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Children in the Depression

Chad McCormick
Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Collinsville

Children in Collinsville during the Depression seemed to be in good health and in good spirits. Food, of course, played an important part in their lives. Many of their conversations concerned food. Young children did not starve, but the food supply was inadequate.

Many city relief stations served one to three meals a day. No station had enough food to serve extra helpings. For some of the hungry, the distance to the bread lines interfered with their meals. Children shivered in old shacks or on hillsides. Such children often awoke hungry and wondered where to get food. The bread lines were long or too far away. Children could beg for hours before getting a nickel. They could steal, but the chance of getting caught was very great. A usual morning for them was to remain hungry unless they ate at a mission or they begged a breakfast from people. If a child was really hungry that child would collect food from a garbage can.

Children not only failed to receive enough food, but because they constantly called upon body reserves, they became undernourished. However, signs of malnutrition were not evident to the casual observer.

Clothing was also hard to come by for the children. They had to visit outlets such as the Salvation Army or the YMCA. It was not uncommon to wear several pairs of socks to keep their feet warm. When a child had a hole in one shoe, a layer of manila paper was worn between their socks and shoes. Unfortunately, much food and clothing were obtained by stealing. Jobs for young boys were hard to come by because even grown men were unemployed.

This story, told to me by my grandfather, shows that times were tough in my own family: "My family moved from Granite City to the old family farm in Rolla, Missouri. There my uncles and my dad would cut cords of wood in exchange for goat milk from the neighbor."[From David A. Shannon, The Great Depression and student historian's interview with Wallace Ver Bryck (grandfather), Feb. 2, 1993.]


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