Breaking Up the Monotony of a Long Day’s WorkAugust 26, 2018
The Great Depression was a time of fear and scarcity for most people as economic downturn spread throughout the world. And while some families were able to grow and raise their own food, others, who weren’t as fortunate, resorted to stealing.
This excerpt from Honed Virtue tells one such story:
“The cows socialized over the fence, although they didn’t go through or over it. During a survey of grazing areas when rain was threatening, the boys found that a gap was forming between the second and third strands of the fence wire. This was where someone was regularly entering and leaving the pasture. A path led to the gap from the back property of the house where Mr. and Mrs. Seal lived.
This discovery coincided with a gradual drop in the amount of milk the two cows were giving. Morning milk production remained the same. At first there was a shortage of about a pint from each cow. Then it became a quart, and finally two quarts less milk per cow.
…Saturday arrived and they went out there at noon. Sure enough, they spotted Mr. Seal passing through the fence with a milk bucket, a small container of grain, and a milking stool in hand.”
When the boys left Mr. Seal, they walked home, “discussing why anyone would steal milk because there are lots of people in the area who are hungry. Neither of them had an answer.”
At that time, the two boys featured in Honed Virtue, Danny and Ito, had enough to eat. They were able to grow their own food with their families, and their stomachs stayed full.
But not everyone was so fortunate. In addition to an increase in prostitution, alcoholism, and suicide during the Depression, many people turned to petty theft just to get by. Unemployment was at an all-time low, and people were desperate. Not a lot of joy was to be found, but some people – like Danny and Ito – did what they could to entertain themselves.
They learned to craft knives and eventually began selling them, and this hobby began to financially stabilize their families. The boys worked before and after school, and on weekends once their chores were complete. People did whatever they could do make a buck and eat a meal during these challenging years.
But as difficult as times were, people did what they could to find any amount of enjoyment, and Danny and Ito were no different.
As it reads in Honed Virtue, “The second consecutive year of ‘prosperity’ made it possible for the boys to extend their social activities. They spent five cents each to go to the movies. The preview of upcoming attractions looked so entertaining the boys invited Mr. Schmidt and Gran to join them, and the boys paid.
‘You needn’t go to the expense of taking me to the cinema. I’ve muddled along without that luxury and can continue.’ Mr. Schmidt’s answer was similar to that of Gran. The boys pleaded their case to be allowed to share the prospective fun with them. They finally went.”
This enjoyment was something Danny and Ito worked extremely hard to have, and it broke up the monotony of long days of hard work.Back