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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Coping with the Great Depression by taking on boarders and growing food

Gilbert remembers the Great Depression, during which he was out of work for eleven weeks. He never had to join a bread line, he remembers, though many of his fellow furniture factory workers did. He attributes this good fortune to income generated from boarders and to the family garden. This self-sufficiency has not made the Gilberts resent those who accept help from the government, but they do dislike those who take welfare without really needing it or who squander the help they get.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Gilbert, Summer 1977. Interview H-0121. 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

PATTY DILLEY:
Do you remember how much you all were getting paid then?
FRANK GILBERT:
That was before that Depression come along. The most I ever made was $3.75 a day over at Conover Furniture. Three seventy-five a day for ten hours is thirty-seven and a half cents an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then the Depression came on.
FRANK GILBERT:
Yes, and then I got cut down to fifteen cents an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
What was the longest time that you ever went without working?
FRANK GILBERT:
I was off eleven weeks one time and never done a thing.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you do during the eleven weeks? Did you have your garden out here during that time?
FRANK GILBERT:
I didn't live here at that time, but I always had a garden wherever I lived. I don't remember whether that come in gardening time or not.
PATTY DILLEY:
I was just wondering if your garden kind of helped pull you through.
FRANK GILBERT:
It would. I think what would be the best help was the girl boarders, some of my sisters and a couple of my cousins. That helped us. Now they had pretty regular work in the hosiery and the glove mill; they had better work than we had. I mean more regular. Made a little out of that. Everybody had to hit the bread line.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you never did have to.
FRANK GILBERT:
Never did.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did a lot of people that worked in the furniture plant with you have to go out and hit the bread line?
FRANK GILBERT:
There was a lot of them that did. They had a place up here right across from the depot building where they went to get their food. There was as high as 250 people there in that line at one time.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you know anybody that went on relief? How did they feel about having to do that?
FRANK GILBERT:
It was something they couldn't help. I don't know how they felt. No use to feel bad about it; it was something that just couldn't have been helped at that time. There are a lot of people that's on now that's too lazy to work. Most everybody I knew worked then. There wasn't no welfare or nothing like that you could get on.
PATTY DILLEY:
How do you feel about welfare and food stamps and that kind of stuff today?
FRANK GILBERT:
It's all right what it was meant for. There's a lot of people on it that wouldn't need to be. They'd rather be on welfare than to work steady.
MRS. GILBERT:
And don't you think the ones that run it, come the time when they get money, build such big, fine buildings. They put the money more in there than they do to help the persons. I know one thing that they do to the poor people. We've been lucky enough we never had to be on it, and knew how it was. They didn't mind taking their house. I'm talking about if you had a person to be sick a long time. I don't know which is the worst, these homes they've got, or the way they used to do that and take almost everything a person had, their house. Help you out, you know, and then take your property.