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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

The Beginning of the Depression (1929)

I didn't gamble on the stock market in the late 1920s but many other people were. William Stuart was one. Every time we met for practice he would have news about how much his stocks were worth now and how much he had gained since I had seen him last. He was borrowing money to buy stocks on margin and he advised me to do the same but I am not a gambler by nature and declined to risk my money on something I knew nothing about. The prices of everything, including stocks, had been rising steadily since the end of World War I and then at the beginning of 1929 they began swooping upward very fast and a lot of people who had no business doing so began buying, pushing the prices still higher. There seemed to be no end in sight. Then the market crashed and a great many investors lost everything they had. The newspapers were full of stories of rich people committing suicide. It didn't affect me much at the time but it was the start of the big depression of the thirties when a large percentage of all the workers in the U.S. and Europe had no jobs and those that did have them were unable to get their wages. Since no one had money to buy even necessities, prices started dropping and the whole economic system came to a halt. Only a few banks were forced to close at first but the news started a wave of panic withdrawals and banks all over the country were running out of funds in spite of the fact that President Hoover declared there was nothing wrong with the economy that confidence couldn't correct.

We did our banking with a branch of the Muskegon Hackley Bank in the Heights which continued cashing our checks. I felt our savings account there was as safe as anywhere else. In 1933, however, the first thing the newly elected Franklin D. Roosevelt did was order a banking holiday, closing all of the banks in the country. Hackley Bank went into receivership and several years went by before the last of our savings was paid to us. We were luckier than most. Many people lost a large percentage of their savings. Some lost everything.

With the banks closed, the school board was unable to pay the teachers, at least not in full. Some months there would be enough taxes collected to give us a few dollars but most of our pay was in the form of scrip, an official-looking paper promising us cash when the money was available, that is, when citizens were able to pay their taxes. From the time the bank holiday was declared in 1933 until America got into the second World War and everybody began earning more money that he knew what to do with, our big problem was to find people who would accept our scrip in payment for what we owed them. When our landlord in the Heights refused to take scrip in payment for the rent, Yvette found a woman in Muskegon, a Mrs. Urch, who agreed to take the paper and we moved to a house across from Muskegon High School, an old two-story house that she owned. We had the first floor.

Somehow or other we managed to pay all of our bills and even paid regularly into a savings fund I had invested in about two years before my marriage, a $2,500 savings plan of Investor's Diversified Services. It came due in 10 years, just in time for us to buy our first house. Real estate prices were as low as they would ever go.

Table of Contents
I Get Interested in Music Theory
Alan Arrives on the Scene, May 8, 1930

Last modified on 15 April 2021 17:59