I was next to the youngest in a family of 11. I grew up in Johnstown with six sisters and five brothers. No, make that four brothers - my oldest brother had joined the Army. I was born on his birthday and used to say that our family ran out of birthdays and had to double up.
My father was a tinner, working at Joe Joy's Hardware on Bedford Street. That means he made spouting and did roofing. He also fixed furnaces. Mr. Joy was in a predicament, not getting a lot of business. For a few jobs that were done, my father took what money Mr. Joy could pay him and for the rest accepted gardening tools and seeds.
There was a big lot beside the railroad tracks on Osborne Street. I'm not sure about the ownership, but arrangements were made for families to have gardens there. Dad planted a garden that I understand was as big as a city block. He grew the normal things, but also tried rutabagas and popcorn.
My father was the boss and three of my brothers worked in the garden. The youngest did not like that kind of work, but had to do his share. His share included taking produce in a wagon to certain homes that had shown an interest in wanting to buy vegetables. He is the one of the three who never made a garden after he was older and on his own. One of my jobs was rubbing two ears of corn together to get the kernels off. Dad made a big copper kettle with handles. The syrup was made in this and somehow these two things became popcorn balls and were wrapped in waxed paper - a Christmas treat. The cooking was all done on a coal stove. This is just one of the benefits of the big garden. Mother canned a lot with help from my sisters. This source of food kept us eating well for many years. Mother was a great seamstress with a treadle sewing machine. She could look at a pattern in the Sunday paper and cut one out of newspaper.
Most of the clothes she made for children were made from fabric that had been something else. As my older siblings were able to get jobs, things got better. But we continued to eat from the garden, and Mother continued to sew.
I will always remember that when I was 8, my two sisters who were working bought me a Shirley Temple dress at Glossers Bros. my first ready-made clothes from a store.
I never realized we were poor during those years. We were, for the most part, happy. We have so many good memories.
Grace D. Lewis is a resident of Johnstown.
Obesity wasn't a worry
By CLARA (MAGNONE) WILSON
I was born in 1920, so the ravages of World War I were told to me by my father. My first memory of how poor we were included having nothing to eat and an entire family to feed.
My mother would make my brother and I get up at dawn and go to the woods to pick dandelion. My mother would work all day washing and preparing this green vegetable in different ways so that when we came home from school, and my father home from the mines, we would have a meal on the table. We could never afford meat.
High cholesterol was never a worry because of our lifestyle of eating vegetables and walking everywhere; we didn't have a car We had little obesity because we could not afford all the goodies.
When we got our chores and school work done, we were allowed to play until dark. Because we did not have a radio or television, we used our minds to play and create. My brother wanted a play truck, so he found a block of wood and, with a penknife, he carved out beautiful trucks, which led him to be a master of woodwork. He taught school many years at Shade High School. My mother shared her talents with us and taught us all to sew, knit, crochet and cook.
I graduated in 1937 at age 16, the youngest in my class at Shade in Central City. This was. not because I was so smart, but because we ran out of seats.
I was offered a partial scholarship in literature to Juniata College, but my family did not have the money to send me to college. With limited education, I had one alternative: Housework. I was fortunate to get a job as a maid with Mr. and Mrs. Andrew B. Crichton. They lived at 800 Luzerne SL in Westmont. Although only 23 miles from Central City Westmont seemed like a world away from the coal mines.
The Crichtons were prominent in the '30s. Even today, the Crichton name is well known in Johnstown with Conemaugh Health System's Crichton Center.
Mr. Crichton was a mining engineer and president of Johnstown Coal and Coke Co. At age 17, I tried so hard to please him. One day he asked me to build a fire in the fireplace. I didn't know there was a damper to open and the house quickly filled with smoke.
Mt Crichton overheard me telling friends that I was saving money to buy my siblings a bike for Christmas. He gave me a bicycle to take home for Christmas.
Clara (Magnone) Wilson is a resident of Central City
By DOMINICK D.. SALLESE
Two days after the high water, my father and I walked from Morrelville through Cainbrm City to check out the devastation from the 1936 flood. At that time, there were steel doors on the sidewalks that opened to receive coal. One had been torn off by the water and, fortunately, my father recognized the situation and lifted me boldly from certain disaster.
As we approached Washington Street, a man on horseback shouted, “The dam broke!” We ran to the nearest high ground, which was the Stone Bridge and the railroad tracks, and helped a dozen or so heavy-set women and men up the embankment. We then continued on to our home following the railroad tracks. We realized how foothardy we were to venture out so soon.
Dominick D. Sallese is a resident of Johnstown.
Ice cream cones: 5 cents
By ALMEDA (CABLE) FONDELIER
I graduated from Johnstown High School in 1929 and then went to Indiana State Teachers College.
When I came home in May 1930, I realized a real Depression had hit. Rather than try to go back to school, I decided to get a job.
S.S. Kresge had just opened a store in April1930 in the spot where Nathan's had been. I went in and got a job right away in the office. My best friend worked at the toy counter.
At that time, two young men from the Philippines came to Kresges; they demonstrated yo-yos at the toy counter. They gave me a yo-yo, which I still have.
I ran around with a crowd of about 10 young people from my church, First Evangelical (now Trinity United Methodist) on Willow Street. We were there almost every evening doing something. Only a couple of us had jobs and most of our fathers didn't work either, but we were happy.
We went to each other's homes and put jigsaw puzzles together. They sold thousands at Kresges for 10 and 25 cents each. Then we started playing Monopoly and Pit. We didn't have big lunches, just snacks. We had plays at church and most of us sang in the choir. We took lots of hikes and ate lots of 5-cent ice cream cones - and we laughed a lot. We didn't let the Depression keep us from having fun.
I'm 91 now and I look back on that as a time to be remembered with much fondness - without money
Almeda (Cable) Fondelier is a resident of Johnstown.
Dad's 4th a blast
By MARY JANE HORNER
In the late '30s, my father, Butch Malzi, had a small grocery store in Cover Hill. He sold fireworks in July On the “Fourth,” kids in the neighborhood. gathered at my home and Dad would light the fireworks. There were bottle rockets, pinwheels, skyrockets, Roman candles, sparklers, and snakes coming out of the sidewalks. And a big thrill was to find the parachute that came out of one of the rockets.
Of course, there were the “bombs” that were always thrown at the “outhouse” when someone was inside. And I don't remember anyone getting hurt.
Mary Jane Horner is a resident of Conemaugh Township.
Tuition paid after graduation
By LOUISE TAGGART
My father was laid off from Bethlehem Steel Corp. in the early 1930s (Depression years).
My parents had a mortgage on our house in Westmont. The real estate agent allowed them to pay a small amount each month during the Depression.
Later, my father got a job in Pittsburgh.
To make some money, my mother served lunches to the teachers in what was called the grade school in Westmont, a block from our house. Mother charged them only 30 cents apiece
A typical luncheon she served them was: Chicken and biscuit; pinapp1e Jell-O salad; bread and butter; coconut custard pie; and coffee.
Because of the clothing expense, there was no prom in 1933 when I graduated from high school. After graduation, I wanted to go to Cambria-Rowe Business College, but there was no money for that, so I helped my mother for a year bake what she sold. Then I went to Cambria-Rowe and got my diploma in a year. Gerald Devaux, head of the college at that time, allowed me to wait till I got a job to pay the tuition. My parents and I were grateful for that.
Those were rough times during the Depression.
Louise Taggart is a resident of Johnstown
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