barely making ends meet. I had to give up my fantasy lifestyle and work in a factory sewing clothes all day. This was not the least bit easy for me. All my brothers went to work in the fields. They were sent 1300 miles to Kansas to work in the crop fields. I missed them so much while they were gone but I knew we needed the money.

With the money barely supporting our family, we also lost all of our savings in the Leesberg bank run. I have never seen so many crazed folks trying to get money in one place in my whole life. We lost almost everything in just a matter of six months.

We had a foreclosure on our house and it was down to just my mother and my sister and me. We lost everything due to buying on margin tactics my daddy used. We pitched a tent outside of town with anything we didn't have to sell for money. One of my brothers was sent home in a casket that we could barely even pay for. He developed lung disease out in the fields after he was caught in a desert dust bowl. He was only 14 years old and didn't even know much about these black blizzzards. My mother took his death the hardest. She wanted more than anything to be with all of her children but she knew that they were there because we needed the money to survive and not starve.

But we didn't give up hope and we kept fighting. My sister and i had to help my mom more than ever as she started to get older and unable to get her hands dirty.

My father and brothers came home looking for work in the city after the floods in the west. The land was destroyed by the Great Flood of 1936. They were able to find jobs after months of searching and it started to look good for us again. After Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932, he started to help many Americans who so desperately needed it. He was able to find jobs for so many Americans after the National Industry Recovery Act was passed.

My family was starting to get back on their feet finally. My father and brothers found jobs working for small shops and my father worked in a bank. The smell of hope was starting to fill America. With the Works Progress Administration lending help to people like my daddy, the amount of homeless people on the streets started to look smaller and smaller everyday.

The WPA and the New Deal were starting to build new buildings and workplaces for the unemployed. More and more people were no longer living on the streets now thanks to the new power in the White House.

Just like many Americans, my family also benefitted from the Social Security Act. This helped people like my daddy and mommy who were starting to grow old and were losing their ability to do the hard work. My mom started to work half days, which really eased her stress around the house since all of us kids are working, too. My older brother was amazing with his academics and was even attending the local university.

My hopes of seeing a brighter America again had been realized. Kids ran in the streets again and people greeted their neighbors to say a friendly hello instead of asking for money and food. It was truly the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm so grateful I got to experience it with my loved ones. I was able to get back in touch with my friends who had all moved on to bigger things. I was happy right where i was I was and I loved being there to help my parents. After everything I survived here in Leesberg, it was hard to leave. To this day, it's an extraordinary story that I can say I was fortunate enough to live through. With the economy facing its ups and downs and money being the only thing we strived for, I now have learned to appreciate the down times and the easy days. I thank God for the opportunity to share my story with everyone willing to listen, which I hope you do.

My name is Marlene and I survived the Great Depression.

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