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Chapter 9
The Depression Years

During the early years of the depression, I do not remember Tulsa having the suicides other eastern cities had, but jobs and money were scarce. We had a good sized equity in our 5-room house and so were allowed to pay only the interest on payments until things straightened out and we could refinance. However, a flat cut of 10% throughout all the Mid-Continent workers was made two times. 

We weathered it by letting the taxes take an 80 acre farm and a city lot belonging to my dad and by cutting down to essentials. We had only Erwin's salary to take care of two children, my father, Erwin's mother and the two of us. In 1934, our third son Frank was born, in '35 my father died, and in '36 Grandma Schad died. These expenses were ours. No insurance was available then such as we now have and it took us several years to get all debts paid.

During the very dry summer of 1934, our house was like an oven due to the extended heat. I felt this heat worse than the celebrated summer of 1936. Dust storms caused Oklahoma to be dubbed the "dust bowl." We wet large Turkish towels and hung them over the open windows by day to keep the dust out. Frank was born March 5 of that year and really caused us concern trying to keep him from suffering from the dust and heat.

There was some relief at night as we moved beds into the fenced back yard and put Frank in his buggy with mosquito netting over it. Sleeping wasn't too bad out there. Everywhere beds were outdoors, on porches and in yards. Having a small baby and being responsible for so many people, I felt the heat worse. We had no rain for over two months and temperatures hovered at 100 degrees.

Crops burned up and plowed ground with no vegetation became dust as the top soil blew away. There were not as many man-made lakes as we have now and the water was rationed so that there was not enough to keep things growing. Many farmers picked up whatever they could load onto whatever they had in which to travel and left the rest behind. Most went to California to work in the orange groves. Thus the term "Okie" from Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" depicted what the summer of 1934 was like for us.

The 48 states had their own laws governing prohibition before World War I. Some were wet, some were dry, and some bone dry. The Indian Territory was bone dry. The 18th amendment prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor; the 21st amendment repealed prohibition. Oklahoma remained bone dry. Governor Murray called a special election on May 24, 1933. Tax laws were re-organized and 3.2 beer was declared non-intoxicating and legal. Not until July 11, 1959 was the state allowed to buy and sell liquor. At this time liquor could now be sold by the bottle in package stores. Not until the summer of 1985 did liquor by the drink become a reality.

During Prohibition, people, including my father, made home brew even though it was against the law to do so. At times it became hard to prevent others from knowing that he brewed his own. When the weather was cool, if I left to go to the store or such, when I came home I could smell beer all over the house because Dad had brought the five gallon bottle into the dining room to keep it warm by the stove.

Often in the summer he bottled the beer and then he put it in his clothes closet. There was no air conditioning and all the windows and doors were open. One day one of the bottles blew up. Harry, then six years old, ran in to see what the trouble was. He picked up the broken bottle and cut his finger. It required a bandage. I heard him tell our neighbor that Grandpa's beer bottle blew up and he cut his finger on the glass.

In the late thirties after Skelly Stadium was built, John Phillips Sousa came to Tulsa. The different high school bands met at the stadium. The field was covered with these bands and Sousa conducted all the bands at the same time as they played his marches. As we lived only 1 1/2 blocks from the stadium, we took the boys there to hear the program and see Sousa. We all were impressed by this program.

When Harry and Charles were about 12 and 14 years old, they wanted to have bicycles. My husband told them he would match whatever amount of money they could make doing odd jobs in order to get them their own bicycles.

We had a snowstorm right after this agreement was reached and the boys took shovels and decided to see what they could make cleaning the snow from our neighbors' walks. The first day they got a pretty good part of their share of the needed money. In a few weeks spring was here and they cut grass for these same neighbors. As a result, the boys had their half of the cost of the bikes much sooner than our budget could really handle. But the boys got their bicycles. Then they decided to get jobs.

Harry applied at Eastside Poultry Market close to where we lived. Harry would pick the feathers off the chickens and then deliver the dressed chickens to customers. He did this for a couple of weeks. When Mr. McFetridge with the Tulsa World learned he was working, he offered Harry a job delivering papers. The McFetridge's, Mildred and Lyle, lived across the street directly in front of us. Of course Harry accepted the paper route. It was one of the few jobs available to young boys in junior high school.

Charles took over Harry's job at the chicken place. Every Saturday Charles delivered 12 chickens to a large house on South Lewis, a distance of several miles from the shop. His salary was $2.00 a week. I gave each boy a jar in which to keep his money. Their money jars were kept in the secretary and only they had access to them. Their money seemed to go a long way in buying things they wanted. That summer they bought things like swimming suits and things in general that they wanted.

Charles's work stopped when he started to school in the fall. He wasn't old enough to be a paper boy. However, the following summer he was allowed to be a carrier even though he was 6 months short of the minimum age of 14. The boys carried the World paper routes all through high school. Their money was always their responsibility. Also they had to pay their paper bills and then collect from their customers. 

What they did with their money was their business, but both took care of a great deal of their school expenses including buying their lunches at times and buying some of their text books. The paper routes were as educational as any school subject. The boys learned what it was to work, how to deal with people, and how to manage their money.

Probably about 1937, when Hitler was feeling his oats, we used to listen to his broadcasts in German as well as broadcasts from the South Pole when the explorers were sending by short wave in the United States for re-broadcasting on a different frequency.

We had what was called a spider-web antenna, so called because it looked like a huge web. It was strung between poles on the roof of the house and the roof of the detached garage (most people had garages that were separate from the house then). This antenna and our short wave receiver made it possible to hear these broadcasts as they were happening.

Hitler's talks were always in German and meant for European ears only. My husband, being of German descent, had grown up speaking German in his home. He had also taught in a rural school, a school composed of German children who knew very little English. Hitler's talks he could translate on the spot. I remember when Hitler gained power. Erwin's remark was, "The German people are in for it now." It upset Erwin very much.

After one of these broadcasts, we were discussing the outlook for the future of Europe. Looking out the door, we saw Frank, our three-year-old, marching up and down on the sidewalk saying, "We're German, we're German!" Of course I got him inside the house as quickly as I could and tried to explain that we were Americans of several generations, that Americans, except Indians, all are descendants of foreign countries. Frank thought that because we listened to these German broadcasts we were German.

Frank got the mumps about this same time. In those days you had to report mumps, measles, and any other communicable diseases to the health department. Then a sign was placed on your door for quarantine. I had called the doctor to see what was wrong with Frank. Our regular doctor (Dr. Gilbert) was in Santa Fe on vacation and his assistant Dr. Ford came to our house for the first time.

My husband's spider web antenna caught his attention first. Coming into the living room, the doctor saw in a corner a white porcelain table with a short wave receiver on it, which showed up like a sore thumb amid our mahogany furniture. As we walked down the hall, he saw a white box with bantam eggs in it and a light bulb. Harry was trying to hatch bantam eggs. When the doctor got to the bedroom that Frank and Charles shared, there was a three tube radio Charles had built with the antenna stretched around the room.

As we passed each experiment, I noticed the doctor's quizzical expression at each new project. I began to apologize, but to my surprise he said, "Oh, Mrs. Schad, you don't know what these things will mean to the boys." He was really delighted to see our museum.

Charles was two and Harry was three and a half when we moved to Florence Place, a home-owned neighborhood. By the time Frank was born, we were well acquainted. Frank was the pet of our side of the street. Neighbors had watched the other boys grow from almost babyhood and Frank was the only baby for several houses away. He was in and out of these houses since all had an interest in him.

We had sidewalks so there was no traffic problem. He must have been about three years old at the time the following incident took place at Florence Place. One day near dinner time, I called Frank and he didn't come. He wasn't at any of the usual places. Harry and Charles got on their bikes and scouted the neighborhood. They found Frank in a sort of dugout some boys had made in a vacant lot on Harvard two blocks away.

He was playing with the boys who had dug the cave. Needless to say the neighbors as well as we were glad he had been found, but of course something had to be done to impress on him not to do such a thing again. Erwin told him he was not to get out of the yard the next day unless one of his older brothers was with him.

The next morning Charles asked me to pack a lunch for Frank and him. He wanted to take Frank out to Mohawk Lake and fish. This he would have to do by riding his bicycle with both of them on it. I felt that would be hard on Charles as it was several miles to the lake. He managed to talk me into it and not until they were gone did it register with me that rather than being punished Frank had an outing and a fun day.

Since Frank was born eight years after Charles, he was sort of a toy. We all enjoyed watching him grow up. As a result, we can recall many experiences both humorous and hair-raising.

Once such an experience occurred when the older brothers wanted to take Frank downtown to a picture show. I felt there was too much traffic and told the two of them to go see it if they wanted to but I thought they had better leave Frank at home. To this they said, "We don't want to go if Frank can't, so could we walk out to the fairgrounds and take him?" Since the fairgrounds were only four or five blocks from where we lived, I said yes. They took their dog Coco along.

At this time knickers were worn. Frank had on a pair and when he got home I noticed they were torn and his legs had scratches where they were bare. I asked Frank what had happened. "Oh, that's where I got scratched when Harry threw me through the fence when the Brahman bull was chasing us," he answered.

Harry had thrown Frank through the fence; he and Charles had jumped the fence; Coco had chased the bull back over the fence into his pen. Going to the show would have been much safer.

In 1939, we were still living on Florence Place. We lived on the dividing line for Kendall and Lanier elementary schools. Harry and Charles had gone to Kendall. The McFetridge's lived across the street from us and Mrs. McFetridge and I took turns seeing that out children got across 11th Street, which was also Highway 66.

When Frank started to school, the Ansell's lived across the street from us. They had a daughter, Carol Jean, two hours older than Frank. Dr. Osborn had delivered Carol Jean at noon in St. John Hospital and Frank at 2:10 in Hillcrest Hospital. We decided to take the children to Lanier. When it rained or was bad, Mrs. McFetridge got Harry and Charles and her children at Kendall school; Mr. Ansell had a barber shop close by and he took the children to Lanier in bad weather. Fifteenth Street was the busy crossing for Lanier school.

I had been having trouble with my appendix for some time, but one morning I felt as if my left side was paralyzed--at least it was numb. I called my doctor and he said for me to come in at 1:30. This time was fine as Frank went to Kindergarten from 1:00 to 3:00. I called Mrs. Ansell to see whether she could pick up Frank after school. She agreed to do so.

The Fifteenth street bus went to Harvard and south to 17th Street to Lanier school which was the end of the run. I usually walked to the school with them but, as I had to be at the doctor's office at 1:30, I decided to put Frank on the bus. The driver would see that he got off at the school and a policeman was there to help him across the street.

While walking from our house to 15th Street, I asked Frank, "Do you think you will be all right if I put you on the bus to go to school?" His reply was, "Yes. I might as well. You're getting along about that age now." "What age is that?" I asked. "Well, in another year or two you will be Grandma and I'll have to look after myself. I might as well begin now."

The outcome of the trip I had to the doctor was an emergency appendix operation. My niece Sara who had finished high school came to be with us while I was in the hospital. She managed the house and watched after Frank when he got home from school.

Erwin had to be at the office by 8:00 a.m. and didn't get home until after 5:00. Harry and Charles and Sara managed the cooking. Sara would help with the cooking, but Harry and Charles took turns buying groceries. The three of them did a very good job keeping house.

I was released from the hospital, but I was still in bed (no getting up from surgery in a couple of days then as you can now). Frank was excited as he hadn't seen me since I had taken him to the bus stop. He and Erwin were in the bedroom talking with me. Frank told us what all had gone on at school. His story got larger and larger. Finally he couldn't find a way to end it so, looking up at his daddy, he said, "That might be a lie, Daddy."

Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers
Copyright 2012 
All rights reserved.