The Great Depression

Cindy and Marina

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A man selling apples in NYC

I met a man on the streets in New York City named Vinny and he sells apples. I asked him why he's selling apples on the streets instead of working a normal job. He told me, he tried to get a job but there were about 1.8 million unemployed people. So instead he started selling boxes of apples on credit to the jobless to peddle on the nation's streets. I asked him how much money he made each day. He said he makes $1.70 for 12 hours but has to pay $.5 for each apple in the box which there is 72 apples in total and before actually opening for business, he has to pay 10 cents for paper bags to put in the apples and another 10 cents for the subway fare. He told me that at the end of the day, if none of the apples were damaged and were all sold, we would make $3.60 and after paying for all the other things he ends up taking only $1.70 home. But, if some apples were damaged then we would end up with less profit.


On my way to the train. I met a group of hobos. I had an interesting conversation with one of the men in the group and he told me his life story. He said "when I lost all his money due to the stock market crash I joined the hobos." This man has lost just about everything and he didn't know what was going to happen next but he followed the rails with his group of hobos (which were now his friend). "One day" he told me "we were following the rails and we noticed a house not too far away. I knocked at the door but nobody answered. After a few more knocks a tall man opens the door. He looked at us then waved his hand in as a welcoming sign. The family was not rich but managed to feed us all a little. When we were leaving I left a sign on the front door for others like us to know that they are welcomed here." I spent an entire day listening to his stories about losing money, finding friends, visiting people, riding the rails and much more. It was getting late so I had to get on the train and continue on my trip.

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Teenage boy 'riding the rails'

It was my stop so I got off. As the train was taking off I noticed a young boy running after it. At first I thought he was separated from his mother but then I realized he looked too poor to have the money for a ride on the train. While I was thinking that, he jumps and grabs on to the train and rides of. I had never seen anything like this before in my entire life. I looked around to see if I can find anyone else like this kid and I did. Another young boy was trying to do the same thing but lost his grip and had to jump off. I walked up to the boy but he started to run. I chased after him and yelled that I meant no harm. When he finally stopped, I asked him why he was alone and trying to get on the train. He said his mother lost her job, but still has to feed two more children. She is looking for work but also wants him to find a job. He said they travel often in search of work, shelter and food. They ate at city missions and sometimes begged at back doors."One day i didn't find work but I didn't want to disappoint my mom so I stole from a man selling bread. Although I felt awful for lying to my mother, that was the only food my brother and I had that day. Sometimes if mom was lucky and got a good job for ten or fifteen cents we could afford to sleep a mattress. Although that place was always crowded and dirty, at least we had something above our heads. But most of the time I was either working or looking for work. That’s why I ride the rails. I need to make money to feed myself and if possible my brother or sister. I wanted to stay a little longer and help this family but i had to continue on my trip.
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A man in a breadline

One day while walking through the streets I saw a huge line of people waiting to enter a small place to get free food. I got closer to the line and asked a man why there was so much people here. He said since we were suffering from the great depression there were many unemployed people that didn't have any money to buy food. He told me many men divided their days looking for work and looking for food. Some even tried to look for scraps from the garbage dumps. Not the bugs or any other insects bothered them from their search. Estimates ran as high as 2 million people. He told me that one day they just ended up here waiting to get free food and since then no matter how long they wait for a small meal they always go.
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A family in a Hooverville

One day on my way to visit family in New York City, I past by a small place with a lot of poor people. I walked up to a lady named Sara and she told me all about her life story and how she became so poor. She said it all began because of the great depression and all the unemployment which made it worse for her family to get money. They live in a small place called Hoovervilles. She said the hardest hit were those at the bottom of the economic ladder which is where she was at. They were unable to pay their rent so they tried moving in with relatives. Their Hoovervilles were made out of tar paper, cardboard, and scrap materials. She also said that people that couldn’t build Hoovervilles slept in boxcars or open freight cars. By 1933, an estimated one million people were on the move, risking jail, injury, or death.

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A mother whose son has been lynched

I met this very nice women and she agreed to tell me about her son. Her son, John was lynched. She told what happened that day. “I sent him to get some food for the day. I had no idea that this would happen to my one and only son. He was gone for way longer than usual so I went looking for him. I found a crowd of people gathered around something or someone. My first thought was someone got lynched and my second, well I didn’t have time for a second thought. I ran towards them and pushed people out of my way. When I saw him I fell to my knees. I cried, yelled, and hit the ground with all my strength. He was my only son. Do you understand what that means?” At this point tears where rolling down her cheeks. “He was my ONLY son! Now I have work and live all alone, no husband, no child, and no family at all. You know before the 1890’s, most lynch victims were white and most of it occurred in the south but after that all could get lynched.” She was such a sweet person but I had to leave.

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A movie-goer

I notice that many of the richer kind went to movie theater. It seemed to be popular. I talked to some people in line to enter and they all mostly said the same thing. “Cartoons are a way for me to get out of this world into another, to get away from all this stress, depression, and reality.

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A man in a soup kitchen

One day I was walking in New York City and I decide to talk to a man in a soup kitchen and ask him questions of how the soup kitchens started. We had a long and interesting conversation about how it started. He told me it all started because of the Great Depression and the massive unemployment in America which stood at 1.5 million. By 1931, it mushroomed to 4.5million. One result of such massive unemployment was a huge increase in bread lines and soup kitchens to feed the jobless. He told me that soup kitchens were operated out of missions, gymnasiums, and church basements. He said he would see people wait in lines that extended for blocks just to get a doughnut and a cup of coffee. He told me he never heard anyone complain because they were grateful they could at least get something to eat.


(In-class Video) The Great Depression. Dir. Mario M. Cuomo. A & E Home Video, 2009. Film.

(General AH Book) American Heritage Publishing Staff. America: Pathways to the Present.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall (School Division), 2005. Print.

(Honors US Book) Lapsanksy-Werner. United States History. Student ed. Upper Saddle

River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.