Occasionally, I publish some of Mr. Montgomery’s musings edited only for grammatical errors. Since it was Mr. Montgomery’s birthday this week, here is another of his reflections of earlier times.
LIFE in the depression 1930’s
The great stock market debacle happened in October 1929, and by 1930/31 the whole country was in the poor house. However, being a little boy I was mostly unaware of this problem. I do remember riding in the car with my father on business trips (over several years). I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time. We would drive up to a gas station and get 5 gallons of gas, then go to another gas station and get another 5 gallons. We would stop at a variety of small stores and pick up misc groceries, and other things. Years later I realized that he was collecting his bills (it was barter) and money was really scarce. We were in the office machine business and cash registers and adding machines were part of the sale – except many people had almost no money to spend. So, the barter system was very handy.
As I look back on it now, we were squeezing every nickel we could. I think we were actually poor, but as a child I never knew about this kind of problem.
We were in Yakima Washington because my father had made a real estate investment, back about 1930/31, by buying a piece of farmland right next to the Washington State Fair grounds in Yakima. The property adjoined the fair grounds fence (near the hog pens) and also directly adjoined the race track – a whole 3 acres of former Pear orchard. I think he hoped to sell this piece of real estate to the State Fair people for an expansion project of the fair grounds. Apparently the deal failed to materialize. I think the fair board actually bought another property on the other side of the grounds. So, I guess we were stuck with this little 3 acres in the “Fairview” district on the Moxee road, a place that’s “nowhere”.
I think my father rented the place, and moved down town in Yakima to our typewriter shop on 2nd Street. We set-up housekeeping in the back of the shop, sold and fixed Underwood typewriters in front, and lived in a 3 or 4 room space in back (complete with an iron cook-stove for cooking and heating the whole place).
I discovered we weren’t the only ones living in their business place. There was a tailor shop next door with the old tailor living in back. All over this business area in the main part of town, people were doubling up on living in their business locations.
I have a vague memory of prices: A 1-lb loaf of bread was 5 cents, quart of milk 10 cents (delivered), child admission to a movie was 10 cents ( Saturday matinees were 5 cents). Gas was around 8 or 10 cents a gallon (at stations with a hand operated pump) and a 50 lb block of ice was 50 cents. We had an experienced mechanic who got paid at approximately 25 cents per hour, or just $20.00 per week. There were 2 or 3 fancy looking marble faced buildings that were standing vacant. Failed banks were common.
AND; I remember a big construction project, a new hotel for Yakima (1930/31 ?) The construction job suddenly stopped one-day, and was never started until about 1947. Standing right downtown in Yakima was this 14 story steel/concrete skeleton (I referred to it as “The Fresh-Air Hotel”) that stood there in all it’s naked glory for years before it was finally completed as the Chinook Hotel, long gone out business itself now.
My mother was not happy with domestic arrangements in Yakima, and before long she moved back to Seattle (more than once). The result as I went to schools in Seattle, and schools in Yakima, on several occasions.