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