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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Effect of the Great Depression on farm life and children

The beginning of this passage picks up at the end of another story connecting Gore to his agricultural constituency. After explaining the pressures his parents faced as farmers and how they overcame those despite the tragedy of the Great Depression, Gore reveals the struggles he had to even attend college. Because his family could not afford to help him pay for college, he had to drop out and work some semesters to earn the funds to finish his education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Anyway, in this way we had beef, and we killed our own pork, and cured our hams. My mother furnished most of the food for the family with chickens, and eggs, and cows. So we produced our eggs, and our milk, and our beef, and our pork. My brother was quite good with the rifle, and later I developed some proficiency and we added to the food for the family with squirrels and rabbits, now and then a young groundhog and what we call a white crest chicken hawk, which is marvelous food. Chicken hawk is, to me, better than turkey. And then of course, my mother canned everything, I mean everything. She was good. Her food was excellent. She made kraut, pickles. We had an ash hopper and we burned wood for a fuel in the stove, the cooking stove and the fireplaces. The ashes would go into the ash hopper, and with a portion of water lye would come from this, and this was used to make soap. There were always chickens and butter and eggs and most of the time some cream to sell for the spending money of the family. The money my father earned went to pay off the mortgage. I don't mean to say that, I don't mean by saying that my mother was the breadwinner, that my father was not industrious and diligent. He was, but his money went to pay off the mortgage and later to store some small amount of deposits in the bank, our banks, all of which were lost. Before the crash, he had become uneasy about the soundness of banks, so his small savings, I think which was in the order, I believe, of about $8,000, were divided up into deposits in different banks. Either three or five banks were near our home in different local communities. And within a few days, all of those banks failed, and he never recovered one dollar from his savings. So I may be hastening ahead in my answer to your question to other things, but these, this independent reliance, this independence of the family had a part in molding my personality and my philosophy and my attitudes. I knew it was possible to be self-reliant, to live an independent existence. Not entirely so; we're all interdependent, but far more so today for most people than for me. But to advert, I think that these experiences were common to a great many people, most people in this area. But somehow, I was about the only young man in my generation from Possum Hollow who went to college or who seemed to desire to do so.
Did you find it necessary to work while you were in college or between college sessions? Could you tell us about the . . .
Oh yes, indeed. At no time did I attend college more than two consecutive quarters. I frequently would work for a quarter, then go a quarter. Or maybe work for two quarters and go two quarters. And not only drop out and work but earn my meals by waiting on tables. I had one amusing experience. I was then at the University of Tennessee. I secured a job as a waiter in a restaurant in downtown Knoxville, on Gay Street. And the compensation for my work was my meals. But I was lectured in the beginning that my meals were to be enough to satisfy a reasonable appetite, but not to overfeed one. I had the misfortune of getting caught one time eating my pie a la mode. And I got fired. [laughter] That was an inordinate appetite-ice cream on one's apple pie. So I lost this job.