Pearl Robinson, an 85-year old resident of Lake Viking Health Care, shared memories of the Great Depression during the week of Sept. 1, 2003. She recalls how her dad worked on the railroad as a section hand even though he had lung cancer. His brother stayed with them, and if her dad couldn’t go to work on a bad day, his brother worked his shift for him.
Mrs. Robinson remembers how her family made it through the rough times: “My mother did washings for other people. Many times I had to stay home from school and help her until recess time, which was at ten o’clock. When I went to school late, my teacher didn’t care and didn’t say anything because she knew why I was late.”
Pearl’s family raised and cured their own meat. The cured meat was usually hanging down from the ceiling of the smokehouse. They canned the sausage in jars and left it in the house so it wouldn’t freeze.
Pearl remembers the hordes of grasshoppers that would fly on the porch while she was standing on it, and how these hungry grasshoppers ate the stems out of the onions.
One of Pearl’s neighbors was having a hard time getting along during the Depression. She would sometimes fill the bottom layers of the egg cases with rocks and put eggs in the top layers and take the egg cases to market.
Pearl’s neighbor had to let her children take turns going to school. They had to ride horses to school, but didn’t have enough horses for everyone to ride. For example, if there was both a third grader and a fourth grader in the home at the same time, the third grader would go to school one year while the fourth grader stayed home. The following year the one that stayed at home the previous year would go to her grade and the one that went to school the previous year stayed home.
Other neighbors had it equally as hard. One family was extra large and was often out of food. When their supply was low, they would go to the store and tell the owner they were out of food. He’d put a box in the store and write their name on it. People would sometimes put food in it, and he usually donated some. He did his part to see that people had food to eat.
People helped each other in various ways. Her dad’s boss, for instance, had a piano for sale and wanted to know if he wanted to buy it for her for $80. Upon telling him he didn’t have any money, his boss said he’d loan him the money just to help out.
— interview of Pearl Robinson conducted by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin (2003)