Depression Years: The Song Of DiscouragedFarmers

by

Michele Dykhuis

Junior High Division

 

"Money! I don't even know what it looks like anymore!"

These words came out of the mouth of a former resident,Mr. George Mayer. His mother, Mrs. G. K. Mayer, had written and told himabout conditions here in the Red River Valley, but in Nebraska, money wasn'teven circulating! Another item in his reply was the fact that for wageshe would be paid with perhaps a chicken or a sack of potatoes.

It sounds pretty bad, but "those were the breaks."Even now in 1975, we're in the midst of a recession, so bad times certainlyaren't locked in the past. But the good old days are always more interestingto fondle and reminisce about. So, now we will travel back into time andstudy some lifestyles of a few Red River Valley people after October 24,1929, or better known as, "Black Thursday."

First, let us visit Walt and Inez Clow, who, at the presenttime, reside in Humboldt, Minnesota. We might as well begin by telling everyoneabout prices.

Although wheat is now going up and down, I don't thinkit will ever get down 37 cents a bushel again. And, poor Walter, after payingfor labor, twine, and threshing, had only 75 cents left to make it throughthe winter.

"But farmers had animals and milk they could use!"said some. Yes, Walt and Inez had lots of dairy products, all right. Infact, their children were delighted in eating ice cream all winter.

These were the years for all time lows, as you can see.When Walt took two heifers for breeding purposes to his father, he soldeach of them for $8.00 or 1 cent per pound.

Speaking of cattle, Hindrek Dykhuis, my great grandfather,sold his for roughly 2 1/2 cents per pound. But even though he got a betterprice than Walter on cattle, he lost out on wheat: only 35 cents a bushel.They did have one thing in common: neither could get rid of his dairy products,but in Hindrek's case, it was butter.

During the depression, hired help was no problem. In fact,at one time it was only 15 cents an hour. What a minimum wage!

An interesting story my grandfather tells is about oneof his hired hands. This man was on the soup line in California all winter,but he still was clutching the ten dollar bill that my grandfather had givenhim for wages the summer before. He also told Grandfather that he didn'tcare open his mouth in California for fear that someone would kill him forthe gold fillings in his mouth!

The most essential items in farming are, of course, machineryand all types of vehicles. Simon Dykhuis, my grandfather, bought a Model"A" in 1930 for $545.00, and that included the tires, etc. A Minneapolis"Z" 3 bottom tractor and a 12 foot drill could be had for $1,335.00.Later, Simon kept the drill, and sold the tractor for $900.00. And a 3 bottomplow was bought for $155.00. (During these days of inflation don't theseprices sound heavenly?)

Now, let's travel to the home of Silas and Nellie Matthew.Silas will be 80 years old shortly and is a natural born historian. Thiscouple has been married for almost 57 years, and together are consideredto be one of the best sources in our part of the Valley. According to Silas,in 1930, wheat sold for 32 cents a bushel, oats for 6 cents, and barleyfor 7 cents. Sweet clover seed sold for 3 cents a bushel, but Silas waslucky and sold his for 5.

Moving to the livestock department, Clarence Iten and LeonardDiamond sold 20 pigs for 5 cents per pound, and if they weren't prime, theyonly got 3 cents. Napoleon LaRoque sold dressed hogs for $5.00 apiece. WalterCosley got a good horse--1,500 pounds, for $7.00 and a cow for $6.00. Thecow then had a heifer calf, so it was decided to sell the cow for $27.00.That's what you call managing your money!

Will Easter, who lived where Garth Symington does now,sold cattle for commission at South St. Paul. He brought cattle down thereand sold them at $12.00 to $15.00 for cows, and 15 dollars for bulls.

One little known fact is that a bread line was run in Hallock.According to Silas, a surplus truck often came in.

Silas and Nellie remember not only these laughable times,but bad times as well. A bleak moment was when World Credit knocked on theirdoor and took their farm, worth roughly $4,000.00. But when Floyd Olsontook office, Silas bought back his farm for $500.00 down! Silas wasn't theonly one hit hard, though. George W. Matthew had 17 quarter sections ofland, 44 head of horses, and sold International machinery and Model T'sboth in Orleans and Humboldt, Minnesota. He died without a penny to hisname.

The Bank of Humboldt was the only bank around that survivedthe depression. Many questions have been raised about this fact, but itstills stands that that bank was the only one left.

Now comes the Ladies Paragraph in this essay.

My grandmother had a cook stove which she cooked from thedepression on up to 1950. Her son complained that, "you got warmedup 5 times chopping wood, chop down the tree, haul it, unload it, chop itinto smaller pieces, then finally you burn it!"

Nellie Matthew was a great poultry woman. One year sheraised 700 chickens, 150 ducks and 18 geese. She sold each of these forabout 20 cents a pound. Her eggs she sold at 1 dollar for 12 dozen. (Inthose days they were less than a dime a dozen!) When she did go to the store,she never bought 5-10 pounds of anything, always 100!

Patching wasn't a fad then, it was an absolute necessity.Nellie said she patched Silas's underwear so many times that he looked likea crazy quilt!

Money? Well, we sure do know what it looks like now!

And what will I do if another depression sets in? Well,I think I'll go visit Walt and Inez, Sam and Muriel, and Silas and Nellie.If they did it once, they can do it again!

 

Bibliography

Dykhuis, Simon, Hallock, MN, Interview, January 15, 1975

Dykhuis, Muriel, Hallock, MN, Interview, January 15, 1975

Matthew, Nellie, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 28, 1975

Matthew, Silas, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 28, 1975t, MN, Interview, January 28, 1975

Matthew, Silas, Humboldt, MN, Interview, January 28, 1975