With money short, people during the Depression found happiness
where they could. Movies were escapist fare. Parlor games and
board games became popular. Parker Brothers introduced
Monopoly, which allowed people who had lost land and homes to
buy imaginary real estate with play money.
Radio was king, offering everything from Jack Benny to the Lone
Ranger to Franklin Rooseveltâ€™s Fireside Chats. Mystery
novels by writers like Agatha Christie, Dashiel Hammett and
Raymond Chandler were popular. Swing music became the rage,
as people danced to the big bands of Benny Goodman, Duke
Ellington, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
Artists were put to work with funds from the WPA. Gutzon
Borglum completed Mount Rushmore. Others were commissioned
to paint murals, on themes of American history and culture, on the
walls of government buildings. The Federal Music Project
promoted American composers like Aaron Copland. The
Department of the Interior hired Woody Guthrie to travel through
the Northwest performing his folk songs.
Clothes were designed to last, with simple print dresses with
waistlines and longer hemlines and zippers rather than buttons.
Men wore wide, high waisted pants and hats.
Women were coming into their own. Mary McLeod Bethune, a
member of the board of the National Youth Administration,
extended benefits to African Americans. Georgia Oâ€™Keeffe
painted landscapes in both New York City and the Southwest.
Mildred (Babe) Didrikson won distinction in sports as varied as
baseball, basketball, track and field and golf. Amelia Earhart was
the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member, advocated the
eight-hour work day, stricter factory safety laws and laws to
protect women and children in the labor force.
And one woman, Irene Young Mattox, was tapped to head relief
efforts in Oklahoma City. Mother of seven, a schoolteacher since
she was 17, and a member of the 12th & Drexel Church of Christ,
sheâ€™d drive around the city to markets, restaurants and
bakeries picking up gifts of food to distribute to the hungry living in
shantytowns near the Canadian River.
Irene Young Mattox with grandsons Frank
Silvey and his older brother Bob, 1944.
She had attended the
University of Chicago,
where she visited Hull House
and talked with its founder,
social work pioneer Jane
Addams. She worked for
women's suffrage and was
an active member of the
Temperance Union. She
started the Parent Teacher
Association in Oklahoma
City, and became principal
of several schools.
But in our family, she was
Grandmother Mattox, my
typical of the thrifty, strong
and determined women who
survived the 1930s.