We Didn't Have Everything We Wanted, But We Got Along
Based on an interview of Marie Ogden
Sitting in her kitchen, Marie Ogden tries to recall some of her most pleasant and unpleasant childhood memories. As she remembers, she is taken back to a time when there was no work to be found, no money to be earned, and no one able to help. She tries to explain why she does not want to return to these desperate times of The Great Depression.
I was born in Nephi, Utah. In my family there was my mom and dad and there was thirteen of us kids. We lived in a log house, and then it was stuccoed on the outside. There was a living room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. There was two little boys, they slept in the sheep wagon, and we girls all slept in thethere was ten girlswe slept in one bedroom. My parents slept in the other bedroom.
We didn't really live on a farm, but we had cows and chickens and pigs and things like that. I helped with the garden, helped bottle fruit, and helped tend the little kids. I was the second girl, so I was one of the older ones. I helped with the babies, and washed the diapers, and brought the water in.
We didn't have plumbing in the house. So we had to go to the ditch and collect the water and let it sit in the bucket until any dirt in it had settled to the bottom, then poured it [the water] off carefully, and that's what we would drink and wash with.
I was eight years old during the depression. I just heard about it; I know Dad had a hard time getting work; never any money. He was county road supervisor and that, well, it just didn't keep him busy. They just didn't have the money there in Juab County, to keep him busy. So he did other things; I remember one summer when he and my two brothers dug cess pools and rocked 'em out. I remember they did it for a service station, a home, and a coffee shop for one man. They worked all summer and then, that fall he took out bankruptcy. (Teary eyed.) That took care of that. So they didn't get one penny for their summer of work. And everybody that helped there with them, they didn't get paid either because he [the man they worked for] took out that bankruptcy.
It was hard, but we had our pigs and chickens and cows, like I say, and horses. And so we never went hungry or anything like that. We didn't have everything we wanted to wear or everything we wanted to eat either, but we got along.
My dad didn't really have any money in the bank that he lost. But he was working every day that he could and getting nothing more than what he could, but you couldn't get jobs; nobody would pay. They didn't have any money.
Everybody was having a struggle, everybody. And then in about 1932, I believe is about when Roosevelt came and was made president and he started the W.P.A., the N.Y.A., the E.R.A., and the C.C.C. and that gave a lot of people work. My dad worked for the W.P.A. He was the boss and my mom was book-keeper.
During the Depression we had to make our own fun. Everybody in our end of the town would get out and play during the summer, night games like they do now. Kick the Can, and Run Sheepy Run, and Hide and Seek, and in the winter we would play checkers. We didn't have electric lights, so we would have one lamp that we'd move from one room to another; we'd put a little oil in our lamp and we would read or something like that. But when it got night and dark, we went to bed.
My mom did all of our sewing. I had two aunts that were school teachers, an uncle that was a school teacher, and he had two daughters that were school teachers. So they gave us their old clothes and Mom made them over. I remember when I got my first store-bought dress, I was about twelve and I'd gone to pick beans. We had to pick the beans and put them in gunny sacks; we'd drag them up the road to the bag drop hole, and a man would come and pick them up and load them. We made twenty-five cents a day.
Nothing was really missing from my life, that's how I grew up. We were happy, the kids; we all got along well together, and Mom and Dad loved us and played with us and taught us. Everybody was in the same boat. So they didn't have anything, we didn't have anything, so we didn't miss it.
We always stayed in Nephi. I lived in the same house; no, I was born in another house, but right after when I was just a baby, I don't remember how old, of course, but we moved to the house that we lived in. The year I graduated, in 1939, we moved to our new house we just built. And I helped build that; my dad did most of it, but it was sturdy; and then we had to drive nails in the adobe around and then he plastered it. We really enjoyed our new house; there was plenty more room. Two of us were in each bedroom.
On our birthdays mom would make us a birthday cake. I don't remember if we got much birthday presents or anything like that. But she'd make Floating Island Pudding and that's like a lemon meringue pudding; she would put the egg whites, drop it on, and then put it in the oven around the meringue. We called that Floating Island Pudding and that was a birthday thing that she did. We didn't get many presents.
At Christmas we all got a doll. As I remember the year the Dione quintuplets were born they bought a set of those and each one of us got a doll. It was about six inches tall; we didn't get big dolls, we didn't. There was five of them, they were in Canada. It was something; there'd never been a multiple birth like that before and the government kind of took them over and raised them. Everything was Dione quintuplets There was one named Marie that was the one I received. And then mom made us rag dolls sometimes for the babies.
I watched movies when I got older and was able to go, and we watched Tarzan and the Apes. I didn't like it because my eyes were funny and my brothers and sisters just liked to sit right at the front. And it just seemed like they was coming right over me, and I didn't like it, so I would stay home. Dad would give me the money and then I would put that inmy dad was a smoker; he smoked Prince Albert. And I would put that money in a Prince Albert can and save it, about the end of the month he'd run out of money, and so he'd borrow my money back. But I didn't like movies.
My brother played the guitar, so we'd sing just cowboy tunes, westerns, "Springtime in the Rockies," and stuff like that.
A lot of it was bad for the people that had money in the bank, that lost it. But as far as we were concerned, I guess it was hard; we needed the government programs to kind of get people back on their feet so they could make a little money and eat. There was just no jobs; there just wasn't money. But those of us that had our cows and pigs, stuff like thatwe had a garden so we didn't go hungrywe got along. And I think it made your family closer to have less. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know.
I wasn't active at all in the [Mormon] church. My mom and dad weren't active. It wasn't 'til I was old enough to go to primary that I used to go with my girlfriends and started to get active.
I think the Depression taught me to be more frugal and to appreciate what I had. I first worked for the N.Y.A., the National Youth Administration, and I learned to knit and crochet; we had stockings and shawls and sweaters, stuff like that, so I did learn to knit and crochet.
I don't know the advice I would give to young people facing a Depression. Just make the best of it. Just watch, you can't have everything you've had. I was young enough that I didn't realize that I was missing anything. It'd be hard for kids, now because they've got the lights, they've got the indoor plumbing, they don't have to worry about any of that. They didn't have to go out and chop wood, take care of the cows and chickens and pigs. So I would say learn how to take care of a garden, learn how to take care of what you've got, and not expect new all the time.