A lot of us older folks like to write about the good old days. There are many good things to say about those good old days when we’re remembering the carefree days of childhood. I’ve written several items about my childhood that are good memories but today I’m thinking about some of the bad old days. Before these memories all pass away with the passing of my generation, I feel compelled to put some of them into written words.

Today is mid-January 2005. The temperature outside is 20 degrees. It’s a dark, cloudy Sunday and a cold north wind is blowing the little bit of snow that has fallen. The weatherman said our temperature will drop into the single digits tonight and I’m remembering many cold gloomy times like this from my childhood in Tennessee and Kentucky long before we had the conveniences we enjoy and usually take for granted today.

Many things come to mind that are so vastly different today from life when I was a child in the 1930s and 1940s. For instance, I’m comfortable in this well-lit, gas heated house. An electric blower in the gas furnace is circulating warm air all around. Insulation keeps me from feeling that bitter north wind that’s blowing outside. Hot or cold water is available with the turn of a tap and a cozy bathroom with all its niceties is just a few steps away. There’s a telephone within reach, a cell phone nearby and a nice computer resting on my desk. I have television sets, a VCR, a DVD, a kitchen that’s stocked with good food, closets with warm clothing neatly hung and two vehicles in the driveway. I have so many more of the simple everyday items that we are accustomed to in 2005 that it’s easy to forget life hasn’t always been this good.

Page 02.
This is Page 02.

My life began in 1932. I was born at 10:30 a.m. that day. My mother, Carrie Mildred Poole Dickens was 18 years old ( February 25, 1914 – June 24, 1983) and my dad, Ernest Curtis Dickens was 22 years old (May 24, 1910 – February 3, 1974).

The blessed event took place at the home of my maternal grandmother Sadie Poole, widow of P. M. Poole (all I ever knew about him is that he was referred to as Plummer Poole). The home is located in what was then a rural area of Robertson County, Tennessee; it is now within the new city limits of Springfield. I don’t remember anything about that day, ha. I can tell you, at that time and place it was a hot August day.

I can describe the home from a later memory. It was a large country home built of tan colored, ornamental cement blocks. It was clean and neat inside and out but like all rural houses of that time and place, what we now call conveniences didn’t exist. No electricity (and all that can come with it), no gas, no plumbing, no indoor bathroom, no simple way of cooking, heating, or cooling. (To my surprise the house is still there; modernized, neat, clean, and in excellent condition. I wish the Poole family of the 1920s - 30s could see it now. I have included a picture of it on the picture page.)

One of my earliest childhood memories is of that home when my grandmother lay dying.

I was 4 years old. I remember grandma lying in  bed that night with the doctor standing over her and the family all gathered ‘round. The strongest impressions to me were the sadness in the room and the moving dark shadows that were cast on the wall from flickering kerosene lamps. As people moved, the shadows moved. It was scary. I stayed very close to mother.

From coast to coast, north and south, in Great Depression times  millions were destitute.

"By 1932 the unemployed numbered upward of thirteen million …
In the coal fields of West Virginia and Kentucky, evicted families shivered in tents in midwinter; children went barefoot.
From Philadelphia: ‘…eleven children in that house. They’ve got no shoes, no pants. In the house, no chairs. My God, you go in there, you cry, that’s all.’
In Los Angeles, people whose gas and electricity had been turned off were reduced to cooking over wood fires in back lots. … At least a million, perhaps as many as two million were wandering the country in a fruitless quest for work … On the outskirts of town or in empty lots in the big cities, homeless men threw together makeshift shacks of boxes and scrap metal."

From: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, Copyright 1963 by William E. Leuchtenburg.

Note: This site is being updated as I remember more incidents to add.
07/21/05,  Doug.

My mother and dad married in 1931 at Franklin, KY. They drove to Franklin from Springfield, TN  on Highway 383. That road has many sharp curves and they overturned on a sharp curve on the outskirts of the city. No one was injured so the wedding continued (coincidentally, 71 years later in 2002, my wife and I moved to Franklin, KY and bought a house; we now live about 1/2 mile from that curve).

I never knew much about the childhood days of  mom and dad. I do know that mom grew up on a farm in a large family and dad grew up in Springfield and learned to be a carpenter from his dad. In his late teens, dad owned an Indian Motorcycle. His cycling days ended when he ran off the bluff at Ridgetop and broke his right shoulder. That wreck resulted in his right arm being two inches shorter than his left arm. Dad also had a hearing problem. Mamma Dickens said that dad had an illness as a child that caused diminished hearing in both his ears.

Mom and Dad came from ordinary Methodist families and they probably would have continued in that tradition if the Great Depression hadn't disrupted their lives. They married in '31, I was born in '32, and when they could have been building a future for all of us - suddenly there was no more work and no more money.

There was no governmental assistance of any kind  for workers;
no unemployment compensation, no health insurance, no Social Security, none of the governmental helps for workers as exist today. I was born into a dark, drab time in America.