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GENERAL RECALL OF DEPRESSION YEARS

This is a history of a family in Depression years Please allow that this is spotty recall. Born in 1928,recall is often like flipping thru an album of snapshots.I see a picture but don't know where or when it belongs.Yes - those were hard years. I have no grievance about anyone. I know all were subject to great pressures. Mom took in washing, baked bread and sold it door-to-door,to raise us kids. I was sickly. I don't think I would have lived to adulthood if I hadn't had the Mother I had. I don't blame my Father either. I believe their marriage was simply a casualty of the Depression - as so many were.

One of my earliest memories was of a country shack. I was about 3 years old. I remember this as a clear memory, plain as a film with sound. It was breakfast. We were having what I later learned to call "fried bread". It was made only of flour, shortening, and water, mixed to a batter, and fried. Then "simple syrup" was poured on it. Simple syrup was only sugar and water brought to a boil. I was sitting on my Mother's lap. She was feeding me. My Father was across the table from us. My Mother said, "I'm leaving you Howard." He said, "I don't care." Then my Mother said, "And I'm taking the children with me." He said, "I don't care about that either."

Now I don't describe that scene to focus blame on either parent. Just to show that it marked the start of a different direction for me and my sisters and brother. As I have already said, I believe this marriage was a casualty of the Depression, and that it happened to many families. My parents had survived several years of hardship and uncertainty already, and remained together. What my Mother refused to accept was that my Father had become involved in an affair with a married woman, who was financially well off for the times, and who had agressively pursued him. I can imagine that it was easy for his ego to bask in this attention, in the midst of poverty and little hope of improvement. The summer heat, and winter cold in that shack, and five children to care for, had probably worn my Mother out. To learn that she was left there alone in those circumstances,and he was having an affair, must surely have been all she could take. That part I only learned years later.

That was about 1931. I don't remember how we left, nor where we went immediately following that scene. I only remember the flipping pictures of moving often. Sometimes a landlady setting our things out in the yard because we couldn't pay the rent. I remember being ill frequently, and that a drop of kerosene on a teaspoon of sugar was our cough medicine, and a turpentine soaked cloth, heated and placed on the chest was used. We had no money for "store-bought" medicines. Once I remember a jar of Vicks salve my Mother bought. It was about a dime a jar then.

My Mother baked bread and sold it door to door. She took in washings. The preacher came many times with food, and always he included some candy. There were people who helped. Then my Mother got a job with one of Roosevelt's provisions, the FERA. She sewed clothes and earned $12 a week. My brother,Ivan ("Buddy" to us) had gone with my Father. At one time he was a Western Union boy. Later he joined another Roosevelt provision, the CCC.At 17, he took off on his own, and I understand married and had a child at 18. But I never knew any names there. We never saw him for several years.In this paper I am staying only with the Depression years.

I have no idea of dates for things during this period of hardship. But - at some point, my Mother got a job working for a Dietician. Dr. McFerran was his name ( not sure of spelling). I remember that because he had developed a candy bar he called Vita-Bar and it contained many vitamins. This sure made a difference, and our health improved. Lois, my oldest sister married at 18 so she was not with us during this time. It was Marge, Iva Mae, and myself. Don't know how long my Mother worked for Dr.McFerran, but the experience she got during that time, led to a job with F.W. Woolworth, manageing their lunch counter. She did the buying,menu planning, and general oversee. In fact. she was so successful at increasing their business, that they used her as a "trouble-shooter", and she was sent to any area where the lunch counter business needed upgraded. This is why my school years were constant change. Sometimes I went with her, Sometimes I stayed with my Father, or other family members. It is impossible for me to remember the name of all the schools I attended.

My Mother re-married 3 times. When we lived in Daytona Beach, she managed Woolworth lunch counter there. She married a man named Peterson. I knew him only as "Pete". It was not a lengthy marriage. Once she was transferred to Charleston, S.C. and I was with her there. It was a more lengthy stay. I don't recall how it came about,but she later married a man named King ( don't recall other names of his).We lived in Sylvania, Ga. then. That too was not a lengthy marriage. The only Stepfather I recall in detail is Harry Burkwitz. For the first time in years,we had a home, and I had my own bedroom. The other girls were all married by then. That was 1942. I can remember that because it was the time of Pearl Harbor. Harry Burkwitz was a stern man in some ways, but he took care of us, and I learned a lot about getting along in this world from him. I feel like that ended our "pillar to post" Depression years. I also remember a closure of sorts to the sad separation from my Father Howard Roy Curtis. Mom told me, in later years - "If I had had the patience with your Father, that I've had to have with Harry Burkwitz, we would still be together."

Life is all about living and learning, and we all learn as we live. God Bless them ALL ! All good people,trying to survive hard times and the confusions of the Depression. I believe the Lord understands, and has now brought us together in an inter-dimensional forgiveness way, thanks to Bedford and Shirley Murphy - distant counsins, who have faithfully and lovingly sought out family records, and shared their valuable research treasure. Peace be to us all !

July 2003
Betty J. Curtis
7771 Jemez Trail
Yucca Valley, Ca. 92284
(e-mail)futurefolk@adelphia.net
http://roadsong.tripod.com