Depression on the Farm, 1932-1935

 
 
In 1932, Miller Rubber Company, which had been bought by B.F. Goodrich, decided it could no longer afford to keep two assistant cashiers, and laid Guy off. Because so many others in the local rubber industry had lost their jobs, he had plenty of good company, but they gave him the sack just 6 months shy of 20 years' employment, meaning he would get no pension at all.

Ebba was working as a nurse up in Cleveland by then, and tried to send as much money as she could to help out, but it wasn't enough.

Don, having graduated with a divinity degree, had hung up his cleats and was trying to find a pulpit.

Grandma Haugh had passed away in 1930, Aunt Minnie was living elsewhere by then, so with the two younger boys and Lorenzo and Mary Rebecca in tow, Guy and Ada moved to the farm they had bought near Greensburg, in Green Township, about 15 miles south.

Her younger sister, Zoe Clare Howe, was born two years

The land, with its barn and farmhouse, stood on the road from Greensburg to Manchester, and encompassed two small and boggy lakes. Ebba christened it Twa Lochs. In late 1932, the family moved out of their beloved Center Street House and rented it out.

Very few photographs of the property exist, but Ada's descriptions of it are glowing and optimistic. They had intended to retire here, but the Depression forced their hand.

The farmhouse was rustic and hard to heat. The barn was dilapidated, and sometimes quilts were required to keep the livestock -- pigs, cows, and horses -- warm.

Dave and Bob attended Greensburg School, shown here in the early 1900s. It was a few miles down the road, and they were picked up by schoolbus.

This is what the school looked like when Bob and Dave went to school there. All 12 grades were housed together.

Dave's name on a list of 1934 graduates that came out of a 1939 time capsule opened in February, 2016 after the school was torn down in the fall of 2015. Dave was known as the Sheik of Greensburg High, and Bob was nicknamed Einstein Burns.

 

Bobby in Nimisilla Creek, which ran behind the farmhouse.

The Burns Family picked a bad time to start farming. The years 1932-1935 were some of the driest on record from 1895-1992.

The crops either failed miserably or grew in such abundance they literally couldn't give them away.

Lorenzo passed away on January 19, 1935, and Ohio passed a pension law.
This meant that Mary Rebecca could afford to go live with Aunt May in Cuyahoga Falls, which made things simpler.

But Guy and Ada were exhausted after three long and difficult years. Bob remembers going without meat for long stretches at a time, which could explain the anemia they suffered from later. Bobby started playing hooky, though he graduated eventually.

Even their old dog Laddie was getting discouraged. Bob and Dave were the ones who came up with the idea of pulling up stakes and moving to the Pacific Northwest, having read about it in a National Geographic (Ebba insisted on paying for a subscription).

Everyone hated the idea of leaving Ebba and Don behind, but Ebba not only had a good job at Lakeside Hospital,
and also a beau, a Canadian-born steeplejack named Gerald Burke.

 
Don meanwhile was working in at Goodyear and getting involved in rubber workers' union activities. This photo is from a 1936 action by Goodyear unionist and sympathizers, who shut down Market Street.

He had also met the lovely Helen Cleo Bridges, transplant from Tennessee, who was studying at Akron University to be a teacher. They were both enrolled in Professor Sappington's philosophy class, and he had eventually worked up the courage to ask her out.

 

A final dismal dry winter sealed the deal. They sold all their furniture, bought a truck, and outfitted it for travel.

In the meantime, huge duststorms were blanketing the midwest, products of the same drought that was driving them out of Ohio.


In July of 1935, they loaded up the truck and said goodbye to everything they'd known since they'd married 31 years before.
I saw these places in 2015: (top) Center Street house; May's house; Roethig the grocer; farm, (bottom) church.


Within three days they were in Wisconsin.



A few days later they reached the midwest.

They tarried a while in the Black Hills and in Yellowstone National Park, not least because they ran out of money and asked Ebba to wire some, which she did.

By the end of July, they had crossed the Cascades and entered what must have seemed like Ecotopia. They had their truck and the possessions packed inside, the clothes on their backs, and about $100.


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