The Great Depression

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The Depression years were about the worst years of my life. You don't know what it's like to be unemployed and not able to find work. Many times, I would take anything even if it was outside my line of work, just to have a job and put some bread on the table.

I was fortunate to be single and living with my parents on Avon Avenue at the time. My parents were behind me all the way. They understood the circumstances. We weathered the storm pretty well. We never starved. It was not like the starving people they have in Africa or Ethiopia today. We managed. Sometimes we had to deny ourselves different things, but the important things always took priority.

Finally, I had to joined a government project because I couldn't find work anywhere. The government project was designed to assist people with temporary employment, and help carry them through to better times.

The project I worked on was a pick and shovel deal. We had to level government-owned land, clear it of debris, and make it suitable for future use.

At one time, the land had been a dump area. The stink was unbelievable. You cannot imagine the filth and stench we had to endure in order to dig up and level this land. We had to wear the oldest clothes and grubbiest shoes we owned--the older the better. You didn't wear anything fairly decent, or even your normal working clothes, because it was a waste of money and good clothing.

At that time, I had no car for commuting to and from the job. I had to rely on the daily bus service as did so many others. When quitting time came at 4 p.m., the workers had no transportation or rides, and had to depend on the public bus service to get home. 

Try to imagine the effect of 20 or 25 stinking men boarding a city bus at quitting time and heading for home. Some of the other manufacturing companies in the area had the same quitting time, and many of those men were trying to get home by means of the same bus. They would be on the bus before we got on because the bus route started down near their factory.

Some of these workers who were on the bus were white-collar workers and some blue collar workers. When we got on the bus, all the windows were pushed open, regardless of the weather, because of the stench from our shoes and clothes. It was unbearable. That was a daily occurrence when I worked there.

When I got home, I was so dirty, I couldn't even change in the house. I had to change on the back porch. Then I had to try to air the clothes or do something with them to make them wearable for the next day's work.

However, while I worked there I was rather fortunate to be in a work group that had a boss who was a political appointee to the job, and he was an Italian. He never lost his accent, he couldn't hide it. He had charge of 30 or 40 men. He and I hit it off pretty well, because many of the other workers were farmers and often exchanged stories about life on the farm. We were like bread and butter, reminiscing about all the things we Italians would do and the friends we have. He and I got along very well together.

Of course, I spoke better English than some of the other workers there, and many of them relied on me to interpret for them. Soon it got to be that anything I wanted, I got. All I had to do was perform a few favors for the Italian boss. He knew I was a mechanic and would ask if I would change the oil on his car or do some other small thing. I would gladly say yes in order to get away from the stench of those working conditions. I didn't have to do any more of that. I just had to follow him around and help him in whatever he was doing--sort of an assistant. We got to be pretty good pals, and after that, I was coasting all the way. Light duty with no trouble.