“Times were different then,” says Virginia Walls, speaking of the Great Depression years.

“Small stores lined the dirt streets and horses pulled the wagons. Saturdays were special. Farmers brought their cream and eggs to town and purchased their groceries and supplies. They left the lists of what they needed with the merchants who boxed them and sat them amid the long row of the farmer’s goods that stayed there until the customers picked them up. The sidewalks were so crowded, people had to walk in the streets.

“Part of the people visited while others attended one of the two movie showings. When the first movie showing was over, the groups exchanged places. Those who’d seen the movie now did their shopping; those who’d done their shopping went to the second movie showing.”

Mrs. Walls worked in one of the small stores in Pattonsburg, MO, for 13 years. It was a combined grocery store and meat market operated by a man from Switzerland.

Many of the groceries were sold in the bulk: cookies, sugar, vinegar, etc. They butchered their own store meat. Much of the lunchmeats came in long rolls. They saved the ends of the bologna and put them in a box until it was needed. There was always a good supply of bread and lunchmeat. The help was told, “Never turn away anyone who wants food.”

Many jobless people walked down the little town’s dirt streets Mrs. Walls related, “I don’t know how they did it, but many of the people would mark the spot where people had given them food so they could find it again.”

“Being dirt streets, there was always some dust flying through the air. When the Depression came along, the town’s streets became so dusty that when a housewife would dust her house, 10 minutes later it was so dusty again that one couldn’t tell it had been dusted.”

Yes, those days are gone. Aren’t we lucky?

— written and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO