Hard Times: An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression
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First published in 1970, Studs Terkel’s bestselling Hard Times has been called “a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit” (Saturday Review) and “an invaluable record” (The New York Times). With his trademark grace and compassion, Terkel evokes a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were destitute: politicians, businessmen, artists and writers, racketeers, speakeasy operators, strikers, impoverished farmers, people who were just kids, and those who remember losing a fortune.
Now, in a handsome new illustrated edition, a selection of Studs’s unforgettable interviews are complemented by images from another rich documentary trove of the Depression experience: Farm Security Administration photographs from the Library of Congress. Interspersed throughout the text of Hard Times, these breathtaking photographs by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Jack Delano, and others expand the human scope of the voices captured in the book, adding a new dimension to Terkel’s incomparable volume. Hard Times is the perfect introduction to Terkel’s work for new readers, as well as a beautiful new addition to any Terkel library.
were as contemptuous of the poor then as they are now. But among the people that I knew, we all had an understanding that it wasn’t our fault. It was something that had happened to the machinery. Most people blamed Hoover, and they cussed him up one side and down the other—it was all his fault. I’m not saying he’s blameless, but I’m not saying either it was all his fault. Our system doesn’t run by just one man, and it doesn’t fall by just one man, either. You don’t recall at any time feeling a
bank at Fort Knox is gonna go broke. Even after the soup line, there wasn’t anything. The WPA came, and I married. My husband worked on the WPA. This was back in Paducah, Kentucky. We were just kids. I was fifteen, and he was sixteen. My husband was digging ditches. They were putting in a water main. Parts of the city, even at that late date, 1937, didn’t have city water. My husband and me just started traveling around, for about three years. It was a very nice time, because when you’re poor
friends. Anything went, and everything did go. Today, there are very few bankers of any repute who have objected to the Securities Exchange Commission. They believe that the regulation in 1933 was a very, very sound thing for our business. In ’32 and ’33, there was no securities business to speak of. We played a lot of bridge in the afternoons on LaSalle Street. There was nobody to call or see. It was so quiet, you could hear a certificate drop. (Laughs.) Nobody was making a living. A lot of
even during the Depression. My mother’d set up everything just so and so. I used to go to my girlfriend’s to eat. They used to have a pile of Italian food on the table. She’d come over to my place to eat, because she liked the way everything was set up. Some of the kids seemed a little better off at the Catholic school. I used to spend most of my time under the desk, lookin’ at the nun’s black-top shoes. It seems I always was doin’ somethin’ to get punished. I was gonna bite her in the knee one
have too many regrets. I would have been a nice rich guy probably, with a practice . . . I would have been one of many other fellows. As it is, I’m myself, unique, as they say. (Smiles.) I have no regrets. . . . * The men who worked from 4:30 P.M. to 12:30 A.M. * Frank Murphy. He subsequently became a Supreme Court justice. † See Harry Norgard’s interpretation in the sequence “Strive and Succeed,” p. 405. * Several other General Motors plants in Flint were the scenes of similar sit-downs. “At