Thursday, June 14, 2012

Depression Letter No. 2 The Greatest Calamity: Roosevelt



John McLeod from a Crayon Drawing. From Uig Carnish, Hebrides, came to Canada with family 1838. 

Here is a letter from Margaret Nicholson's cousin, one of three written in 1932 -35. He appears to be wealthy-ish landlord, who is not doing so well - and is bitter. He says many people are returning to Canada. The US and Germany suffered the most in the 30's I've heard (probably on a BBC Radio 5 program) and it took a war to get both these countries out of their economic problems. Hmm.


December 1, 1932

224 Lafayette,
Schenectady New York
Dear Cousin,

I can easily overlook tardy correspondence, I am often at fault myself and you, with all the company you had, might well be excused. How about consoling me November 9th – the day after the greatest calamity that has befallen the United States since the Civil War. 

Any word would have been received gladly.

I worked 2 months before the election for Hoover and was hopeful till about 11.pm. that night that he lead by a sufficient majority to win. But when 41 states gave a majority to Roosevelt, I went to my room in despair. I tried to find some consolation in the facts of other outlying election districts turned defeat into victory.

The one bright spot is Hoover shines like a morning star in defeat. His congratulation to Roosevelt and his offer to assist in any way possible to advance the welfare of the nation and his invitation to Roosevelt to join in a conference with leaders of other nations regarding the war debt, that he might get their viewpoint, were all indications of a true statesman and man large enough to bow to the wishes of the majority.  Well, I was talking with a banker, after the result was known and he declared it was a bad change for the country when Hoover has got thing started.

Many that from revenge voted against him now think times will be hard, harder for a much longer time.

It is the boast of Americans that the majority rules.  Well, watch the game to the finish. We had a Democrat mayor elected over this city a year ago, beginning  Jan 1 932. Since then men and women were bitter against me because I would not half elect him. He is in power. He turned out republicans and put in democrats, especially his own relatives and friends. Friends have told me since then how disappointed they are. Not so with me; not yet have I seen improvement and fairness from that party.

Well, I am trying to keep my mouth shut and do like the rest, bow to the will of the majority.  Work is starting up a little and slowly.  But so many are holding back. Had Hoover been elected the stock market would be booming today, So many were waiting to see if the Republicans would be returned.

I never saw so many poor people being helped by the city before. No work, no money in the hands and pockets of the working class, Next to impossible to get hold of a dollar.
All my houses, but the little cottage next to the one I am in, are advertised for sale to collect the unpaid taxes, about ½ unpaid.

Eight closely printed pages of the Evening paper advertise properties for sale on December 22.

Our safety is no private individual can buy so much. No syndicate will.

Yes, Canadians are returning to Canada. Many have gone and many more will go before 4 years are over. That is what I see following the  folley of the foolish. You will think I am terrible.

I have families that have been idle 7 to 9 months, unable to pay rent and about 2000 houses empty and offered for rent 10, 20, 25 dollars and still empty.
One favorable thing: Provision is much cheaper. Butter 20 cents to 28 a pound.
Pork sells from 5 to 8 or 9 cent where a year and a half ago was 25 to 28 cents.

Eatables are at reasonable lows, but people haven’t got the money and the city has to help them.

I get what I need so far without charity, but I have had to draw on what I saved for the rainy day.

Hardly a day passes without someone asking for a nickel or dime to get something to eat.

An old woman, thin in flesh and poorly clothed, was carrying a few vegetables home to make a warm dinner, asked me for a nickel that she might get some bread.

Yes, I said, I will get you a nice fresh loaf, and maybe I can call and help you in the week.

There are many on very small allowances, and of course there are some being helped who do not need it.

We are now entering December and all the old prognosticators are promising a mild  winter.

Let’s hope so.

I have eight persons in my house. Some are getting help but often I have to help them.
Their supply does not arrive at the proper time.

But everyone is cheerful and hopeful that a better day is coming. Republicans can’t see it.
I thank you for the paper with the beautiful testimony to the characters  and work of Mrs. Ewing. I know Mary will be very lonely without her mother.

 I regret I did not call and see Mr. MacKay. Thanks for mentioning his death. Yes, I felt quite at home visiting Mrs. McCourt. I always think of her as Mary Thompson and of course remember the day you took me first to school and said “teacher, there is a horse and wagon coming.” “Yes, yes,” she said. “Sit down in your seat.”

Everybody has gone to bed, so I must hasten to go.

I wish I could send you a good old widower to keep you company and warm. Perhaps it would give you exercise to keep him company until the snow goes in the Spring.
It would make a good home for the man and he would make the fires for you and shovel the snow.

I’ll get busy and look for one.

I hear Montreal had a terrible tearing up of its sewers and gaz mains, but only twelve people slightly injured.

We expect beer and wine and lots of Irish Whiskey,  now that the Democrats wil come in office March 4.

Best wishes, with love, Your cousin Norman McLeod
 McLeods of Richmond-Wolfe Area, I suppose. Or Nicholsons.