Ever since the stock market crash of 1929 the economic situation had been getting worse. Many factories and other businesses closed for lack of orders and the streets were full of men trying to sell apples or anything to enable them to keep alive. Soup kitchens and bread lines were set up by the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations and idle men in old clothes hung around on street corners. School teachers and other government employees were at first much better off. We had bought our DeSoto and taken a trip to Canada in the summer of 1932 and I had continued going to Columbia during the summer until I finished my Masters in 1931. We must have been short of cash, however, as I had to turn down a bid to become a member of the National Honorary Music Society because the fee was $50 and I didn’t get my diploma ‘til some years later. I didn’t have the cash to pay for it.
The one advantage of a depression is that prices drop, at least they did then, and people sold things they would not have parted with if they could have obtained cash in some other way. It was during that time that I bought a trombone for $10 and a viola for $15. I also bought a good set of drawing instruments (German made) for very cheap which I gave to Alan. Somehow or other we were able to continue our payments on the savings scheme I had invested in and it became paid up just when Yvette discovered a good house we could buy for $2,500, the amount of the certificate. It was the first house we owned.
Because there were so few jobs available the Heights school board refused to employ any married women as teachers. It was felt that there should be only one wage earner per family. Alice Premo, who had continued teaching first grade after she was married, was one teacher we knew who was forced to give up teaching. It was really better for her children anyway. Owen was earning a good salary as a tool designer. But then, as the depression got worse he also lost his job, with the result that they had to get a divorce. Alice was rehired and they lived on her salary until the second world war started and there were more jobs than there were workers to fill them. So they remarried.
Another school-board rule that affected some teachers who lived across the tracks in Muskegon or outside the Heights city limit, was the requirement that all Heights teachers must live in the Heights. It was the house owners with rental property who put the pressure on the school board in this case. It was felt that a teacher should help to pay his own salary through his rent. The landlord used the rent money to help pay his taxes. At that time nearly all the money to pay teachers’ salaries came from taxes on local real estate. Later, both the state of Michigan and the Federal government contributed a great deal.
My father, being in business for himself, was a strong Republican and I followed his lead more as a matter of tradition than conviction. I voted for Herbert Hoover in the election of 1933 because I thought he was more honest than Roosevelt and because he had been an engineer and had proved that he was a good administrator. When times are bad, however, people take out their frustration on the party in power and vote them out of office. The President especially is blamed so Roosevelt was elected and remained in office until he died in 1951, the only president ever elected for more than two terms. I have always thought that the latter was a superb politician. In listening to his speech over the radio I always got the impression he was a slicker, not entirely trustworthy. Perhaps it was just prejudice on my part. It wasn’t long before we were in a new era, the New Deal.