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Always Lend a Helping Hand, Sevier Country Remembers the Great Depression


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Sevier County Oral History Project

INTERVIEWEES: CRYSTAL BELL AND VONDA PETERSON
INTERVIEWER: Tiffany Black
DATE: December 15, 1997
PLACE: Richfield, Utah
SUBJECT: The Great Depression in Sevier County

Tiffany Black: This is Tiffany Black interviewing Crystal Bell with the help of Vonda Peterson on memories of the Great Depression. The date is December 15, and the place is her home in Richfield, Utah.

When and where were you born?

Crystal Bell: Richfield

Tiffany Black: The year?

Crystal Bell: 1913.

Tiffany Black: Tell me about your family and the circumstances of your life during the Depression.

Crystal Bell: Well we had a large family and my dad ran a pool hall, and we had enough to eat, but it was slim pickings sometimes. And we were all going to school and trying to dress five or six kids to go to school. I tell you it really took a lot, a lot, but then we didn't have a lot either. We were real lucky if we had more than two dresses, but then my sisters and I were about the same size so we could change, ya know, swap dresses. And I know one night we were over to Glenwood to a dance and one of the ladies sitting on the sidelines said I wish those Butler girls would wear their own clothes so we could tell who belonged to what. (Laughs.) When I graduated in 1932—that was just right during the depression—Mother and Dad really had to dig deep to try and get enough money together so I could have a new dress for graduation.

Tiffany Black: When did you first hear about the depression?

Crystal Bell: Well, it started in 1929.

Tiffany Black: How did your family life change if it did?

Crystal Bell: Well we were used to having just like everyone else. We were used to having a lot of about anything we wanted, but then we finally found out that things weren't available to us like they used to be.

Tiffany Black: Did you ever worry about jobs and money?

Crystal Bell: Well, I didn't, no, because I was still in school at that time.

Tiffany Black: What about your parents?

Crystal Bell: Well, my dad had his own business here.

Tiffany Black: Do you feel the Depression taught you any kind of a lesson?

Crystal Bell: Yes, it taught me to appreciate the things that we have.

Tiffany Black: Do you feel you benefited from it?

Crystal Bell: Yes, I think anyone benefits from having to go without things. Then when you get something, why you really appreciate it and you really learn how to spend your money.

Tiffany Black: Is there anything else you would like to share about the depression?

Crystal Bell: Well, I'm really glad it got over.

Tiffany Black: Do you have any stories you would like to share?

Crystal Bell: Well, like I say, one thing about it, we were all in the same boat, ya know, everyone; we weren't the only family that was cut down and had to cut down on things because the whole world was like that. And so you just learned to live with it.

Tiffany Black: What advice would you give to any younger generations if they were to go through a depression?

Crystal Bell: I would say they better start saving as soon as they get married so they'll have something to fall back on if there ever comes a depression. Savings is one of the best things you can do, save a little bit out of your pay check each month, so you always have a nest egg. I remember that both banks closed when the depression started and that made it so much worse for the people in town because they couldn't get to their money. And it was just rough all the way through it. What else, Vonda?

Vonda Peterson: Well, you can remember when bib overalls were a $1.99 a pair, and they could buy a good pair of work shoes for $2.98. I think those overalls were .99 cents a pair instead of a $1.99

Crystal Bell: And then your bread was five cents a loaf.

Vonda Peterson: You could buy two pounds of hamburger for 35 cents.

Crystal Bell: Your gasoline was 25 cents a gallon.

Vonda Peterson: Down at the Blue Bell it was 19. (Laughs.)

Crystal Bell: I think that's about all I know, dear.

Tiffany Black: Thank you.

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Always Lend a Helping Hand