Daddy Works Hard for a Dollar
I don’t think we realized we were poor when we were kids. We were happy kids and all of our friends were just like us. We knew that work was hard to get but we didn’t think we were poor.
Daddy had trained and done some work as a plumber but when we were young he took whatever work he could get. FDR was trying to get the country out of the Depression and he started a lot of programs. One of those was Relief. The State would give you a little money and some free food but you would have to work when they wanted and do whatever work they needed. Daddy shoveled snow in the winter and helped clean the streets in summer. I guess it wasn’t really free.
When Daddy went to get the relief food he would take one of us kids, Sonny, Jackie or me, put us in Sonny’s wagon and pull us to where they gave you the food. It was always dry foods like oatmeal or raisins. We got so sick of raisins that Jackie still doesn’t like them today. When the wagon was full Daddy would put us up on top and pull us home. Mommy was always happy to see us and glad to have the food.
Sometimes Daddy hustled hot dogs and drinks at different events. He worked at baseball games, car races and even wrestling matches. Sometimes he watered down the drinks to make a few extra pennies. He would take me with him sometimes. I didn’t like the wrestling or the cars going round and round but I loved going to the baseball games. While I watched the game the other men hustling food and soda who knew Daddy would make sure I had plenty to eat. Of course I was proud and happy to be with my father.
When we walked home he would tell me stories. Once in 1934, while he was living in Laurel, Maryland, he was having a terrible time finding work in that small town. He remembered the soup kitchens and men selling apples in the street. So he hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. hoping to find work. He didn’t even have a penny in his pocket. He had been walking for hours, up one street and down another, but there was no work to be found. It was winter and it was very cold. Daddy said he was very cold and very hungry. He finally got up the nerve to ask a well-dressed man for a nickel to get a cup of coffee. The man looked at him with so much disdain and said, “You are the fifth bum to ask me for a nickel today.” He turned his back on my father and walked away. Daddy said he made a vow that day that he would never ask anyone for money again.
How hard it must have been back then for a man like my father who wanted to support his family. He was always ready to work hard for a dollar.