When The Substitute Is Wearing White Diamonds

The Dust Bowl by Duncan & Burns

If you’ve frequented this blog, you know I loooooooathe White Diamonds. Having endured the presence of not one, but two Boomer women in my life who sported the scent, I can honestly say that it makes my stomach churn. Colognes are so subjective. In any event, these poor kids wish they were breathing the scent of rank perfume. Instead, they were stuck in an Oklahoma one-room school smack dab in the middle of the Depression, covering their mouths against the dust that had permeated the air and suffocated cattle. Dust pneumonia, aka the brown plague, proved lethal for children and the elderly. Makes the cedar pollen plumes of smoke in my home state seem tame.

Photo by Bert Garai/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Halitosis In Extremis

I Remember Distinctly

No, it wasn’t bad breath that caused Marie Micholowsky to pass clean out in her brother Frank’s arms. Believe it or not, this image was snapped at HOUR 3327 into a Chicago dance marathon. The seated woman shares my sentiment exactly. Girl, what were you thinking?

Now most of us have heard of dance marathons, especially popular during the 20s and 30s. But did you know that some lasted for weeks, even months? This particular one began on August 29, 1930 and ended in 1931. And yes, they did get intervals in which to nap. But can you imagine having started dancing TWO WEEKS AGO, only to ultimately finish next January? I guess these couples didn’t have jobs? Or families?

This next pair had the benefit of not being siblings in embrace, but you can see the pickle petite Anna Lawanick is in, having to support slumbering Jack Ritof, aka the failure.

Library of Congress/Corbis via Getty Images

What had begun as opportunities for the glow of youth to show its endurance and immortality eventually morphed into the exploitation of those who desperately needed the cash reward given to the last couple standing. As you can see, the onlookers (who paid an entrance fee to gawk) kept their eyes on the dance floor.

But what of the pain in their feet? Rules often allowed for one partner to visit the restroom or nap as long as the other partner continued dancing, so the feet were only briefly spared their dancing duties. The contestants below received medical attention for their tootsies during a Madison Square Garden marathon in June of 1928, where the prize was $5000, more than an average annual income.

Spectacle it was, as folks pushed themselves past the point of exhaustion, and in the case of Homer Morehouse, heart failure at the age of 27.


The predecessor to today’s reality shows or movies like Hands On A Hard Body, dance marathons proved both cruel and entertaining. Ultimately, the fad passed as fads do, and Americans moved on to the next big thing.

Well, They Were Right About Black Tuesday

Only two weeks after the stock market plummet of Black Tuesday (not to be confused with the upcoming Black Friday), Current Events newspaper was already trying to determine how history would look back upon the crash of the stock market and beginning of what would later be termed The Great Depression.

My Granddad Bill kept this paper from when he was nine years old. Here is the cover of the weekly that was used by students across America.

While the optimism was admirable, they seemed to believe the worst of the effects would be limited to 1929, rather than a depression that would carry them all the way into the second World War. But such is the hindsight allowed in only a handful of days. The Roaring Twenties would roar no more.


Granddad’s Monthly Test #1

My granddad Bill was born in 1920. Wasn’t he a happy toddler? As a child of The Depression, he tended to hoard things–things others might toss without batting an eye. Much of it was unnecessarily saved, but among his piles of things salvaged were monthly tests. Today I share one that he took in 1930, just after he turned 10 years old.

I hope that you have found this interesting. You can see how children only 9 and 10 were already learning about Fascism before they ever learned about Hitler. One wonders if children nowadays are so aware of their political system. Actually, one is certain they are not. They are busy playing Fortnite. Perhaps I will share more of these in the future, as a testament to the lives of those in The Greatest Generation.


Dust In The Wind, Part 3

Time to get the H out of Dodge.

The Dust Bowl by Duncan & Burns
all images from “The Dust Bowl” by Duncan & Burns

A New Mexico man sits in a stupor, as some of the millions of grasshoppers that invaded the land swarm his window.

Said Sam Arguello of Union County, New Mexico in 1938:

You’d pull on the reins and the horse would slide on the grasshoppers. And that’s a fact. That’s not make-believe. I went through it. I know it.

If it wasn’t grasshoppers, it was erosion. thedustbowl-014

And with erosion, came the dust. Below a black blizzard hits Elkhart, Kansas on May 21, 1937.


FDR encouraged these Boise City farmers to stay put, offering the promise of help and hope. Said Timothy Egan, “Here’s a land that God Himself seems to have given up on, getting the backhand of nature.”


But many could not heed his words. The Dust Bowl exodus was the largest migration in American history. According to www.pbs.org, by 1940, 2.5 million people had moved out of the Plains states; of those, 200,000 moved to California.

This Texas family loaded up their goat and hit the road, Jack.


Complications would arise, but this Texan father was able to repair the back axle while his family waited in the shade of a tarp.


Eventually, the drought let up, and precipitation returned. By the end of 1939, the Dust Bowl had shrunk to 1/5 its previous size. By 1940, the drought was officially over, and many farmers harvested their first profitable crop since 1930.

According to Lorene Delay White in The Dust Bowl: An Illustrated History:

Now one will ever know what it meant to us to have it rain. That’s what we prayed for, what we yearned for, was the rain that came that would soak in to the ground and let us raise a crop and eventually stop the dust.

Central Park “Hooverville”

Illustrated History of US-Central Park, NY
Illustrated History of US-Central Park, NY

“During the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted approximately a decade, shantytowns appeared across the U.S. as unemployed people were evicted from their homes. As the Depression worsened in the 1930s, causing severe hardships for millions of Americans, many looked to the federal government for assistance. When the government failed to provide relief, President Herbert Hoover was blamed for the intolerable economic and social conditions, and the shantytowns that cropped up across the nation, primarily on the outskirts of major cities, became known as Hoovervilles.”–www.history.com