The Way Life Was
Based on an interview of Vonda Peterson
The cold winter air softly breezed through the lace curtains covering the window in Vonda Peterson's small, old-fashioned living room. At 81 years old, the small woman still remembers the story of her years through the Great Depression. A lull drifts across the room as the memories and stories come flooding back.
I was born in Richfield, Utah June 22, 1916; it was a Tuesday afternoon. When the Great Depression began, I was 13 years old. Before the Depression, we were just a normal family. We had a good life at home.
The Stock Market crashing caused the two banks in town to close. That was the first day that the Depression had started, when the two banks in town crashed.
We didn't have a very good assortment of foods, and I know that we never got many new clothes. I really don't think that we had much money that the banks closing would have affected us. We had many kids in the neighborhood. We played lots of fun games; it really didn't seem to affect that; maybe we were just young enough that we weren't that concerned, I don't know. It seems like we did listen to our radio a lot of days.
Most of my family members were older than I was and some of them were working. They didn't lose their jobs or anything. I don't think too many people really suffered; I'm sure there were some just like today that didn't have very much food to eat. Working conditions for my parents didn't really change at all either. I was only 13 at the beginning of the Depression, so I wasn't old enough to get a job to help my family.
Many families suffered, but I think our family would have been considered average, I know some people who didn't have any work to go to, so they suffered more. I'm sure the people who lost a lot of money in the banks were very concerned.
Styles were different than are popular now. They were never quite as short as they are now. Also there weren't brand names that were so necessary for kids to wear. All through my life until the middle of my life I know that we were average people, just trying to make ends meet to live. The world's outlook has certainly changed since the depression ended.
Prices were clearly cheaper. I started working at Christensen's when I was 18. Overalls for men were 99 cents a pair, and you could buy a house-dress for 99 cents, and work shoes for men were $2.98. Hamburger would be two-pounds for 35 cents. Bread was a nickel a loaf. I know that we didn't have clothes like kids do today. We were lucky to have one pair of pajamas a week. Only one pair of pajamas and they got washed once a week.