My first memories were of growing up in rural South Dakota during the Great Depression. The community where I grew up in the northeastern corner of the state had been affected by the depression, drought and dust storms all at the same time. I really didn’t appreciate how difficult those times were for my parents and neighbors at the time. Only on reflecting back to that time and reading the history of the period do I understand how difficult it must have been.
I was born in 1927 so had reached the age of remembering at about the time Roosevelt became president, the only president I knew during my first seventeen years. I can remember the fire side chats with the family gathered around our battery powered radio, listening to the president’s speeches as were most of the rest of the people in the country. As I remember it, as desperate as many of the citizens of the country were at that time, most were united behind their president.
Three short short stories (100 words or less) describe scenes from the 30’s in a South Dakota community
There is a faded picture of a young woman sitting in a wood arm chair in the middle of a farm yard. She holds a bouquet of yellow roses picked in the garden. A young man in shirt sleeves stands straight and tall behind the chair. Alice and Peter’s love had been frustrated by the Great Depression and a wedding became possible only after Roosevelt’s WPA paid Peter a dollar a day to shovel sand and a relative offered the upstairs of their farm house rent free. It is a simple wedding, a minister and two witnesses.
Things were difficult on the South Dakota Schwant family farm in 1934. The economy failed and the crops dried up during the hot rain-less summer. Esther needed floor to bake bread and loaded half a crate of eggs into the Model T and went into the town five miles away. She had no money but the eggs were selling for a penny each, enough to buy the small sack of flower she needed. Ely, the store clerk candled the eggs.
“The heat got to them,” he said. “They’re all spoiled.”
The Glass is Half Empty
The northeastern South Dakota farm community hadn’t had a decent crop in seven years. Persistent drought aggravated by dust storms on top of the Great Depression devastated the region. Emil, an old German farmer said it wouldn’t have been so bad if the depression and hard times hadn’t happened all at once. Emil, a persistent pessimist, didn’t see any hope for the future. Then in 1937 the community experienced a huge bumper crop. A neighbor asked Emil if he had anything to complain about now.
“Well,” Emil replied, “That really takes a lot out of the soil.”
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Copyright © 2015 by Alfred Wellnitz
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in these short short stories are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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