Growing Up During The Depression – by Ann Horton Coleman
My name is Ann Horton Coleman. I live in the north Venice area near Madison Il.
My parents lived in a house about four houses down , behind the church. My daddy worked for Brewer Motor Company in Granite City, Il.. He worked on cars there. My mother was home bound. She stayed at home because she had four children and I was the youngest of the four. Dad lived with his mother and father and we all stayed in this one house. The house is still standing, on Morgan Street. We had a store there. My grandfather and grandmother lived across the street and he worked at Riley Tire Company. He used to get burned quite a bit from the hot tar. When he came home from the hospital we had to put lard on him up and down. I used to take care of him. We all lived in the same house but we were young. My grandfather worked all the time and helped support my father and his four children. He would buy food to help feed us. He set my father with a truck repair shop and a store. When all of the other stores would be closed our little store was still open until 9:00 at night and if business was real good, we’d stay open til 10:00. And my daddy always had chickens and we raised them from chicks.
Like I said, my grandfather worked at the tire company. Him and some of the guys got into it at work. They used to kind of scold him and taunt him. He was making too much money for a black man. I would rub him down all the time with lard. I was the nurse of the family. I would get him back on his feet. He would always take me shopping and he did good things for people.
We were real happy, so were my father and mother. The house is still standing. Both of them are deceased now. My father put a little store out front. My mother would take care of the store and when the older kids come home from school they would work in the store. When I was about 12 or 14 years old, I started working in the store. The store was called Horton’s. People would come and get bread and canned goods from us . My father would take us over to the market every Saturday morning if the food ran out. He sold eggs and everybody used to tease me. They liked to see me kill a chicken. To be a young person they couldn’t believe I could do that. I was about 9 or 10 years old. Kids today sure wouldn’t do that.
My daddy would work on, and wash, cars so he built a garage across the alley in the back of the house we were. He would work on cars on weekends to make money. I would go out there and help him wax cars. My brothers would be out on the street working in stores so I would help my dad at home. I’d start the car up and he would do whatever he had to do to the car. I lived there until I got married and my husband bought me a home. I never did care to drive a car. I got so tired of cars when I was young. I didn’t want to see another car. I don’t drive today.
What would you tell kids today about the Great Depression?
The first thing I would tell them is there were some teachers, back in the day, in St. Louis who didn’t make enough money, they’d always come to IL to find better jobs. People who owned homes here would rent rooms to the teachers. They would leave and go back to St. Louis on Friday afternoon and come back Sunday night or early Monday morning.
My grandmother worked for the state, and used to teach people how to sew. A lot of times they didn’t know how to thread the needles and I’d thread the needles for them. I’d cut the pattern out, a paper pattern, and then I’d pin it on the material. They’d just lay them down on the floor and I’d take a crayon and make a paper pattern out of it. And then they could take the pins out and sew. My grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet. I can do all that. And my sister and even my brothers can do that kind of work.
Whatever money I took in, I put to the side and when payday came my grandfather would always give me more than my brothers, or sister, because I helped him. We were real close.
When I finished school I worked at Dow Chemical. They have another name for it now. I bought stock there. I’ve still got my stock. A lot of people call me the rich lady. My grandfather taught me how to save my money.
I attend Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. I was practically raised in it. When we were like six weeks old, our parents had us baptized. I love my friends in the neighborhood and the church!