Christian Shiverdecker: This is Christian Shiverdecker, and I'm interviewing Angie Lang Wight, and William Elwood Wight on their memories of the depression, in their home in Richfield, Utah. Today is December 11, 1997. We will begin with Angie. I would first like some background information, where were you born?
Angie Wight: I was born in Gilbert, Arizona.
Christian Shiverdecker: And when?
Angie Wight: 1914.
Christian Shiverdecker: Tell us a little about your family, and what your circumstances were back then.
Angie Wight: I was born into a family of eleven, I was the youngest. I had six brothers, and two sisters that I knew. My mother died when I was two, so I was raised in Junction, Utah. We moved there when I was six to live with my sister. She raised me. She then married a fellow named William Calvin Price. I lived there until my teenage years. Then I married a fellow named Ferral Leroy Barlow. We lived together three years. We divorced under sad circumstances.
Then I eventually went to Southern California, and spent a bigger share of my next years there, in a place called Maywood. I then married a fellow from Junction, my second marriage; his name was Wendell Eugene Price. That's who I went to Southern California with, and we lived together there until circumstances there played out, and we divorced, and I had one child by him that died at birth...(emotional) or a few days later. Then I had another mishap, and lost another child. Then that marriage played out. I then married William Elwood Wight. We spent years in different places. We lived in Oregon one time, and we lived Illinois for a time, St. Louis [Missouri] for a time. Like I tell everyone, I would tell them that whenever our rent came due, we moved. Anyway we eventually ended up here, and we have a daughter in Southern California, and another daughter who lives between St. Louis and Salt Lake. That's about it; I didn't live a very exciting life.
Christian Shiverdecker: What were some of the movies, song lyrics, or theatrical hits that happened in your youth?
Angie Wight: I had lots of movie heroes, like Clark Gable, and Robert Taylor, and John Wayne, and a lot of them that I thought were just super. I was a romantic, and I loved to read.
Christian Shiverdecker: What were some of your favorite books?
Angie Wight: Right now they are mostly Church books [LDS], but then they were Pollyanna, and James Oliver Curlwood was one of my favorite authors. I loved westerns. Herold Bell Wright was one of them. I loved his writing. I was just a regular ordinary girl, I guess. We had lots of dreams and things we'd dream about doing and having, our favorite heroes, favorite people. But I didn't make any great marks in the world. I love people, I love people (emphatically). And I have lots of friends that I treasure. That's one thing I can't have too much of is beautiful friends. I lived a more or less ordinary life, sort of hectic, lots of heart ache, but a lot of us do. We can't go through life without a few heart aches.
Christian Shiverdecker: What was your father's career when you were young?
Angie Wight: Farmer. He farmed in Chandler, Arizona. That is what he did most of his life. Then when he got older and couldn't do that any more, then he moved to southern California; he did yard work just to keep busy because he was a very energetic man. My brother owned a lot of houses because he was a builder. My father did yard work for the houses.
Christian Shiverdecker: When was the Depression first noticeable to you?
Angie Wight: I had a brother who was sort of a favorite because he treated me like a queen. He had been killed in a terrible accident when I was twelve years old. I felt like my world had crumbled around me. He left me his life insurance. I had the money in the bank in Salina, and it was swept away. It was just awful. The Depression is something that anyone who ever went through it will never forget it. We were not hit here as hard as many other people. We didn't have too much to eat, but we had enough. We didn't have any extra money. We had to go with holes in our shoes, and a lot of times we folded pasteboard up in them because we couldn't afford to buy new shoes. It was terrible.
You just couldn't afford to go to the show. We couldn't even afford a dime. Once in a while a show would come through Junction. It was a dime to get in, a dime (earnestly). So we didn't even have a dime to get into the show. When my sister came to Richfield one day, she asked what I wanted her to bring me. I asked her to bring a box of Shredded Wheat. That was really something. We couldn't even afford to buy cereal or things like that. It was like now if someone asked you to bring them a hundred dollars. This box of shredded wheat, I'll never forget how thrilled I was to get that shredded wheat. It was an experience I'll never forget.
It was hard, but even so we weren't bitter. People weren't bitter. They didn't seem to take advantage of the situation. They could have gone out and stolen and things like that, but they didn't. It drew people together a little bit more because we were people in need and we were all in the same situation. But no one had any money to speak of, at that time, but we lived through it. We had sorrow in some ways; I think it was a good thing in a lot of ways, too. It made us appreciate little things. The little things in life. We didn't have to have a brand new car or we didn't have a car, period. Like I said, we had a show come through town about every six months; it was ten cents to get in. And one day I remember I wanted to go to the show with a girl friend of mine. Her mother said if you'll go out and pick gooseberries so I can make some gooseberry jam, I'll give you a dime. I remember going out and picking those gooseberries to get a dime to go to the show.
Christian Shiverdecker: I've read that many farming families lost their farms. Did this affect your family?
Angie Wight: No. My brother-in-law, the one who raised me, he had a small farm, just about twenty acres. He just barely eked out enough for us to survive. But in Junction they didn't own a big farm. I don't know of anyone in that area who lost farms, but I know there were lots 'cause we heard a lot did.
Christian Shiverdecker: Is there anything you would like to express to the youth today about if we had to go through another depression?
Angie Wight: Just take each day as it comes, and live it to the best of your ability. Appreciate everything you have, because you never know when it is going to be swept away. So appreciate the little things, and don't expect a whole lot. Just appreciate what you've got, and love each other. Love is so important. Just remember that there is nothing more important than the love and respect of your fellow man.
Christian Shiverdecker: Now we will interview William Elwood Wight. Now why do you go by your middle name?
William Wight: Why do I go by my middle name? That's quite a story. My father's name is William, and he and my mother didn't get along so well, so she called me Elwood. I was called Will in the service and when I lived back east, but my family all called me Elwood. So that is what I go by
Christian Shiverdecker: When and where were you born?
William Wight: I was born on a cattle ranch in eastern Arizona. When I was six years old, a drought came along in 1923 that killed five hundred head of cattle and fifty head of beautiful saddle horses. My dad had quite a nice ranch. Near Coolidge, Arizona. So I can remember him telling about how his cattle was suffering for want of water, and he couldn't haul enough water for them. They died by the hundreds. My father was heart broken, because he came from Texas, and came to Arizona when he was twelve. He was always a pioneer, cowboy type. He didn't know anything else but cattle, horses, and outdoors. It was real hard on him. We left the ranch, and sold it for just a few dollars.
We moved to Globe, Arizona. He went to work down in the mines. We lived in six or seven different Arizona Mining towns, wherever he could get a few months work. It was bitter hard living. My father and mother fought a lot, and finally when I was eleven they split up, and we moved to Phoenix and that was the year the Depression hit, 1928, and Dad kind of disappeared. I don't know where he was for a couple of years; we really had to struggle putting food on the table for the next two or three years. I tell people this, but they don't believe me. I went barefoot until I was fifteen years old year round because we were living in Phoenix. They had to catch me to put shoes on me. At thirteen I was the oldest boy in the family. I quit school to work and I've worked ever since. I finished the eighth grade, which doesn't seem very educated . I received a lot of education going through life.
Christian Shiverdecker: Did you feel you went without during the Depression?
William Wight: Absolutely. We wore ragged clothing, clean but ragged, no shoes. At times we went really hungry. We lived in a shack by the railroad tracks in Phoenix. It was so bad that they couldn't rent it to someone else, so they didn't even charge us rent. We scrounged for food, I'll tell you we scrounged for food. At about that time Roosevelt came in and started the WPA program. We would stand in line for hours to get a sack of carrots or a sack of flour, and then came home maybe ten miles. It wasn't a very pleasant time, but we had fun times. The family was close. We would sit down to eat; it was a fun time even though we didn't have a lot to eat. Now the depression wasn't the greatest; the worst part about it is it leaves scars on you.
Christian Shiverdecker: What are some of the lasting effects that it has had on you and people you knew?
William Wight: Fear. Fear that it will happen again. People don't get eased into it. For people who could go from wealth to abject poverty it would be very difficult for them. We were raised on the frontier and we've never had a lot, so it wasn't difficult for us to ease into the Depression. We were prepared for it, I guess. It wasn't as traumatic as it could be or would be as for someone who went from riches to poverty.
Christian Shiverdecker: What did you see as the reasons for the Depression?
William Wight: Well, the Lord has given us more than we need. I think it was the greed of the people trying to put more money into their bank accounts. They worked by margins at that time. Everyone was frenzied about making money, so the stock market went wild. When the stock market dropped, everyone sold everything they could to hold on to their stock, because they were sure that it would get better. But it didn't, it plunged straight into the ground.
Christian Shiverdecker: Do you see some of those same things happening today?
William Wight: I think by the end of the century, the Millennium will be ushered in despite that everything will look rosy and beautiful. It has been prophesied practically since Adam; matter of fact, Bruce R. McConkie said in the beginning of the seventh thousand years the Millennium will be here and righteousness will not hold it back, nor wickedness hasten it, it will be here. In the beginning of the seventh thousand years. It seems sort of incredible that such a thing could happen, but still, maybe that is what they thought when the stock market crashed. It could never crash, it could never fall, but then it was there.
Christian Shiverdecker: Are there any stories of your life during the Depression that could give us a better understanding of the Depression?
William Wight: Only that we went hungry, cold; we had to fight for everything we got. Work, people can't believe the kind of work we had to do to survive. Work for fifty cents a day, eight hours, ten hours, fifty cents seems inconceivable. I went with my two brothers to work in the lead mines. We worked underground. We would load sixteen hundred pounds of lead-zinc ore for thirteen cents. If you couldn't load about thirty to forty tons a day, you couldn't make a living. Three to four dollars a day was tops no matter how hard you worked. One day I was working underground by my self and my brother had just put out thirty-six cans the day before and I was determined to put out thirty-seven, so I was working real hard. It was about a quarter to twelve when I decided to go and eat lunch. I was just beginning to eat my sandwich when the cave's entire roof collapsed. If I had been ten minutes later, they wouldn't even try to dig me out. Life was so cheep. I was visiting a family. The man became extremely ill and I could see he was dying, so I called three doctors, but none of them would come out. That man died. So, it was a grim time.
Christian Shiverdecker: I'd like to ask you the same question as Angie. What would you like to tell youth today about what you learned from the Depression?
William Wight: Because we belong to the [LDS] Church. I think that if the youth of today would put aside their selfishness and work together, I think we could survive any kind of depression. Because there is enough here for us if we work together; the united order would have worked , but the people wouldn't give everything like we have promised in certain places.
Christian Shiverdecker: Thank you very much.
William Wight: Your welcome.