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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Great Depression Part II

The Great Depression for The Primus Family during the thirties were admittedly difficult. However, my dad's parents were able to work for a wealthy German man who owned a successful paint company. The owner lived on a fantastic estate located on an inlet in Daytona Beach, Florida with rich neighbors such as the Fords  (of Ford Motor Company). The owner also had a yacht and employed workers whose primary job was to clean the salt water off of the vessel to prevent erosion.

 Clearly, the Roaring Twenties was a time prior to the Great Depression when Americans enjoyed a high standard of living. Jazz Music, an art form created by African Americans that was a combination of blues, African music, classical music and improvisation, was the soundtrack of that era. People spent money freely, and enjoyed travel, parties and luxury. Flapper girls were in vogue; they were women with short bobbed hair and shorter length dresses that were the rage. Wealthy industrialists and business owners had winter mansions and year long residences in Florida, the Sunshine State. The railroad, America's primary long distance mode of travel was extended by industrialist Henry Flagler.

                                                              A true American Art Form
                                                                                       Source: Wikipedia

                                                                 Henry Flagler's Railroad
                                                                  Source: Absolute Astronomy

                                                 Flapper girls, stylish women of the 1920s who partied!
                                                                Source: Discocollective

But when the Stock Market Crashed America was in for a rude awakening.

Fortunately for the Primus family my paternal grandfather, William Primus, was a groundskeeper for the aforementioned wealthy man. My paternal grandmother, Lily, was the cook. The couple were able to raise children in a decent manner and avoid the extreme poverty that their neighbors experienced in Daytona Beach. According to my dad, the wealthy businessman would slice off one piece from a country ham and tell my grandmother to share the rest of the food with her family. Grandmother would do that and also share food with hungry neighbors who eagerly awaited the food to avoid starvation.

I love the fact that food was being shared. The term my dad uses is "crooked arm", because when carrying a bag on your arm, well, your arm is literally crooked. Domestics bringing food home referred to food, as a crooked arm." Today as an adult I would stop by the house and my dad would murmur, "go to the kitchen and get a crooked arm". I would chuckle. He never wanted me to go hungry and had surplus food.

Since grandfather was a landscaper for acres of property on an estate, grandfather was very meticulous.   That same amount of care was used for the Primus family property on North Campbell Street, a modest home that had a goldfish pond and a sidewalk. My dad bragged that his father was ahead of his time. To this day, my father and ALL of his brothers and sisters have great lawns. "Looks like it's going to rain," he tells my brother. "Do you think you can mow the lawn?" So not only does he has a professional company come out for the lawn, but family members, neighbors and myself have been enlisted to mow the lawn in Windsor, CT. Usually Dad hovers over us, making sure that the mowing is perfect. Invariably we all sigh.

                                                            A fish pond in Florida
                                                                             Photo courtesy of  L. Ramos

But my dad had to consider employment opportunities after high school during the Great Depression. It is one thing to live under your father's roof as a child, but my dad was a  teenager. A large portion of Black Daytonians were unemployed. Where were the jobs?!!! What was my father going to do for a living?
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