Hard Times

When it was time for us to leave, Hawkins took both myhands in his big paws, looked me in the eyes, smiled a big, fat genial smile, and said, “Okay now, young fella, I want you to be sure and grow up to be a good, solid labor union man. Ya hear?” And he deftly slipped me a folded dollar bill.

Afterwards, my grandfather took me into the Labor Temple cafeteria, where I bought us sandwiches for lunch, with two-bits left over—thanks to our favorite labor boss, Andy Hawkins.

The following Monday, Jim Dewey was one of four “lucky” union laborers who reported to the City for work, digging ditches with pick and shovel, ten hours a day, six days a week. That back-breaking job lasted three, maybe four months.

***

In our neighborhood, all the younger kids seemed tohave apple box scooters. My grandfather helped me to make mine. We started with a hunk of 2×4′ about three or four feet long. On the bottom, we attached old roller skate wheels, well-oiled. We screwed two in front, two in back. On the top, we nailed upright a solid, wooden apple box, which our friendly neighborhood grocer gave to me. We screwed a pair of whittled wooden handles on the top of the box. And that was all there was to it. Voila. I had myself a hand-crafted Hood River apple box scooter.

The kids raced these scooters. Mine turned out to be a slow racer. But I did get to a level where I could boldly roll for almost half a block, balanced on the 2×4′, without using the apple box handles. “Look, Ma, no hands!”

***

There was no letup. As the 1930s wore on, the Depression worsened. ‘30, ‘31, ‘32 were the cruelest years. Almost one-third of the nation’s workforce was out of a job. Another 25% or more worked part time. Those lucky enough to have some kind of job found that wages were about half of what they were during the “Roaring Twenties. More corporations, large and small, were going under. All over the US, banks were collapsing, closing their doors, taking people’s savings accounts down with them. It was an epidemic. People were bewildered. A sick feeling of fear swept across the land.

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