As the furnace kicked on this chilly Sunday morning for the first time this fall, I am grateful for these creature comforts we take for granted. Not always so in the past, especially during the great depression era when in Toledo and elsewhere, the survival against the brutal realities of cold and hunger were all too common. This I found evidenced recently by a another poignant piece from Toledo News Bee writer Elmer Williams, who on this day October 6th of 1930, offered readers a glimpse of how some unfortunates were coping with their struggle to survive in a tent colony at Bay View Park. The story could have been torn from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, but was penned long before the famous novelist brought home to readers around the world the tragic American journey of the Joad family.
Williams shared those same sensibilities as he told the story of the Toledo families who took refuge at Bay View Park.
Hunger closed in Monday upon the forlorn tent colony in the Bay View campgrounds where 100 human souls are fighting for a chance to live. After a silent siege of many weeks of want and starvation have brought this crisis. A score of children in the thinnest of clothes, cried for food. Mothers determined not to let down the bars of pride sought to comfort them with crusts of bread. Workingmen, in the last struggles of desperation, combed the nearby thickets for firewood to warm their thin and unprotected tents.
This camp is composed not of tourists or transients but of families who in some cases have lived for years in Toledo and who lost their homes here because of extended periods of unemployment.
“I don’t want to give you my name, or to have anyone else know about it.” said the mother of two children who was trying in vain to coax warmth of of an improvised stove. “We have friends in Toledo and my husband is too proud to go to them. He is sure he will find work.”
..Williams goes on to write.. that one mother had confessed that her child hadn’t eaten for several days, and none of the families had made appeals for charity. If the family does have an automobile, it is parked beside the tent with an empty gas tank and no money to buy any. Family possessions are covered with canvas to protect against the elements.
In the article, Williams noted a gesture of charity from the Toledo Police ranks. Just across the road from the camp the Toledo Police Shooting range was located and the officer stationed there, Sergeant Buck Dear, took two of the young girls from the camp into his family home to be cared for and they are being sent to school.
Meanwhile, reporter Williams closes the article as he pens: “ One little girl of school age sat in a tent beside her mother, but the mother would not let her go hungry. The father had left without anything to eat. A few attempts have been made to wall the tents up for the winter. It is the last futile gesture in a battle already lost.”
News Bee Oct 6th 1930
8 responses to “The Remembrance of a Toledo October Chill”
Another good one. A different time for sure. People had pride and instilled that in their children; rather than a belief in entitlement.
The depth of poverty in our country seems impossible.
Sent from my iPhone, dave.
What a chilling story! I am so grateful and thank God for what i have!
The sad part of this story is that history repeats itself. We’re beginning to see these events happen again. If you know your history, you know your future.
Thanks to all for your comments. I think that sometimes the past has a way of putting the present in perspective.
The story is moving. I am curious, though, about the name Sgt. Buck Dear. Really? I wonder if other names in the piece were changed to protect identities.
Nancy, I will check at Police Museum to see if such an officer ever existed. Could have been a nickname. Not sure, I’ll check.
Nancy, I discovered that there was indeed a police office at the shooting range named “Buck” Dear. Buck was a nickname and his real name was Lyman. He had been on the police department for a number of years, and had been credited with being one of the builders of that iconic shooting range. He left the department in 1936, dismissed for being a part of the so-called “Black Legion” which was equated to a KKK chapter within the department ranks.
I think we tend to forget that the Great Depression wasn’t a natural disaster like a flood or tornado that “just happened.” It was caused by human greed, and the suffering of its victims was relieved by human (i.e., government intervention) action. WPA, CCC, and ADC were some of the programs that literally saved lives. Today they would be called “entitlement” or “welfare.” Back then, they were just considered simple human decency.