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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dad Causes His Family to Get Fired During the Great Depression

I have described my father's life as an elderly veteran for quite a few posts now. But a popular post among readers is the entry, The Great Depression and Hard Times: Part I.  The post strikes an emotional chord with people because of the the similarities with the Great Recession, which is commonly known as the worst recession since the Great Depression. ( The Great Recession is believed to have started in 2007)

Some people now have to go to food banks, and apply for unemployment insurance for the first time. "Thrifting" and holding out on unnecessary purchases became the norm. Middle class people lost significant wealth and the poor became even poorer. Global readers have been effected by the Great Recession, and regular folk, students, the curious, all wanted to glean some lessons from The Great Depression, a destitute time in American history. Moreover, the frustration that the unemployed have in trying to seek jobs when they are fewer positions available fueled discontent among the younger generation. Millennials, as they are called, had difficulty obtaining employment after graduating college or they are inevitably underemployed. On the other hand, there is also ageism; companies do not want to pay higher salaries and health insurance to older applicants because of the additional expenses.

 Readers researched the Great Depression because they were curious about the types of food that families ate, and how Americans managed day to day. They were particularly concerned about the plight of African Americans, who occupied the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, as previously enslaved chattel. I know this as I check the key words which cause viewers to land on Montford Point Marine and Honor Blogspot.


"You know, we used to live in Palm Beach County, Florida," My father stated, when I shared that I traveled to the area.
"My father had a brother named Howard. Some of them ended up in Missouri, and other places but you do have relatives there. You also had a cousin who worked at Clark College*, do you remember her?" "Yes, I remember her," I answered. She was a dorm director and was pretty popular.

"My father's family worked for a wealthy family. I caused my family to get fired."

It was my dad's notorious story of mischief. The story was passed around among family and extended relatives. Family members usually tell the story with raucous laughter, unable to recount the story with a straight face and a serious tone.

The story went like this:

Dad's father was a landscaper. Dad's mother was a domestic, standard occupations for Negros during the early part of the 1900s. His parents were blessed enough to secure work as a couple employed by a rich family. The wealthy family were members of a well to do community in Palm Beach, who enjoyed the posh lifestyle and resided in a palatial estate. The building boom, attractive climate, and beautiful Spanish architecture made Palm Beach the perfect locale for moneyed entrepreneurs. Palm Beach was a winter haven for the rich back then as it is now. It represents one of  the highest per capital income locales in the United States.

Dad began playing with the owner's little son. The son had a shiny new tricycle. This trike was especially appealing to dad, for many children had no toys or bicycles. Toys that were in existence either were hand me downs, or makeshift.

Suddenly, Dad and his new little friend ended up in the water that bordered the lovely compound. Neither child could swim and their frantic cries for help reverberated throughout the grounds. The male adults, clad in white seersucker suits, rushed to the aid of the young boys, dad remembered. I know for a fact that my father could not swim; the young boys could have easily drowned. "I want you to leave the premises NOW!!" The employer shouted to the Primus family. No opportunity was made to explain, or given extra time to make alternative housing arrangements.

The Primus family were immediately plunged into unemployment as a result of a Dad's incident with the tricycle.


 My paternal grandfather was forced to walk many miles looking for employment in the hot Florida sun. There were no state labor departments or applying for positions from the comfort of home electronically like today. Pictures of this era show men going from town to town on foot, desperately looking for work. Some places resented the influx of unemployed men in their area, due to to the scarcity of jobs and food. Dad said that the family stayed with friends during this stressful time.

The horror of losing a job for a breadwinner can be monumental. The Primus family consisted of numerous children during this dire situation. Dad had major guilt, which was a considerable amount of pain for a young child to bear. To top it off, he was described as a child with considerable energy, and simply could not sit still.

Even now, when I watch my Dad try and stand up after sitting, I notice the impulse to move quickly;  his "chronologically advanced" joints remind him to slow down.This same energy enabled him to work several jobs, own a business, get a real estate license, travel, sign up for combat duty as a Marine, socialize and participate as an active member of the Masons.** The list goes on. In short, he is the type of individual who was in perpetual motion.

However, when you are kid and your family gets fired because of your extra energy and carelessness, there is no consolation. All you know is that your parents aren't happy with you and your family has now joined the significant ranks of the unemployed -- during the Great Depression.

See Also:  The Great Depression Part II

* Clark College is now known as Clark Atlanta University-Clark Atlanta University (CAU), established in 1988 as a result of the consolidation of two independent historically black institutions - Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869), is a United Methodist Church-related, private, coeducational, residential, and comprehensive urban research university. The University offers undergraduate, graduate and professional, and non-degree certificate programs.

**Prince Hall Masonry- is a branch of North American Freemasonry founded by Prince Hall in the 18th century and composed predominantly of African Americans. 
The ideas of liberty, equality and peace were appealing to men of color, who were turned down by the Boston Chapter.

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