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Memories of hard times

On the anniversary of the Black Thursday Stock Market Crash, area residents remember

On the anniversary of the Black Thursday Stock Market Crash, area residents remember

October 24, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Dorothy Carlisle was working her first job at a Boston law firm when she heard two of the lawyers talking in the hall.

As she walked by, one said something worrisome about the banks, recalled Carlisle, 104, who lives near Williamsport.

"Whatever it was, when I went out to lunch that day, I went to my bank and withdrew about $100," Carlisle said. Taking inflation into consideration, that's about $1,200 in 2007 dollars, according to an inflation calculator.

"The next day when I went to work and I came off the subway the banks were all closed," she said.

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first day of real panic during the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

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Several major banks and investment companies bought huge blocks of stock that day to stem the panic, but the following Monday (Black Monday) the panic returned and continued on Tuesday (Black Tuesday).

The market crash was a precursor of things to come, though there were many factors that led to the Great Depression, said Douglas Crawford, chairman of Wilson College's business and economics department.

Rightly or wrongly, for many people the 1929 market crash symbolizes the start of the Great Depression, a lengthy economic depression that extended through the 1930s.

The Herald-Mail talked to several Tri-State-area residents recently about their memories regarding the crash and the depression, mostly the latter as many of those interviewed were too young at the time of the crash to remember much.

Carlisle was 25 at the time the market crashed.

The day the banks were closed, Carlisle passed a bank where a police officer standing by the locked doors. No one was trying to get their money out that Carlisle saw.

"There had been uneasiness," but in those days news didn't spread as fast, Carlisle said. "The only communication we had was the newspaper. Radio was in its infancy."

The $100 Carlisle had gotten out of the bank was enough to help her family for several days, until her father's bank opened and she got her next paycheck. "For me, it was a very fortunate time because when times were bad, the first place people go to is a lawyer. So we were very busy," she said.

A friend of hers who had worked at a small brokerage office wasn't as fortunate. She was laid off immediately.

Hagerstown-area resident Elizabeth Rohrer, 86, said her mother's Carroll County, Md., bank closed some time in the 1930s, leaving her widowed mother with only $90 in the house. Rohrer's aunts and older brothers would help out until her mom was able to find a job.

Tony Natoli, 83, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was a little boy growing up in Amsterdam, in upstate New York, when the market crashed.

"I remember that day. This one guy, they called him Giggers, he's the bookie. (He was) running down the street. He was saying the stock market crashed," Natoli said.

Some Tri-State-area residents said the crash and the ensuing depression didn't affect them because they were so young they didn't know any different.

"You ate what you raised," said Hagerstown-area resident Edward Hess, 87, whose father bought a Taneytown, Md., farm in the early 1930s. The family would trade eggs from the farm at the grocery store for groceries.

Natoli said his father still had his job with Mohawk Carpet so there was still food on the table.

And toys? "We made our own toys," Natoli said. Finding a pair of roller skates someone had thrown away, he and his friends used them and a board to make a scooter.

The kids in the neighborhood would play games like tag and use a two-by-four for a bat to play baseball, Natoli said.

Waunita (Miller) Dellinger, 85, was 6 years old and living in Marlowe, W.Va., in 1929. Her father worked in the railroad office in Falling Waters, a steady job through hard times that not only took care of his seven children, but neighbors as well.

"Back our lane, the fathers didn't have jobs," Dellinger said.

Her parents would help neighbors with food and anything else they could, she said. Her family was doing so well that around the time she was in sixth grade, her father bought a lot by the Cacapon River for between $25 and $50 and had a friend build a summer cottage for the family.

When Loretta M. (Mannion) Sobus was about 16 years old, her father lost his job as a B&O pipe fitter in Baltimore. That meant either she or her sister had to drop out of a private Catholic school because they could no longer afford tuition for both. She dropped out; her sister got to stay in the school.

Sobus, now 93, remembers her father doing odd jobs while she and her sisters would wash white marble steps in the neighborhood for a quarter per home. Her brothers had paper routes.

"We were tickled pink to give money to my mother to help her out," said Sobus, who had seven siblings.

"You had to do something. Things were rough then," the Williamsport resident said.

Despite the tough times, some Tri-State-area residents said they remembered still receiving Christmas gifts, though it might have been fruit.

"That was what Santa Claus left, oranges and some nuts, candy, apples and pears," said Hagerstown-area resident Elizabeth Rohrer, 86. "I got nuts because we had walnut trees." Rohrer also had an aunt who would visit from Baltimore, bringing red meat for the family, taking Rohrer shopping for clothes, and giving her gifts such as doll babies.

Sobus recalls still having a Christmas tree.

"My mother and father would do without. They would give to us," Sobus said.

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