Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression

Studs Terkel

Language: English

Pages: 433

ISBN: 1565846567

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A reissue of Terkel's classic work, with a new introduction by the author.

Studs Terkel's classic history of the Great Depression. In this unique re-creation of one of the most dramatic periods in modern American history, Studs Terkel recaptures the Great Depression of the 1930s in all its complexity. The book is a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were most destitute: politicians like James Farley and Raymond Moley; businessmen like Bill Benton and Clement Stone; a six-day bicycle racer; artists and writers; racketeers; speakeasy operators, strikers, and impoverished farmers; people who were just kids; and those who remember losing a fortune. Hard Times is not only a gold mine of information—much of it little known—but also a fascinating interplay of memory and fact, showing how the Depression affected the lives of those who experienced it firsthand, often transforming the most bitter memories into a surprising nostalgia.

"Hard Times doesn't render the time of the Depression or historicize about it--it is that time, its lingo, mood, its tragic and hilarious stories".--Arthur Miller


First published in 1970, this classic of oral history features the voices of men and women who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. It includes accounts by congressmen C. Wright Patman and Hamilton Fish, as well as failed presidential candidate Alf M. Landon, who recalls what it was like to be governor of Kansas in 1933:

Men with tears in their eyes begged for an appointment that would help save their homes and farms. I couldn't see them all in my office. But I never let one of them leave without my coming out and shakin' hands with 'em. I listened to all their stories, each one of 'em. But it was obvious I couldn't take care of all their terrible needs.

The book includes also the perspectives of ordinary men and women, such as Jim Sheridan, who took part in the 1932 march by World War I veterans to petition for their benefits in Washington, D.C., where they were repelled by army troops led by General Douglas MacArthur. Or Edward Santander, who was a child then: "My first memories come about '31. It was simply a gut issue then: eating or not eating, living or not living." Studs Terkel makes history come alive, drawing out experiences and emotions from his interviewees to the degree few have ever been able to match.


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toothbrush, towels, everything. I sat down on this damn bed, I can’t tell you, full of wonderment. We thought we’d gone to heaven. Hal’s a young punk, he’s seventeen. He said, “What the hell kind of a place is this?” I said, “I don’t know, but it’s sure somethin’ different.” The next morning, they called us up to a social worker. By this time, there’s a thousand guys in there. They’re playing baseball, some guys are washing down walls—bums, bindlestiffs, cynical rough guys who’ve been on the

Sunday school teacher didn’t give me that. ’Cause we were living in one room, in a little shack in what they called Gander Flat. (Laughs.) For a child—I mean, they teach you about Santa Claus and they teach you all that stuff—and then for a child to have to go to church and steal a present . . . and then it turned out to be something so fantastic, a piano scarf. Children shouldn’t have to go around stealing. There’s enough to give all of them everything they want, any time they want it. I say

only fourteen years older than I was. . . .” MY FATHER was sort of a fancy Dan. A very little man, five feet two. He was a tool-and-die maker in addition to being a farmer. The kind of man that would get up in the morning and put on a white shirt and tie, suit, camel hair coat, gloves, get in his late model Chrysler, drive from the farm into the city, park his car in the parking lot, get out, take off his coat, put his suit in the locker and put on those greasy overalls to be a tool-and-die

Baird Tom, His Younger Son Peter, His Older Son Campus Life Pauline Kael Robert Gard Chance Stoner BOOK FOUR Merely Passing Through Edward Burgess Billy Green Scoop Lankford Three o‘Clock in the Morning Wilbur Kane A Cable Myrna Loy BOOK FIVE The Fine and Lively Arts Hiram (Chub) Sherman Neil Schaffner Paul Draper Robert Gwathmey Knud Andersen Little Brother Montgomery and Red Saunders Jack Kirkland Herman Shumlin Public Servant—The City Elizabeth Wood Mick

the bottom. And get up on those steel stirrups, while you’re riding by eight miles, your feet’d be frozen and you couldn’t git ‘em out of the stirrups. I’d have to hammer ’em out. His feet were numb, and they wouldn’t hurt till they started to get warm, and then they would get to hurtin’. We got up at five in the mornin’, start at six. We got out at ten that night. We’d work about sixteen hours a day, seventeen hours. The boss said we had to clean up. We didn’t clean it up, the next morning

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