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James' Journal

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James' Journal - Page Text Content

S: Seasons of Change

FC: James Hazel Great Depression Scrapbook

1: My name is James Hazel and my mother thought it’d be good for me to start writing all my ideas and stories in a journal of some kind. You see, I’m a pretty smart kid and my parents tell me all the time how I’ll make a university very proud one day. As a freshman in high school I don’t even want to think about college or even sophomore year! Freshman year is already scary enough. New school; a lot bigger too, new kids, and more work to do after school. In the back of my mind I know I have a bright future and I’ll help the world in some way. Not really sure what I want to do once I get into college but I’ll let the next three years decide that for me. Outside of school, I get together with a group of friends and play baseball. I have grown up playing baseball and enjoy watching the Yankees. Since my dad was so successful with his moonshine during the Prohibition, I have been able to go see a few games this year including Opening Day! If his business continues with this profit margin, we may be able to buy season tickets! I live in upstate New York, close to Albany but more towards Troy now that I think about it. My house is pretty big but everyone around here has a big house because there’s so much open land. No one really farms up here though, winters are too harsh and they all say that it’s the job of the “Midwesters” to farm and provide for the country. My dad is a bootlegger and he doesn’t really hide it that well. Our cellar is full of barrels marked “Shine”, I’m guessing it refers to moonshine which has been illegal since the early 1900’s. Every few weeks or so, when I’m at school the barrels that went missing will be replaced with new barrels with the same marking. People must pay a lot of money to break the law because my dad says with all the money we have in the bank, we could buy four more houses if we wanted to. We don’t though. He’ll always say “you never know what tomorrow will bring”, so we keep the money. Not sure why though, maybe for my college or an emergency. | April 19, 1926

2: July 30, 1928 Dad has started getting me into the family business over the past half year or so. It’s pretty good, he says it’s so I have something to fall back on if college wasn’t working out. It’s nice of him but I think I’ll do just fine in college. I’ll be going into my senior year come this fall and I’m excited because I’ve applied to three colleges already hoping I’ll hear back early. Working with dad has made me a little lazier though. When I started I wasn’t sure if it was for me but when he started taking me out with him it was a hoot of a time. He took me into the city and to clubs where he’d bring me to the back alleys where he’d make the drop of the booze and get the money. Then we’d go into the clubs and hang out for a few hours where there’d be beautiful women and tons of alcohol! It was amazing, way more fun than doing my homework to be honest. I don’t feel the need to work as hard in school anymore because of how much fun the bootleg distribution is. I still have ambitions of going to college but since I’ve already applied to the colleges I’ve been looking at, I’ve decided it wouldn’t mean the end of the world if I don’t do all my homework. The more time I spend in the business the more fun it becomes. I grasp more information on how to import/export “the goods” and it feels good to go outside of what I usually do. I sit at home and listen to my radio most days, now I’m a smooth-talking, shine-moving bootlegger just like my father. My mother doesn’t really approve of me going out with my dad and the boys and drinking alcohol. She thinks I’m too young to be doing the things I’m doing, but I’m 18 now so I can start making my own decisions as an adult. What does she know anyway? Not that much I can tell you that.

3: November 2, 1929 It’s gone. All of money in our bank account has completely vanished. My college fund is no existent and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I think I’m going insane along with the rest of the country. The stock market crashed four days ago and everyone has been scrambling to the banks to try and make a withdrawal of all their money but I heard on the radio that it’s no use. How can the entire nation’s money just not be there? My father told me that we have a decent amount of money stashed in the house, but it wouldn’t be enough to continue our lifestyle. We have so many materials I think if need be we could go to a pawn shop in town and get a dollar or two if we’re lucky. Dad also mentioned that if we could sell what’s still in the basement then we could make a good amount but it’d be a substantial lose because the price would’ve dropped dramatically. How long will it last? Almost everyone lost the money they had in the bank. I heard a story of a guy who saved his money for 30 years or something like that and didn’t get to touch a cent of it. He hung himself when he got home. Stuff like that is just so tragic because you have a person who worked their whole life to get buy and saved a few pennies here and there then it’s just not there. I blame credit. It meant people didn’t have to take money out of their accounts as often which means they wouldn’t have lost as much if they paid upfront. I don’t get why my dad is so calm about the crash but I guess that’s why he’s so smooth, because he know how to keep a level head. He must have something up his sleeve for how to make more money. That’s how he always was, plotting and scheming for the next check and he’ll probably be doing just that until this disaster is over. I’ll help my family anyway I can. I know it’ll all be alright in the end.

4: January 20, 1930 We don’t have a ton of food and that’s not very keen. I don’t know much about the Midwest but I bet it’s easier for them. Northern New York’s winters are harsh one so if we had anything to grow it surely wouldn’t. These are the times when I’m jealous of the families who are able to grow their own food because it makes life easier once it starts growing and it’s cheaper than buying it at the stores. Speaking of stores, it’s getting tougher to buy at them because the owners all jack the prices up a tiny bit each day thinking no one will notice. We notice. Just writing about food makes me hungry for some of mom’s casserole that she used to make so often. Now, we’d be lucky if we had all the ingredients to make it for all three meals. I think my mother wants to try and grow a garden in the summer but she doesn’t have the greenest thumb. I know she’ll try though; both my parents are almost annoyingly ambitious when it comes to completing a goal. My father is the same about the last few barrels of his moonshine, I’ve never seen him drink any of it but I could see these times were tempting him. I’m afraid for the future; of my family, my home, and myself. I can tell my parents are stringing me along so I don’t lose hope. I always talk about how the Depression scares me and they’ll just say “Don’t you worry James, you’ll have college after all of this” or “You’ve worked too hard” and how I deserve to go. I know I deserve to go! I heard back from all the colleges I applied to but we decided it was best I stay home so they won’t worry. Lord knows they don’t need another thing to worry about. When they talk to me, I hear the words coming out of their mouths but their eyes show uneasiness. I just wish they’d tell me upfront whether they thought I could do it in a few years, but I know that if it was a no that they wouldn’t have the heart to say it too me. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I’d want to hear their answer if it wasn’t the one I wanted to hear. Dad has been talking to mom about selling one of the cars for cash upfront on the street because a check is just seen as a shattered country on a slip of paper. My hopes are lower than Louis Armstrong’s voice at this point.

6: August 13, 1931 We’re surviving but it’s tough. Hoover wants to see how thing go just by letting them play out for themselves. I heard a term used to describe Hoover; it was lazyfair or something like that. I’m not sure what it means but it sounds foreign when it’s said. I wish he was more aggressive with his approach because I want to see change in the way we’re living. I’ve seen Hoovervilles and it’s no pretty sight. If I ever had to live in a Hooverville I’m not sure what I’d do with myself, all the trash and the beaten, makeshift shelters. Americans are getting less and less hopeful everyday. There need to be more programs to bring back the country that used to be America. There needs to be change. I can’t be that angry though, because I’m lucky enough to have lived the lifestyle I’ve been living. Of course it hasn’t been as lavish as it used to be but the conditions we have are still a lot better than many others. I feel grateful to be that lucky. I still can’t get Hoover out of my head though. There’s so much he could do for people and he’s sitting back and not taking initiative. I’m not sure of his dedication to fixing the problems the Depression brings. It’s crazy to think how just two years ago, everything in this country was thriving and now, well, it’s described perfectly; a depression. Everything was going so well and then everyone has one of something then it all goes to hell a few weeks later. It’s unbelievable, almost like a horrible dream you can’t wake up from.

8: February 16, 1932 Hoover makes no promises. I wish he did, I wish he actually gave a damn about this country and did something about the situation. My parents and I aren't at a point where we need much help but I know how bad people are getting it out there and its as though he does nothing about it. They all laugh at him, joke about it. I hear that there are towns named after him. Hoovervilles, towns where homeless folks go to live in. They call newspapers hoover blankets. People stick out their pockets and call them hoover flags. My father's out of work. Everyones out of work. There are no jobs because every industry has crashed. All the companies have closed because nobody is buying anything anymore. Nobody is buying anything because they have no money to buy anything with. And nobody has money because nobody has a job. It's all a cycle, and it just doesn't stop.

10: January , 1933 Things are getting tougher day by day for the family. I’m aware that everyone is struggling but things are a lot worse than I ever imagined they would be. Now that prohibition has come to an end my father business has crashed completely. His moonshine is not selling at all. He has cut the prices drastically but not even that has helped. Absolutely none of what he makes is of any good use. He says that he’s going to stop which makes sense. We still have money to live okay but it’s definitely not the life we are used to living. I don’t go out much anymore. My father tells me to save my money. It’s strange, that never used to happen. Father isn't working at all, he stays home and keeps to himself mostly. I think it hits him hard, the realization that he isn't making any money for his family. We still manage decently, we are fine and I hope he realizes that. We have the money that we need from the businesses and investments he has made in the past that we can fall back on. Investments and money he had saved up before the stock market had crashed. I read things in the paper. How folks out there suffer. I think of how selfish it is for myself to complain. We’re fortunate enough to have a home and food on our table. The papers talk about how people are out there with no crops, they’re all getting sick, they can’t find work, they struggle to survive. We’re all struggling but it frightens me so much at time. How are we going to progress from this? Why haven’t we already..?

11: March 19, 1933 My father sometimes talks about doing some other types of work. In my opinion I don’t think he actually will or even wants to. Its all just B-S coming out of his mouth. He thinks too highly of himself to ever do what he calls “ dirty” work. He tells us we have other assets on the side what we always have to fall back on. Assets such as gold, land, cash, and cars. He told me once that he kept them somewhere in the south, Texas maybe? That may have been it. My mother and I take comfort in knowing that we still have things in our possession. It’s nice to think that we will never go without food or money. I still wonder though, why is it that if we still have something then why have I still not been about to attend college? It’s been almost two years since we have put off my college education. My parents but by that I mean really my father tell me that it’s better to wait. They say that I’m not prepared for the life outside of these walls. We have come to an agreement. When this depression passes, when it all gets better, I will finally be allowed to go to school.

12: May 1933 Recently our President, FDR has came up with a set of aid, the New Deal that will help us all. To me it seemed like a perfect idea. My father listened to it on the radio, my mother and I watched him to wait and see what his reaction would be. He smirked and walked away. He later told us that we weren’t the time of people to receive that kind of stuff. Father said we weren’t in need of it. We definitely were. By this point we were losing it all. Money was scarce. The land my father had told us about was useless, nothing came out of it. There was no gold, there were no cars left. We had sold the two we had and we made little cash from it. We still have food but we need help, if things haven’t already gotten better than we can’t afford to wait around. Theres the CCC, it’s the Civilian Conservation Corps. This organization works to get people who are unemployed to find a job. Jobs that are mainly construction work and labor work. This would be great for me. My father wouldn’t be allowed to do it, he’s much too old but I’d be great for it. I wouldn’t make much but I would be able to provide something for my folks. Things could get better from here.

14: July 1936 I’ve found a good job thanks to the CCC. My father of course isn’t pleased about my decision to take aid for the new deal but he doesn’t say much about it. It’s not like he’s making any more anyway. I have plans to leave soon. I want to badly. My parents don’t know this yet because I haven’t told them but I’ve applied to some universities. I plan on staying close so that I can still help out the folks but I need a few more dollars to just cut it close. I have hope in thinking that thing will get better soon. People are doing better. My father is trying to get back into working. He keeps saying that he wants to open up a shop so we’ll see if he can make it but as of now he hasn't started his business. As for myself i’m doing well and i’m gonna continue to do well. This depression isn’t winning, we are. It’s strange to think about how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time. I went from having such a wonderful lavished life to this. I’ve learned the hardships of not having everything and it’s pretty tough when you’ve had everything your entire life. There is one thing that we can take comfort in. The thought that things are so bad gives me some sort of comfort. Things are so bad , worse than they have ever been that there is no possible way for them to get any worse. From here things have to get better and I am sure that they will.

16: Works Cited "The Great Depression." EyeWitness to History. America in the Great War, 2000. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. . "Class in the 1930's." American Studies @ The University of Virginia. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. . "Great Depression." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. . "About the Great Depression." Welcome to English Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. . "Prohibition of Alcohol during the Great Depression." The Wessels Living History Farm, the Story of Agricultural Innovation. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. .

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