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Two Brothers Compare City and
Country Life in the Great Depression

Stevie Reuter
Ohio Grade School, Ohio

Curtis Saltzman lived on a farm in rural Ohio, Illinois, during the Great Depression. His life was not too hard because he had a farm, but he remembers his brother, Mike, having a much harder time in Chicago.

Curtis was nineteen years old at the beginning of the Great Depression. He lived with a friend on a farm with pigs, milk cows, hens, and a dog. He heated his house occasionally with coal, but most of the time with wood. One time he used corn because he had no money to pay for coal or wood.

Mike was not as well off during the Depression as his brother Curtis. Mike lived in a Chicago apartment with no heat, and ate once or twice a day. He ate bread, water, or whatever he got from people giving away food. When he went to the bank to take out his savings after he lost his job, he found that the bank doors were locked, and he could not withdraw his money.

Curtis had to give a pig to Mike so that he could pay his rent, but shortly afterwards he had to sell what he owned to pay his rent; he was eventually evicted. He finally moved in with Curtis.

Curtis was able to eat three meals a day because he had a garden and therefore he at least had vegetables to eat. He had pigs, so he had meat, and his hens provided him with eggs. His cows supplied him with milk.

Hitler's rise at the same time in the 1930s was very important to Curtis and Mike. When the U.S. was bombed by Japan at Pearl Harbor, it was like a wake-up call to the government, employers, and the common people. One day a letter was sent to Curtis's house, saying that his brother, Mike, got his job back. America went to war, and the price of livestock and grain rose. Curtis's brother eventually retrieved his savings from the bank, and he then reclaimed his apartment.

The lives of Curtis and Mike were very different during the Great Depression because life in urban Chicago was harder than in rural Illinois. But life in general was difficult for everyone during the Great Depression.[From student historian's interview with Curtis Saltzman, Jan. 7, 1993.]

80 ILLINOIS HISTORY / MAY 1993


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