Friday, December 12, 2008

Memories from 1930

A few years ago I attended a Margheim family reunion in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. A man named Fritz Margheim and his wife met me and asked if I knew anyone with the Margheim name who might be buried in a cemetery in Hygiene, Colorado. They'd been shopping for a burial plot and as they were looking around the cemetery, they noticed a grave with the name of Margheim on it. The plot next to it was available so they purchased it. I explained that I had a little brother, Alfred Margheim, who died in 1933 at the age of 9 and it was his grave that they'd found. Isn't it a coincidence that they discovered his grave while shopping for their own burial plots and they were able to purchase the plots besides Alfred's. All Margheims.

I explained that although my family was originally from Trego County, Kansas, in 1931 we had moved to the area near Hygiene, a little town west of Longmont, Colorado. When we lived in Kansas my dad worked as a Share Cropper on the farm. Dad was only 31 years old and everything we owned was mortgaged to the bank. He and my mom had 4 children. I was born in 1921, Alfred was born in 1923 and mom had twins in 1929, just 9 days before the stock market crash! One night an eleven inch rain assaulted us, accompanied by hail. We lived by a draw, with water coming by and around the house. The heavy rains moved the granary off its foundation, drowned our hogs, killed all the chickens, etc. It was springtime and the wheat fields looked like someone had run a disc through the fields. My parents had to take bankruptcy.

My mom had two brothers living in Colorado so we moved to Colorado. The only work my parents could find was "stoop labor". Remember, this was 1930, just one year following the start of the Great Depression. When doing this kind of labor, all the pay was according to "piece work". Every member of the family had to work, thinning beets or picking vegetables-- beans and tomatoes. We hardly earned enough money to pay the rent.

When we moved, Mom brought with us a barrel of homemade soup. We sold that door to door. Dad went to work for different farmers tending beets, irrigation, etc. I was 10 years old at the time and I had learned to milk by hand. So I helped the farm family milk their cows and that gave us milk. For our housing, a farmer hung old rugs in one corner of his hayloft and let us live there. Boy the winters were cold in Colorado!

My brother Alfred got pneumonia and died. It was tough going. It seemed like we were living like gypsies. Work was not steady. We probably worked that way for four different families. For meat I remember Dad shot rabbits and pheasant that we cooked. Mostly we lived on potatoes and noodles. Potatoes were a major crop around Brighton, Eaton, Greeley and Longmont, Colorado so we got the potatoes for free from the farmers who raised them.

We have to thank our good Lord for sustaining families like us in those Depression days. People really had to work hard. Many farmers couldn't afford machinery like they have today.

Well, I won't go on about that anymore right now. I'll write more about our experiences of beet farming another time. Thanks for Listening!



Becky Jamison said...

Dad, remind me NEVER to complain of hard times! In my lifetime I'll never experience hard times like Grandpa and Grandma and you kids did.

Janet Iles said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences during the depression. Regretfully, I never asked my parents what life was like for them.