What Was Life Like in the 1930s?

The Great Depression in Kansas – Read All about It

In working with my mother to self-publish her memories of growing up in the 1930s, I became fascinated by the Great Depression and its impact on people’s lives. There seems a resurgence of interest in that period. Perhaps people are looking to it for answers for their current financial hardships and unease about the future.

I think there is a lot we can learn about the way our grandparents or great-grandparents weathered the decade of the 1930s.

If you’ve read my mother’s memoir, My Flint Hills Childhood: Growing Up in 1930s Kansas, then you’ll also enjoy these other books.

My Flint Hills Childhood
My Flint Hills…
Growing Up in 1930s…
By Gail Lee Martin
Photo book
  • The Persian Pickle ClubI was intrigued by this novel’s setting and time period as I’d just finished working on my mother’s memoir set in the same locale and period. The appeal of this story goes beyond just the regional appeal, as the story unfolds to show the ways women support each other during lean times. This certainly has a message that’s important during hard economic times.At first, I had trouble sorting out who was who in this 1930s ladies quilting circle. It was worth it to persist, as the story unfolded to include a mystery about the disappearance of one member’s husband. The story unfolds through the viewpoint of Queenie Bean, a young housewife who takes pride in her quilting and putting a good meal on the table for her farmer husband. She works at developing a friendship with a young woman who’s new to the area and the quilting group. The unsettling influence of a newcomer to the Persian Pickle Club leads to friction in the group and eventually the uncovering of a carefully hidden secret.

    Along the way, the reader learns a lot about the deprivations of the 1930s with farmers losing their land and homeless people asking for handouts. This homespun story of women helping each other out during the hardships of the Great Depression is a “good read.” (review by Virginia Allain on Amazon)

  • Addie of the Flint Hills: A Prairie Child During the Depression (1915-1935)I’d heard a lot about this book, and really looked forward to reading it. I highly recommend it.

    In Addie of the Flint Hills, the 94-year-old Addie Sorace tells the simple facts of her family’s life in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Feeding the chickens, walking to town (Cottonwood Falls) for the mail and the dust storms of the Dust Bowl days all mingle together to create a picture of life “back when.” The photos add extra depth and the reader peers at Addie’s childhood images and those of her Kansas pioneering family. What gave them the stamina to cope with the hard life of making a living on the land? She relates the details of life on the Kansas prairie in the 1920s and 30s in a matter-of-fact manner. Her narration shows no self-pity for the suffering she endured from a mother who took her frustrations out on Addie. That was just part of life and Addie shares it all with us.1922 greenwood county map

    Although the era is different from The Little House on the Prairie books, the reader is left with a similar warm feeling from having stepped back in time. It fascinated me, as I saw many parallels to my mother’s book. Although my mother grew up in the oil field camps in Greenwood County, and Addie grew up on a farm in adjacent Chase County, the two books provide a similar glimpse into that time in Kansas. Both books include earlier family history to give the reader background on Kansas pioneer times. (review by Virginia Allain on Amazon)

  • Ducks across the Moon: Life on Eighty Acres in the Flint Hills
    Having read a number of 1930s prairie memoirs, I looked forward to Dr. Ohm’s book. He touched on familiar themes of overcoming hardships, living close to the land and about family togetherness. His experiences and observations are supplemented by family stories passed along from his parents. The description of the threshing crew and of the women preparing all the food brought back memories of my grandmother talking about the same topics.

    Even if you don’t have these farming experiences in your own background, they will resonate with you the way the Little House on the Prairie books does. It is part of America’s hardy pioneering past. Enjoy the stories of making ice cream from snow, playing in the haymow and making rubber band guns from innertubes.

    He acknowledges the daily grind of farm work while celebrating the folkways that made the Foxfire books so popular. This book and my mother’s memoir, make good companion books for anyone wanting to know about growing up in Kansas during the Great Depression. (review by Virginia Allain on Amazon)

Honoring Gail and Clyde at Rock Springs and Teterville

C.J. Garriott, Gail’s sister, said, “Coming back from Rock Springs 4-H Ranch, we detoured to find Teterville. It’s where my parents and sisters lived when I was born in 1934.

Cj Garriott - "It's often difficult to show depth, etc., in photos, but thought these came out well! Loved those clouds."

Cj Garriott – “It’s often difficult to show depth, etc., in photos, but thought these came out well! Loved those clouds.”

This is Teter Hill, which is one of the highest hills in Kansas, if not the highest. As a little girl, when Daddy was navigating our car up the zig-zag track that vehicles had worried out of the rocky scrub, I was certain we were going to fall off the world. Teterville is beyond a ghost town these days, just foundations here and there.

The sign for the long-gone town of Teterville, Kansas. Photo by C.J. Garriott.

The sign for the long-gone town of Teterville, Kansas. Photo by C.J. Garriott.

It was lovely. The rain stopped just before we got to the spot, and after we headed back up the road home, it started again! It just let us do our thing without rain falling. Nice.

The road trip started with a tree planting ceremony at the Rock Springs 4-H Center near Junction City, Kansas. Clyde was a 4-Her as a boy and Gail guided many young 4-Hers in her years as a project leader. Having a tree providing shade to future 4-Hers seems like a very fitting memorial for them.

The side trip to Teterville was for the purpose of spreading Mom and Dad’s ashes. They had both chosen cremation. After Dad’s death, we had talked with Mom about making a trip out to the Flint Hills with his ashes. It was difficult to get her and all my siblings together for that excursion.

It was several years later and the time was right, even though not all of us could be there. Teterville was chosen for Mom’s ties to that now-defunct town. Gail’s sister, three of Gail and Clyde’s children, and some grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the trek on a day of torrential rain.

During the brief break in the downpour, the ashes were spread. Some were tossed into the Kansas wind to drift to earth at random. Mom and Dad felt a special affinity for the Kansas Flint Hills. Now they are a part of this scenic area.

Looking across the Flint Hills from Teter Hill. Photo by CJ Garriott.

Looking across the Flint Hills from Teter Hill. Photo by CJ Garriott.

Remembering My Youngest Sister

Early June is the birthday of my littlest sister, Shannon. In rereading old letters from her, I found some of her drawings too. Mostly she put little sketches in the margin of the letters.

She liked to draw horses and cartoon style characters. One Halloween, she decorated the envelope with jack o’ lanterns, a ghost and a witch.

Shannon Martin's childhood drawings for Halloween.

Shannon Martin’s childhood drawings for Halloween.

One of her letters featured a thumbprint drawing of a reindeer. I think she got the idea for those from Ed Emberley’s books. Being the creative girl that she was, the designs she created were quite a bit more sophisticated than what’s shown in the books.

Shannon created some delightful thumbprint art.

Shannon created some delightful thumbprint art.

Why not sit the kids down with an ink pad, some wet-wipes, scrap paper and colored pencils. They’ll have a great time. There’s a video on Youtube that demonstrates thumbprint art.

By high school, Shannon’s art skills had progressed to this.

Shannon Martin's drawing of a moth for her entomology project.

Shannon Martin’s drawing of a moth for her entomology project.

I treasure a drawing she made for me of my cat sitting on the windowsill. It’s framed and on display in my guestroom. I know mother encouraged Shannon’s artistic interests and took pride in her accomplishments.