In an interview with Jess Reynolds of Gallatin, MO, on Sept. 29, 2003, and talking about the years 1928-35, Jess Reynolds said, “Dad raised tobacco for a year. There wasn’t any price support. At the tobacco harvest, Dad took the tobacco to Weston and only received one cent to two cents per pound for it.”
Jess (87 at the time of this writing) was a young teenager during the time of the Great Depression. His folks didn’t have any money to buy their groceries. They did have a few small potatoes about the size of an egg. His dad traded some corn for cornmeal. They didn’t have any flour to use, but his mom was still able to make bran muffins. For two or three months, all they had to eat was potatoes and muffins.
For one year, the family had to live in a small house of their friends. His dad was able to get a variety of small jobs here and there. Jess was soon old enough that he could get a stray job. Between the two of them, they were able to buy a few groceries and feed.
Jobs didn’t pay well at that time. Jess made from 75 cents to $1 per day. At threshing time, he joined a crew and was paid $1.25 per day, but he was expected to start work around eight o’clock in the morning, or until the dew was gone, and work until dark. The crew worked from July until the last of October.
Later, Jess raised vegetables for a canning company with an agreement he would raise tomatoes and beans for them, and take the money and purchase shares in the company’s stocks. He had to agree not to give any of the produce away or to sell it to any other company. When fall came, the canning company declared bankruptcy. Since Jess had a stock in the company, he had to use the money he earned to help pay the company’s debt. In the end, he only received a $1.50 cents for his summer’s work.
In 1939 his dad got a job working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) doing road construction. They were then able to buy a few groceries and supplies. The war started and his dad worked for the war department until he retired.
In 1938, Jess couldn’t find a job so he joined the U.S. Navy in which he served for seven and one half years. He survived Pearl Harbor. Upon returning home and after his time in the navy, Jess worked for Swift Packing Company located at St. Joseph.
Then Jess went to mechanical school. Upon graduating in 1948, he started doing mechanical work and eventually had a shop of his own in Gallatin, MO. He still does a few small mechanical jobs.
— written by Wilbur Bush of Gallatin, MO