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Memories of the depression

Seniors share the hard times of farm and town life in the 1930’s

November 23, 2012
Jim Krajewski - Staff Writer ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

The sun fades from the sky as a storm of red dust envelops Ardath Fowler's family farm near Blairsburg and Williams. Her parents and five siblings roast in the house as the heat from cooking stays trapped inside with them as the doors and windows are closed tight.

This was one of Fowler's memories of growing up during the great depression that she shared with other Crestview Senior Living residents during a Wednesday visit from Webster City High School peer helpers.

Diane Stribe, activities assistant at Crestview, set up the panel discussion with several residents to share their experiences and memories from the 1930's. Stribe said the historical knowledge the residents shared was good for her and the students visiting.

Article Photos

- Daily Freeman Journal photo by Jim Krajewski
Ardath Fowler shares her memories of the great depression at Crestview Senior living on Wednesday.

"I have a lot of respect for what I've learned from them, especially the hard times they went through," Stribe said.

Fowler, who will be 94 in December, had to drop out of high school for a semester in 1932 because her family had no money for gas to drive her to school. Her family was in a dire financial situation for much of the decade. They rented their farm, and the crops almost entirely failed in 1934 and 1936.

One morning, Fowler's father awoke to noises from the barn, which contained livestock and two of the family's best work horses.

"Those horses broke out of their ties during the night and fought each other to death," Fowler said. "For us at the time, it was like losing a tractor."

During the depression, much of the families amenities had to be made or prepared by hand. The cloth from feed sacks was used to create shirts, dresses, underwear and more. Fowler said the family garden kept them fed when the grocery store said they would not allow her family any more credit.

Times were tough, but they were not hopeless. Fowler remembers babysitting for a family with several children for a summer. She was paid four dollars a week and was told to scrub the floors if she had nothing else to do. She used her babysitting pay to buy a winter coat.

"I remember buying it from the store, with fur lining on the neck, and saying, 'I look like a rich person,'" Fowler said.

Despite their financial troubles, Fowler's parents bought her a class ring as she graduated from high school. To this day, she had no idea how her parents managed to afford it. She said one of her classmates bought a new pair of shoes instead of a class ring.

None on the panel said they went hungry during the depression, and that their families always found a way to get by.

"I think people in town had it worse than those out on the farm, at least in some cases, but I don't think [the depression] tore us apart. I think it brought us all closer together," Fowler said.



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