June 25, 1999

Memories of the Great Depression of 1929:

In the early ’20s up until 1929, everything was in full swing. All the people were working, business was booming; everything was wide open – slot machines, gambling, boot-legging, night clubs, saloons and red-light districts were going strong. Nobody worried about a thing.

There was also racketeering in the large cities such as New Orleans, Chicago and New York. The world was just moving too fast for all of us.

Then came the big stock market crash in 1929. The banks closed because they were over-extended and money was frozen. People began to panic. There were no more jobs, no more money, people lost everything, including their homes, automobiles, and property.

They started bread lines in all the cities and towns. There was not enough food for everyone and people stood on street corners begging. Things were cheap, but there was no money to buy them. Bread sold for 5 cents a loaf; coffee, 15 cents a pound; milk, 10 cents a quart; shoes, $2.50 a pair; automobiles: Pontiac, $585, Dodge, $595. Everything was dirt cheap, but there was no money.

The depression continued until 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. Through his ingenious perception of the situation, he was able to enact new laws that relieved the conditions somewhat. He introduced the W.P.A. which gave jobs to some people. This program paid workers $20 per month and helped thousands of persons who previously could not find jobs. He also started the C.C.C. Camps which was a program designed to re-forest barren areas of the country, build parks, and maintain roads.

These efforts also provided jobs, especially for the young men. President Roosevelt also enacted the Social Security Act in 1936 which was to boon to the American people. Today, we still have the Social Security Act which is a blessing for the retired people. Things didn’t improve until the Japanese bombed Pearl harbor on December 7, 1941. Our boys started enlisting in the Armed Services; some were drafted. Many jobs were now being created due to the war effort.

But, really, we here in Berwick and Morgan City were blessed by our river, the Atchafalaya. We had plenty of seafood, especially crabs, shrimp and fish. We also had oyster beds, trapping, moss picking, shipyards, saw mills, lime plants (oyster shell products) plus five seafood plants located on the river, and railroad workers.

So we were comparatively well off. All in all, the depression was rough, but we persevered and survived.

* The End *

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