ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Surviving The Great Depression of the 1930s

Updated on December 16, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle's interest in California history was rekindled when she began leading tours at a local museum in an 1850s gold rush town.

The Roosevelts offered hope.
The Roosevelts offered hope. | Source

(Answering the request about how people handled their finances in the 1930s)

In the 1930s most people didn't have enough money to have a "financial situation".

Even many who had previously been relatively "well off" had very little money to spend.
Most people didn't have any money to save.

I was not alive then, but Mom did tell me some things.

She said that almost half of the people they knew had no job -- no work of any kind. That meant half of the men they knew. It was a time when few women had worked outside the home. Mom remembers seeing dirty men on the streets searching through garbage cans for moldy bread.

The Golden Gate Bride was built in the 30's. My Grandpa had to take a couple of trips north to see it happen.
The Golden Gate Bride was built in the 30's. My Grandpa had to take a couple of trips north to see it happen. | Source

My dad was one of the lucky ones. He had a job in a factory that made cardboard boxes. He rode a streetcar to Los Angeles, one hour each way, and worked in an dark, unheated warehouse-type building for six or seven days a week.

He wore a heavy overcoat pinned together at the neck with a horse blanket safety-pin to keep himself warm as he fed large cardboard sheets into a cutting and folding press.

He wore the coat when he went to the boss of the factory to ask for another five cents per week, because his wife was expecting a baby.

He made ten dollars a week (though the streetcar cost ten cents a day) but he felt lucky to have a job. If the box factory was busy, he had to work six or seven days a week . To refuse the extra hours, would put his job in jeopardy, and there were plenty of other men waiting to find any kind of work. There was no overtime pay, no benefits and no insurance.

They lived in a small apartment with her parents. They grew some vegetables in the back yard. They repaired their old clothes. They got by.

No one ate at restaurants. A steak dinner for one person could cost as much as three bucks. A few people went to the movies, but a ticket cost fifteen cents, and that would buy a quart of milk and a loaf of bread.

Somehow, most people survived the depression. They depended on family and friends, worked hard and bought only necessities.

Read how this couple continued to be smart with their money and managed their own personal health care account with money they later used to travel the world, by CLICKING HERE.

I'll bet my folks never saw one of these in the 30's.
I'll bet my folks never saw one of these in the 30's. | Source

How do you know about the Great depression?

How did you learn about The Great Depression

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      5 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for commenting, faythef. I think a lot of people have no idea what it took for people to survive during those times. People had to work very hard in difficult circumstances that we can barely imagine.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      5 years ago from California Gold Country

      Howdy, back at'cha, Gus. You are right, almost every one was pretty much in the same boat, and it's not a stretch at all to say that the war did improve the American economy. Everyone had a job then. Those that survived settled down to enjoy a much better life. Thanks for commenting.

    • faythef profile image

      Faythe Payne 

      5 years ago from USA

      My Mother was born in 1930.....she tells of coming to California from Oklahoma....The way she tells it..they made shelter in a chicken pen....and lived there until ..grandpa, the older kids, and grandma when she could, picked cotton and other crops until enough money was raised to rent a place...

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      5 years ago from USA

      Howdy Rochelle (Rochelle Frank) -

      You and I share a lot more than you may think - for example, I was born in New Rochelle, a little bedroom city near New York's Bronx and Manhattan. I was a depression baby who somehow grew up without any depression. Times were tough back in those days, but no one was much worse off than the next person, so you didn't feel picked on ever...

      If you can really make your muscles work on it today, perhaps your mind will understand how it was that World War II provided some relief from the abject poverty extant in those prior years. Sounds terrible to say that, but it is true. I remember back before then coming home from school to get my daily meal. My mother served it to us kids with tears, for that time we got a slice of dry bread and a glass of water. Times were tough but not insurmountable. One thing our parents provided to us was education at home and at school Everyone around us was sweating, straining, and hoping for better times to come. And - come they did. Here we are.

      Thanks for this fine article, Rochelle. It has been appreciated by many, me being one of them.

      Gus :-)))

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      6 years ago from California Gold Country

      I agree, Ginn Navarre. And I am very pleased to have you read and comment.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 

      6 years ago

      I was born in that era and today I look around and hear people complain about not having more of this or that.

      Then when we had no food---WE DID WITHOUT---there was no food stamps or hand outs from the goverment---which we TODAY expect to provide.

      Maybe it is time to standup on our OWN two feet ---we all have a choice---VOTE! AND BUY AMERICAN.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      6 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, pstraubie48, for sharing your memories and thoughts.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      My Mother, Daddy, and oldest sister weathered the Great Depression. My sister told of eating turnips all werinter and being thankful for those. My Daddy would find odd jobs to do being paid meager sums.

      As I remember the conversations about that time, I remember that they were telling it as a cautionary be thankful for what we have. I truthfully would whine sometimes as a child as most of my friends were very wealthy. And I would maybe want this or that their families had given them. It was at times like that in a gentle way, I was reminded to be thankful for the hand me down clothes from my cousins...things could be much worse...and my sister would remind me of the Depression years....Reading about this again takes me back to when I was a child and learning to APPRECIATE. Even now, we need to be reminded that in our difficult times there are those who do eat out of dumpsters...thank you for sharing this...

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Angelique. The only way to do it was to "make do". The trash cans were not nearly as full as they are now.

    • Angelique Newman profile image

      Angelique Newman 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I loved reading your parents first hand experience of the thirties. My grandparents had very little money when they came to Canada in the fifties, but they knew where every penny went. Recycling was a big thing; if a sweater had a hole in it, it was unraveled and made into stocks or mittens.

      As always, great hub Rochelle :)

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for reading, Cardisa. The other hub you read about them may have filled in some of the blanks.

      Yes, it was a little short-- it was in reply to a question about how did people save in the 30's. I probably could have expanded it some.

      I think a lot of us would survive under the same conditions, it wouldn't be easy, but it would be the only choice. And, yes, I think he did get the five cents.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Gypsy Willow, do you like carrots now? My brother-in-law was a child in Italy after the war. Their most plentiful food was pumpkin-- which he grew to despise for the rest of his life. Repairing warn socks and sheets was a necessity, as was depending upon each other. I have always enjoyed my vegetable garden, I think if it were really a necessity, it would seem a little more like work, but at least I have gained some experience about what I can grow.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks Lisa HW, it might be a good thing if people did star to think. Life has changed so much since then, but basic needs remain the same. ( My mom had a some of those pennies, too.)

    • hanwillingham profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent hub.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Rochelle this is amazing. I have one problem with your hub....IT'S TOO SHORT! Just when I was warming up for more it ended.

      Seriously, you have to really admire and respect people who lived in the 30s because they knew how to survive, we wouldn't last very long under that same conditions. By the way did your father get the five cents raise?

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      People need a reminder like this. Born at the end of WW11, food was extremely scarce except carrots. I was 5 before I saw a banana. Socks were darned, sheets side to middled and every one helped each other. Not like that yet. I'm certainly ramping up my Veggie plot!

    • ravidr1 profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      This subject addresses a subject that I think too few people really even think of (even in these days of unemployment and economy problems). I think so many people who lived through that time had their thinking changed forever. BUT, they got through it, for the most part. (Side note: My mother had a collection of Indian-head pennies and steel pennies that I always found kind of interesting.)

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, people at that time were grateful for government jobs, or any jobs.Of course, WWII changed things again. Everyone had a job, then.

      Thanks for your comment.

      But now, before we get to that point again, I think we need to take more personal and local control. Each of us have to think about how we can help ourselves, or family and our neighbors... just like they did when they really had no choice.

    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      The Tea Party hates the help Will Rogers and FDR did to help people by advocating projects to create jobs. They are shameful fanatics. You have no idea what people are thinking unless you go to other places like where I contribute, Business Insider and Seeking Alpha.

      I fight back but I am quite outnumbered. Great hub.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Now may be the time for everyone to start remembering how people "got by" in hard times. If everyone expects the government to help them, they may be in for a rude awakening.

      Thank you for your comment-- I know you understand.

    • esatchel profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky

      Makes me think of my parents - both grew up in the depression. And I think of the grandparents' generation who knew how to make things with their hands and always had mayo jars and rubber bands and such saved in the basement, "just in case". I love the memory of those people, especially now that I am older and recognize how strong and resilient they were, to have survived many of the hardships they experienced.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you Dao Hoa-- I hope you will click my link that tells how they traveled the world using their personal Health Care Account.

    • Dao Hoa profile image

      Dao Hoa 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. My parents also talked about the hardship they had after WWII. I hate to sound cold hearted, but I am tired of the media helping those who do not want to help themselves and just sit around complaining about their hardships.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes-- I think the lessons learned then are the reason that we have enjoyed a long period of economic prosperity.

      We had to work for what we got, we had to save, we had to take some well-reasoned risks, we had to delay some of our desires, but all of those good choices put us in a more stable position.

      I am amazed that so many people ,especially government people,  think the government should solve all problems -- especially those that people have caused for themselves.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rochelle, I have also grown up hearing many stories about how the Depression affected people. Thrift was part of what they learned as a necessity but was also a virtue. It would solve many problems today starting in people's own homes and on up to our government leaders and the spenders of public money.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks G/M. It does seem as if we have been living a lie for quite a while. My parents didn't have much material wealth. Even after WWII when the economy began to grow, they were working very hard for every penny. Strangely enough, I never felt "poor". Must have been because they were so rich in their positive personal qualities.

      Their frugal habits paid off. You can read about that part in my hub about the "traveling health insurance plan".

    • GeneriqueMedia profile image


      9 years ago from Earth

      Glad to hear these stories from someone at least second hand...

      The Depression was a hard time for the American populace. I'm saddened every day as we pump up inflation and the Federal Reserve prints new money every day to support mistakes others have made.

      When will we realize money is fictious? Hopefully soon.



    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Sometimes circumstances require us to make strict rules... Take a number, No teeth brushing during rush hour, Communal baths encouraged...

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I can't Imagine 16 people living in the same house,if they only had one bathroom

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      my father grew up in a small rowhouse with 15 people living in it and i never heard one word of complaint about that life, only funny stories and great food (boy could those old girls cook) and love and genrosity - only 5 of the bunch were kids, of the adults only one of them had a job, in a grocery store...we met an old woman after my father died who said she remembered my father as a kid, schlepping soup up the ally to neighbors who had nothing

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      In California we fill our own tank (I know that in some states this is not allowed), but we have been doing it for years.

      Yes, I can remember them cleaning the windshield, checking the oil, the radiator water ( and topped it off if needed) and  checked the tire pressure. Quite often they even gave you a free drinking glass or other gift  and also gave 'green stamps' to paste in a book that would later be redeemed for merchandise.

    • MellasViews profile image


      9 years ago from Earth

      This was such a cool Hub Rochelle. Thanks for sharing it. My Gram still tells me about the days when milk cost a few cents... I cannot believe it when she tells me that. She also told me about full serve at gas stations! Theys check the oil, clean the windsheild, and fill up the tank.

      Incredible how times have changed! I dont even know why they use the term full serve anymore if all they do is fill you up, and tell you to move to let the next person behind you in. lol

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes i have been very lucky. My parents faced a lot of tough challenges early on, including economic depression, a major earthquake and WW II. They came through with flying colors and enjoyed traveling the world in their later days.

    • MissJamieD profile image


      9 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      I love this Hub Rochelle. I would've loved to sit and listen to these stories with my family. You're lucky in that aspect:) And many others I'm sure.



    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      I know that a lot of people are having a difficult time right now but, yes, I think the news media is making the fear grow.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this hub!  I think it's ridiculous that the media is constantly bombarding news about our "terrible" economy, when in fact it could get a whole lot worse.  Nobody is grateful for what they have because they are expected to have more.  My family raised me to be independent so that THEY don't have to take care of me.  I wish I had family security like families did in the old days. My grandma lived through the hard times though. She is also the number one person there for me during my hard times...

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Those of us who remember-- or have heard from others have to remind them.

    • kabney profile image

      Kelley Martin 

      9 years ago from Tulsa

      People knew how to survive hard times back then, I think we've lost that. Our survival skills are dull and that is the scariest thing about the world as it is today. What will people do and how will they survive if they have never had to learn what it's like to be without.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin

      I remember listening to my mother and my husband's grandmothers and they all said the same thing. They pulled together as family and community and shared. People didn't care about getting ahead, just surviving.

      I think that we need to do more of that now.

      Thank you for the reminder.

    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Amazing to take the number of Grandpa's earrnings, and compare it percentage-wise to the cost of commuting, or a steak dinner in their time...

      and then take that percentage and figure out what it would cost me in this day and age compaired to my paycheck! EEK!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      NIce hub,,, very nice informations ,,thanks for share this

    • Elena. profile image


      9 years ago from Madrid

      Hi Rochelle -- I loved this hub! As others have mentioned, I remember my grandparents telling me about the luxuries of eating eggs -- or rather EGG, as in singular -- sitting round the table and having one fried egg sit on a plate in front of my granddad who would give a bite to each of her four daughters, then share the rest with his wife.... my grandmother died an old age and could never, ever until the day she fell ill, bear to do away with any single piece of ANYTHING in the house. We kids called it junk, she called it insurance in case tough times came back... I think we have NO idea nowadays...

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      My husbands family lost pretty much everything during WWII in Europe, their land, possessions and almost everything of material value They barely escaped with their lives and have an amazing story of escape from an advancing army in a deep-freeze of winter weather.

      My father-in-law knew what it meant for a family to be hungry, to be seperated from his family, to be in a Russian prison-- and he always knew how to make a penny go a long way by not wasting anything. They were durable eople, but they knew what it really meant to lose all of their external security.

      They had it much worse than my parents, even though we tend to think of that as extreme.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      My step-father was born in the depression. Till the day he died, he pinched every penny and saved every piece of anything. Our basement was filled with old nails, rubberbands, frames, pieces of wood, tacs, you name it, it was stored and labeled, just in case. He rarely bought new clothes or shoes unless he had to. Everything was bought outright, including his home. It got on our nerves. But now I can say I had a good role model and I'm not lost when it comes to pinching pennies (not that I do as often as I should.)

      Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • anjalichugh profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      I have heard such (coping up) stories from my parents and grand parents. They really used to slog. Although, we are facing tough times too, yet, I feel we are still better off. Thx for a very nice hub

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      In my family, it hasn't - my parents still have a mortgage, and no other debt, and none of their four children has any debt, even a mortgage, yet.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Hi London Girl-- I wonder when that all changed? I still feel the same way.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      What a coincidence, Teresa. I'll bet not too many people know someone who has worked in a paper box factory.

      I think it really taught them how to manage money.

      This is a story about them later in life;

      (Probably should  link this in the article)

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      my grandparents were the same about owing money - except on a mortgage, which was "respectable" debt.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Ouch. We don't know the meaning of tough times, do we, really? I worked in a cardboard box factory myself, one summer, and couldn't keep up with the wee Glasgow women who had been doing it for years. I didn't last three days, I don't think, before I had to fess up and look for something else.

      You're right -- no one had any money to save, back then. My Granda worked in the shipyard in Belfast, and I don't think he ever bought anything on credit in his life. The idea of owing money was not only foreign to him, but kinda shameful. Now I look at my debts and I know he was right.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      I think people today have only a faint idea of the times people survived-- not that long ago, really.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Interesting to read and compare to other, similar stories of the 30's. We don't have that hard a time today, yet; but some people are mighty close.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)