I grew up during the depression and have a lot of memories about experiences myself and my family shared. My family lived in the Detroit area until a series of events forced us to make create a new life which included moving across the country. My parents were strong people who were able to adapt to changing circumstances even though it was hard at times.
My father made his living in Detroit by owning and operating a small sandwich shop that was very near to the Ford factory. It was a tremendous location and did a great lunchtime business with all the factory workers. The business was a family affair as Mother was the cook and Daddy took care of the customers and running the business. Mother was known for her tasty ham and chicken sandwiches. She also baked several different types of pie which the Ford employees bought on their way home from work.
Unfortunately the business had to be shut down following two tragic events. The first of these was that, in response to the stock market crash and the ensuing economic crisis, the Ford plant was shut down. Of course, the impact was that my parent’s customers all went away. Later that year, Detroit was hit with a flood which covered my parent’s store with four feet of water. It was a total mess! The pool tables he had were ruined as well as many other items in the store. Daddy and Mother were out of business and out of work.
After their sandwich shop went out of business, my parents had to figure out how to make a living and create a new life. They thought about several different ideas, but the one that seemed to hold the most promise came from a friend who lived in Texas. He had a business and offered Daddy a job. So, despite the hardship, he packed up and left for Texas in November of 1932. The decision was made for us to not follow him until the school year was over. This gave him a chance to see if he could make a go of things without uprooting us. It was a hard several months for all of us and I know mother was very lonely. She was a strong woman though and made it through a very dark and cold winter by teaching piano lessons on weekends. This helped to make ends meet.
The months finally went by and it was time to move down to Texas and be with Daddy again! We were excited and nervous as we pulled away from the curb and left our old life behind. There were four of us making this journey: my Mother, my brother Ronald who was 15 years old, my sister Betty Jane who was 12 and I, Mary Louise age 10. Also along for the ride was my beloved cat, Specs.
Mother had only an Essex and $25.00 in her purse to make the long trek. As happens in life, challenges arose quickly. The car began having issues which had to be fixed. The repairs cost us over a third of our cash supply, a whopping $7.00 which felt like a fortune. This left us only $18.00 for the remainder of our trip. After getting the car repaired, we stopped at a motel for the night. While we were unpacking the car for the night, Specs disappeared! We looked everywhere for him but no luck. I was just devastated! But the next morning when we got up we found Specs sitting on the steps waiting for us. I was overjoyed!
We continued on our trip which took us a few more days. I saw parts of the country I had not really heard of before. To feed us, Mother would stop at farm houses along the way purchasing eggs. Then we would find a comfortable place to stop and she would cook those eggs over a Bunsen burner. They tasted really good. Our road adventure finally ended when we arrived in Sulfur Springs, Texas. We were reunited with Daddy and only had $1.00 left to our name.
By Mary L. Smith (MacGillis)