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My dad was 19 when the Depression hit. He said there were no jobs anywhere. Thinking there might be work in the big cities, he caught a freight train and joined many others riding boxcars to Detroit and other big cities, hoping they would find jobs.
Dad said crowds of men would gather outside industrial plants every day hoping to be hired. Sometimes a foreman would come out and ask if anyone in the crowd could do a certain job; if so, he was hired. One day when standing outside an electric motor manufacturing plant a man came out and asked if anyone in the crowd knew anything about electric motors. Dad raised his hand and said, "I do." Without any further questions he was taken to an assembly line and told to inspect the finished motors as they came down the conveyer.
Dad didn’t know anything about electricity or electric motors but he said that sometimes he would reject a motor. I don’t know how long he worked as an electric motor inspector but it did keep him fed for a while. I imagine he decided to find a carpenter’s job – he understood carpentry.
Dad said there were thousands of hungry men roaming the streets
One might think that the federal government would rush to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed but it wouldn't until after 1933s change of administrations.
In 1933 the President's New Deal recognized that massive unemployment and massive need for improved living conditions could be joined to alleviate both problems.
As a child I experienced many of those conditions first-hand. My mother came from a large family of farmers. I remember visiting their homes in the early 1930s into the mid-1940s. They were all neat and clean but life was hard and conveniences were few. None of them complained - many farmers were better off than their hungry city contemporaries - farmers grew their own food.
Even after electricity and plumbing became available many people didn’t have the money to have their houses wired or plumbing installed without government help.