Life during the Great Depression
Interviewed Walter Kaufman
Walter was born in 1905 on the family farm 11 miles southeast of Freeman. During the depression he was 25 and helping run the family farm because his father had suffered a stroke. Most of the farm work was done with horses, although they had one tractor. In 1931 Walter married his sweetheart Annie and they moved to their own farm nearby. Walter and Annie had four children, three sons and one daughter. All of the children were born in the later 1930’s, so they were not really affected by the depression. He went to an auction sale and bought several pieces of machinery for $50.
During the 1930’s the dust storms got so bad that they had to light the lanterns during the day. Sometimes it got so bad that you couldn’t see across the yard and they would tie a rope from the barn to the house, so they could find their way to and from the barn when they went out to do chores. Crops were poor because of the lack of moisture and the fact that the soil blew away in the wind. Farm people got by with the little they could grow in their gardens, chickens and eggs they raised.
Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became president he implemented jobs building roads, dams, and state parks. This provided more income for families and times got better. Walter of course didn’t do these jobs because he was busy running the farm. He says that he hopes the drought will never happen again because it would be even harder on us now, than it was on them in the 1930’s. Walter lives at the Salem Mennonite Home located here in Freeman and at the age of 99 he is in very good health.