VIGNETTE > The Great Depression


Protesters – click to enlarge

Don Phillips was a traveling field representative working in Seattle for Stewart-Warner, a radio manufacturer. Letters to him from his mother, Agnes, reveal what life was like in Mill Valley during the Great Depression. In November 1932, just before FDR was elected president, she wrote:  “Well the air is sizzling with politics these days and I think the whole nation will be glad when the fight is over.  One hears nothing but tariff, gold standard, soldier bonus, printing press currency and farm relief, morning and night, yet in spite of meetings, addresses, radio speeches and tons of literature, there are some of our voters who seem to have no interest in anything except to get beer back by Christmas. To me, today when men are discouraged and hopeless, only asking for a chance to earn their bread, and they promise them Beer, it seems the refinement of cruelty.” [Prohibition ended in December 1933.]  In March 1934, Agnes’ husband George took a 10% pay cut at Western Union.  In April 1934 Agnes writes to her son Don: “How fortunate we have been compared to others who have known so much want and misery during the depression. It takes the gut out of a man to have to be grateful for 18 hours of work per week at 50 cents per hour, and the limit is 3 days of 6 hours each.”

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