Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Depressing Great Depression Letter



Spread from 1937 Marie-Claire.  We don't associate these images with the Great Depression, but as a recent BBC Radio 4 Program pointed out, not everyone suffered during the 30's. (History We've Forgotten to Remember.)


Indeed, if you had money, you were better off, because prices were low... and wages, too, as you can read in this letter below.

It is written by Margaret Nicholson's sister, Sarah, who lived in Sarnia, then Toronto, and in 1935, the year of this letter, she has just moved to Hamilton.

In my ebook Diary of a Confirmed Spinster which is about Edith Nicholson in 1907/1912, Margaret's daughter, I mention Sarah. That's because Sarah always writes depressing letters and Edith remarks upon it. In 1912 Sarah is in Sarnia and has an invalid husband and four uncaring daughters, according to another sister. Her husband has asthma and other breathing problems. They all seem to have such problems, perhaps living in Sarnia, an industrial town, has something to do with it.

My ebooks Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Biology and Ambition are based on the letters of the Nicholson family of Richmond Quebec between 1907-1913, a pivotal era in history. 


But I have letters from 1887 to 1937, when Margaret must have gone to Montreal to live with her daughter Marion. She died in 1942 but had a serious scare here in 1935.   This 'depressing' Great Depression letter paints a picture of what was going on back then in Ontario.

June 6, 1935

Dear Margaret,

Yesterday I received a letter from Jean after her visit to you.  I delayed writing your letter, knowing that she was thinking of taking the trip. I felt as disappointed as you felt about not going to you when you wrote, although I feel more satisfied since hearing about how you look and feel.

Jean says you are looking well, but just have to take things easy and must take care of yourself.

Now I hope that you are doing that and I did not like to hear that you were again thinking of putting in a garden for it never pays for the labour  spent on it and knowing you of old, be sure not to be bending and weeding, which is bad for you and not good for anyone unless they are strong.

It would have been nice if I could have gone. We would have had a nice time together  before your summer visitors arrive.
But man proposes and God disposes.

Florence came and it had been three years since I saw her and she seemed fine, except for the eruptions on her face, not noticeable to strangers but to herself she cannot forget about it, which of course does not help things.

I wish you could be here with me.  Laverne is here from Brantford. We all went to the Falls to see the sights. They are only about seventy miles from here.That was where we spent our honeymoon, of course. I was glad to go to see if I could recognize the place, but time has made a change. Although the countryside and scenery at this time is most beautiful.

There are a good many lovely places to see in this city and the park, which is about the nicest I have seen, is in front of this place. Florence and I are going over there to sit for a while and post this letter.

Ethel likes it here and if Verne could just have it a little easier we would be happy, but it is a crime the way he has to work in that bank, late and early and when I tell you that I have not seen him since last Monday night you will have some idea.  He never gets home until after midnight and up again in the morning at eight.

He is tired and he looks it and if he has to keep it up much longer, I don’t know how he can stand it.

This is a strange time that you and I have lived to see men walking the street idle and having to be fed and can’t get a day’s work and those like a few who are fortunate enough to have a job must do the work of two or three and take it or leave it and they cannot complain or will be told if you can’t do it we will get someone else who will.
Florence will take a run up to Sarnia, she has until the 26th on her ticket. She is very fond of the stores and the movies but that can get monotonous when you haven’t much money to spend.

Jean has invited us down but RR fares are high and motoring just as bad so we will just have to lie low.

How did you find Jean.? I think Quebec is going to agree with her. She has inherited quite a bit of my bronchial trouble.

Take care of yourself. Do nothing to exert yourself.
I remain as always,
Sarah
151 Rothnay, Hamilton.