Billy Graham Center

Excerpts about the Great Depression in North America
from Oral History Interviews in the BGC Archives

"Between the time I went to Moody, when there were one thousand students until December, the break, it dropped to five hundred."

Marguerite Goodner Owen (1909-2002) 2 minutes, 39 seconds. Audio Clip. Complete Transcript. Biography. Collection 534, T1.
Maugerite describes why she became a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1931 after graduating UCLA in 1931.

I was going to teach for a year but I couldn’t get a job. There were six hundred unemployed experienced school teachers in Los Angeles and I was just a graduate, you know. They wouldn’t even take my re...wouldn’t even take my registration. That summer, summer of 1931, the next summer, all that year I went back to UCLA and worked in a tearoom where I had worked through the school, I mean not just as a waitress but as a sort of one of these....


OWEN: Cashier and also running the place. And made, and then I also tutored Latin at a dollar an hour. I thought it was fabulous because I’d already gotten fifty cents an hour before. But, I made enough money so that when this crash came in the middle of that year I was talking about, I had about forty dollars in hand that I was going to splurge on Christmas. I gave it all to my Father to bale us out until it started again. And he remembered, (I guess it was forty-five dollars) because the next summer somebody paid my way to go to Mount Hermon conference up in...youth conference.

INTERVIEWER: Is that in California or up in Massachusetts?

OWEN: No, it’s in California, it’s in the Bay area, it’s a beautiful place. And at know, the candlelight service when they did everything, I sat there and I just wanted to weep. I said, “Lord, I want to go but I don’t know how to go”. You know, at that point, I didn’t have any....

INTERVIEWER: To go to China?

OWEN: To go to, yes. To go as a mission...well, there were full-time. And I said, “I want to go but I don’t know how to go.” And when I came back, there was an opportunity to drive free to Chicago, to go in a car, free. And Moody had no tuition at that time. And my father said to me, “Marguerite, I’ve started making money again, here’s the forty five dollars you handed me last Christmas. So, here you have it now and if the Lord is leading you to go...”. I’ve always thought Moody would be a good p.... See, I’d wanted to go away to college, I wanted to go away to Occidental, I wanted to go a board.... I wanted to be in a boarding school and I hadn’t had any chance at all so I thought this would be wonderful. And it was.

INTERVIEWER: You mean didn’t have a chance because it would’ve been too expensive?

OWEN: Well, yes, that too expensive. I mean, my folks couldn’t afford it. I mean, Daddy was making...he had a real hard time financially getting out, after the crash of all these various things. So, anyway, there were five of us, one of them was Dave Cowie[?], who you may have heard about and Dudley Jerome [?] and Regina Jerome [?] and myself and Virginia Boreland. And the five of us had a chance to go in this car, the man was going to pay for somebody to drive it back and give him the gas. He wanted to the car. And so we drove across country, took lunches and stayed with friends all along. And when I got to Moody, I thought I could work. Well, because I was already a college graduate, they did let me....

INTERVIEWER: Did you apply to Moody before you went?

OWEN: Oh yes, of course, we’d all...yes.

INTERVIEWER: You’d been accepted?

OWEN: Yes, we’d been accepted already. And, not all of them were going to Moody, Dave was going to Wheaton and so was Dudley. Virginia...Virginia Boreland was going to Wheaton Academy, Jesswina [?] and I were going to Moody. But we had all applied and got the.... As soon as we heard about this opportunity, we all applied and got the permission.So, I had this forty-five dollars to pay my first board or so. And then I got a job as a waitress, I worked all through college as a waitress making money, my spending money. I wrote back to Daddy and said, "Oh, this is fine. I got this nice tearoom up on Clark Street." And I got my evening meal every night. And $1.50 an hour which I thought was terrific, you know, and then tips. Because I'm outgoing, I suppose, I always got good tips. And I thought, I said to Daddy, "You won't need to worry at all." But, in a month or a month and a half, the lady said to me, "Marguerite, I'm sorry, you're very good but you're the last one on and we've got to close down." I knew that, customers weren't coming to pay for dollar and a half or two dollar dinner, I mean they were too poor. The Depression was just hitting, terribly. In fact, between the time I went to Moody, when there were one thousand students until December, the break, it dropped to five hundred. They just couldn't come back, they couldn't come back for the term. So, then I got a lot of different waitress jobs that were very poor and didn't pay much. For instance, the last one I had was at the "Five and Ten" on Madison street. And I worked two and a half hours a day, five days a week for two dollars and seventy five cents a week. But, I was allowed, of course, fifteen cents was to eat and fifteen minutes to eat it."


OWEN: What?


OWEN: No tips at all. You know, they didn't put tips on the counter. That was it. You got the.... And I was getting thinner and thinner and tireder and tireder. I...I.... And Daddy would've had to borrow to send me home, he was still having a struggle time. So, at the end of the year, he borrowed the money to send me home, to take me home.

INTERVIEWER: So, you were just at Moody that one year?

OWEN: Just one year. But I really appreciated it very much.


"We went out...everyplace we could...the neediest place in the city is what we picked out"
Vernon Patterson.
(1892-1991) 4 minutes. Audio Clip. Complete Transcript. Biography. Collection 5, T2.
Patterson, with comments from his wife Vida, describes evangelsitic meetings he held around Charlotte, North Carolina in the 1930s.

PATTERSON: Well, we'd just go in there...

VIDA PATTERSON: Like a church [unclear]....

PATTERSON: ...and...and of them would take the lead and they'd give testimonies and they'd read their Bible and give a gospel message and...and ask the people to accept Christ. And we...we just did that all over the city. We were the only...well, the churches...none of the churches that I know of had any real out...outreach meet...meeting those days. That was the early Depression, the early 30s, you see. And this...but we...we went out...everyplace we could...the neediest place in the city is what we picked out. We'd find a vacant building down in the rundown section of the city. We'd take hold of it [laughs] and send a team down there and hold Sunday meetings. And then we'd have our whole team...whole club meet on Friday nights at the YMCA. And Edgar Fahr, the sec...the vice president would give out the assignments to these twelve teams.


PATTERSON: And we went in the...the neediest places we could find.

INTERVIEWER: Now when was all this taking place?

PATTERSON: In the early...all through the 30s.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So this was even taking even place before the Ham Campaign [in 1934]?

PATTERSON: Yes. Before that...that was....

INTERVIEWER: Up until...?

PATTERSON: That group...that was the major...just our group was the real group that really brought Ham here. The par...the meta...the...the...the Ministerial Association...

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I...I....

PATTERSON: ...was hot against us. So was...


PATTERSON: ...the was the city council and so was the...the news.

INTERVIEWER: I remember you talking about that in one of the other interviews.

PATTERSON: Well, you see...

INTERVIEWER: What about...?

PATTERSON: ...every Sunday we'd...we'd...every Friday we'd had our meeting of the Club and get...and Edgar Fahr would give out the assignments. And they'd vary them from...from week to week. So sometimes we'd go to the jail...jail...jail, sometimes to the...this women's place out on the road there.

INTERVIEWER: But everything was covered?

PATTERSON: Yeah. I remember one funny story. One of of our leaders was head of the county...the county farm...the county home out there where...for the indigent people. We were...we had...we had a meeting in the jail every week. And I was there one Sunday and he...he had the assignment to take that meeting that Sunday but I...I was there with him and he came in late. We had already gone in and were in there and that sort of started the meeting a little. He came in late, rushed in and he said, [huffing sounds by Patterson] "Well, I'm glad to see so many of you here today." [laughs] And not one of our committees [unclear] without a man in that. Said he didn't know how to make up a speech, but he...what he did was he listened carefully to his...sermon his pastor preached and he'd go and try to give that to an assignment. We did that just for...practiced it. We had here spread to the other cities. Well, you had a....

VIDA PATTERSON: Lakeland and all those lakes.

PATTERSON: Alright. We [pauses]...he...he...he decided that he didn't know how to give a ser...ser...speech so he would just try to repeat what the preacher, his pastor preached on when he took...took his assignments. So the pastor preached that morning on tithing. And he had his assignment at the county home, [the poor house] so he went out there and preached on tithing. [laughs]


"We moved...ran like a rabbit when rent came due."

William Drury (1926-2005). Three minutes 40 seconds. Audio Clip. Complete Transcript. Biography. Collection 492, T1.
Drury remembers his childhood in New York during the Great Depression

I was born in Queens, New York. We moved from house to house back in the days of the Depression. We moved...ran like a rabbit when rent came due. We moved. And spent...spent most of my formative years living in the Long Island area.

INTERVIEWER: What was your mother's name?

DRURY: Marguerite. Marguerite Drury had...there were seven brothers and sisters. My oldest brother Sonny died, he drowned before I was born. And then there was John and Alice and Frank and Joseph and Marguerite and then myself.

INTERVIEWER: You were the youngest?

DRURY: No. No, I had two younger...I didn't give them in order. But Joseph is younger than I am and then Marguerite is the youngest.

INTERVIEWER: And what was your mother's maiden name?

DRURY: Hunt. H..U..N..T.

INTERVIEWER: Hunt. How would you describe your father?

DRURY: Oh, loving, caring, a demonstrative man. Never drank. If he smoked cigar, I never saw it. Smoked a cigarette. But caring. He had the ability (my mom and dad both) (it was Depression) to know the value of the dollar bill. We always lived on borrowed money (and I've learned from that), but from what we would call today "loan sharks." Whenever you needed money you borrowed two hundred, two hundred and fifty dollars. But a...but a caring man. He was a disciplinarian to a degree, but I grew up...I grew up, Bob, in a hurry. know, what we know today (and everybody complains about family life today, in 1993), we didn't have any family life as such. It was Depression, it was a case of existence, survival. I started to work when I was nine years of age, never quit. Like H. L. Hunt, I knew a very important thing was to have money.

INTERVIEWER: That's when you were working for the Jewish deli?

DRURY: Worked for the deli, worked for the deli. Right next door there was a Jewish tailor. I worked for him, I delivered clothes. Very devout. I didn't...(of course I was a kid) I didn't know if he was Orthodox or...but he was a Jew to a degree. And I...I counted his money; on the holy days I cut his meat. He wouldn't used a knife, you know, in the high holy days, Jews didn't. But I...I worked in a bowling alley, I got hit with a pin in the bone. I had to work for [unclear]. I'm sure you've seen in bygone days there's these big tricycles, these ice cream boxes on wheels and you pump them over everywhere.

INTERVIEWER: And you used to sell ice cream on these?

DRURY: Yeah, oh yeah. I got beat up. I got robbed a couple of times and I went back out the next day. You know, we talk about survival and your discouragement in the Christian faith. What do you do when you're not a Christian? [chuckles] You just get up the next day and go, you know. And I had somebody, one of our staff, one of out Teen Haven staff (which I'm involved in today) said, "Mr. Drury, I under...I hear you talk about these different jobs that you had." (I was drafted when I was...when I was eighteen years of age) and she asked me about these jobs and we counted twenty-two different jobs before I was eighteen years of age.


“In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads his dear people along. Where the water’s cool flow, bathes the weary ones’ feet, God leads his dear children along. Some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the waters, and all through the blood. Some through gr...great sorrow, but God gives us song, all the night season, and all the day long.” And I witnessed that.
Ray Schulenberg
(1909-2003). Six minutes, 36 seconds. Audio Clip. Complete Transcript. Biography. Collection 270, T1.
Schulenberg describes giuving up a job to go into Christian work as a soloist

And some of the people had come from Kentucky. They spoke of the need down there in certain areas, and how they need the gospel in certain areas of Kentucky. I was looking forward to my summer vacation, while still working at the Board of Trade, and I got thinking, “You know, that would be interesting if Oren and I...Oren Swaback [?] and I could go down here in Central City, Kentucky.” We played guitars in those days and sang together, and we both played trumpets and coronets. And we decided to look into it, and someone there at the church says, “Oh, we’ll write to Mr. Smith.” He was the chief of police of Central City. “He’s a fine Christian man.” So we heard back. He says, “Come on.” So Oren Swaback [?] and I rode down, and we took a shopping bag, a brown shopping bag, filled with gospel tracts. We were to start at Sunday morning in this particular church, but we went on the street corner down in town, and everybody in the whole surrounding area went to town on Saturday nights. You know how they do in these small towns? or how they did at least in those days. And we got our trumpets out and we started playing, and immediately it was...[laughs], you know [laughs], people, they just came and was something to hear, something to do, you know. They had nothing to do but stand around and talk and, “Who are these fellas? And what are they doing here?” And then with the guitar we sang and then we announced our meetings. “We’re beginning tomorrow afternoon,” I guess it was, not to conflict with the Sunday morning services in town. “The church on the hill, a white church.” Well, there were hardly anyone up there. We could hardly get in because of all the people. They were...of course, they had filled all the seats. It wasn’t a big church. It was a little frame church. It sat maybe a hundred and twenty-five, hundred and fifty maybe. But the windows were open. It was the month of June. It was warm. And groups of folks were standing at each one of the open windows. Oren would preach at one service and I would lead the singing. He would...he would preach it the next. We’d alternate. I would preach it one and he, and so forth. That’s the way we alternated. And Mr. Smith immediately said, “Boys, we need a bigger place for you. This isn’t big enough.” He said, “I’ve arranged with the lumber company to set up an outdoor tabernacle, downtown between two buildings that will be all ready for you tomorrow night.” So we announced that. There was a platform. There were lights strung up be the electrician. That sat about seven hundred people. And we continued there the rest of the time. I had a two-week vacation, so we continued there for say another week or so. And again, we prayed with a lot of souls. And we drove home and the Lord started speaking to me. And I went back to my job at the Board of Trade, picked up my pen, and started with the figures again, thinking, “Oh, what am I doing here when there’s such a need out there?” And I had been at evening school, Moody evening school, for three, four, five years and gotten practically all the Bible that they offered, almost...well, much of the Bible which they offered. And I’d been at the mission for about five years, as I told you, and had a little experience in preaching, not much, but in Christian work as such, but felt the burden of it. But this was Depression, Bob, and nobody gave up jobs in Depression. They were paying money for jobs if they could get them. And that was kind of a...a struggle for a bit. And I got thinking more and more. And about that time, Torrey and I started talking about things, the evangelistic work. [sound of train passing in background] He said, “Ray, I need you as a song leader,” and so forth. So I prayed about it. And I said, “Okay, let’s go.” So I told my boss that I would be leaving. He looked at me and he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Exactly that.” “What are you going to do?” And I told him. He couldn’t understand it. He was of another faith, and so forth. He couldn’t understand how someone could giv...give up a job in those days, and go into a business, shall I say, with an uncertain income, and it was. But we went out, [laughs] and again we prayed with souls wherever we went. One cozy night up in Iron Mountain, Michigan, I think about fifty people came forward to straighten things out between them and God and to accept Christ as Savior. Torrey and I still talk about it. And we’re thinking about going up there, just for old-times sake and have an old-time meeting again, you know, and so forth. So...but I felt the call while I was there in those meetings down in Kentucky, driving home and going back to my job at the Board of Trade, trying to push a pen, and thinking with my heart in mind in Christian work, and I thought, “This isn’t for me. Anyone can do this,” you know. So, “In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads his dear people along. Where the water’s cool flow, bathes the weary ones’ feet, God leads his dear children along. Some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the waters, and all through the blood. Some through gr...great sorrow, but God gives us song, all the night season, and all the day long.” And I witnessed that.

"So how was I going to get 3,000 miles when I had only five dollars?"
Charles Springer
(1909-1995). Fourteen minutes seven seconds. Audio Clip. Complete Transcript. Biography. Collection 417, Tape T2
Springer describes how he met his wife.

Somewhere along the line you must ask me about how I met Marian and all that, 'cause that goes into this part of the story.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I did.... Yeah. Maybe this is as good a time as any to do that. Why don't you talk about that.

SPRINGER: Alright. It was during the Depression that I was in seminary. And it meant that going to school 3,000 miles from home was...was an item. And I just had to have the Lord to solve it. When I got through my first year at Princeton and it was time to go back to the state of Washington because the [Presbyterian] Board of Foreign Missions had a job for me during the summer which I should take over. So how was I going to get 3,000 miles when I had only five dollars? And so I, of course, prayed about it a great deal. [Pauses] And the only thing I could do was have a schoolmate of mine take me to Chincook, Iowa because his girl lived there. And he was...he could take me that far in his jalopy [slang term for an old, dilapidated car]. From there on I was on my own. I had to hitchhike from Iowa to the state of Washington. So I talked to the Lord about it. And I said, "Lord, I'm going to have to hitch-hike and I want you to screen this thing. I want you to manage it fully. But I want only those who are willing to listen to me [talk] about Jesus Christ to pick me up. I want you to screen out all the other kind of fellows that wouldn't want to talk on that. And I don't care if they take me a mile or a hundred miles. You manage it. And whatever you say goes." So going through Nebraska there was kind of very slowing, 'cause one fellow picked me up 'cause I looked like his son. And then there began to be storm out west of us and people were not traveling. It was pretty slow going. And at one place I got to a town called Sydney. That's way out in western Nebraska. And the storm had got so bad that you couldn't see the sun. In fact, that day eighteen people were killed in storm-related...related accidents. But one man stopped me at the western end of town. I always went to the west end so I wouldn't be bothering and using my thumb on people who were just going around the block. So when I got to that place and hailed, here was man stopped with a roadster. And he wasn't suppose to stop for people up but he needed someone to see the...that side of the road to keep him safely traveling and he needed to get to an appointment down the road. He was one of the managers of...of a farm implement company. And so he picked me up and we got to talking about the Lord and he was interested and willing to talk about it and obviously needed more of Christ than he had. He was a Sunday school superintendent and all that kind of thing but he hadn't been born again. And when we got to a town where he would go on to his appointment and I would have to go on to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we...we had a little bit of food together. And as we were in that restaurant I could see.... I had a trench coat and I was just matted with dust and dirt and filth. And I marveled that he ever picked me up. I looked like a gangster. And that night I couldn't go any further west. There wasn't anybody but people going out to their ranch. And the man at the gas station said "Well, there's a lady here who takes people in and maybe she'll take you in for the night." So I did that. I had a tea kettle bath. That night it rained. But the stormy wind was still there. But the...all the dust was settled. So by about noon I got to Cheyenne and I was hungry. I didn't have much money but I got a little bit. A cup of coffee and a roll or something. I hadn't learned yet that you had to eat to keep warm and it was kind of cold. So then I went through Cheyenne to the west end and [pauses] this man stopped and it was the same man again. Mr. Tucker. And he said, "I was just thinking about you." And I said, "Well, I was just thinking about you and how I would carry on where we had talked yesterday." And he said, "Well, I have a little free time after my meeting and I wanted to see this part of my district. It's new to me. And I was hoping I could meet you and we could go on west together." And that's what happened. And so until about sundown we continued talking about Christ and the faith and then he had to turn back at a place called Hannah. He had to go east and I had to go west. So we had prayer. That next winter at Christmas time I sent him a Christmas card that said, "I'm that redhead with a nose that drops up that you picked up last summer and I wish you a very happy New Year," and so on. He wrote back and said, "You didn't have to describe yourself. I hadn't forgotten you. In fact I had my family go along this whole route that we took together and said, 'We stopped there [laughs].'" So he said, "Let's get together this summer. We can meet in Omaha and I'll take you out to Salt Lake City." That's where I was going to go to meet people. So that was our plan. Then three of four weeks before school was out in the Spring of that year I got a letter from the state of Washington from the church with a pass in it on the Northern Pacific Railroad for me, in my name, not transferable, that I could use to go out west. For here I was going to go that route and this took me the northern route. And I was very puzzled about that. Here it was non-transferable. I had to go that route and I was supposed to go this other one. And I got to Chicago on the way home and there was a letter there for me from Mr. Tucker. It says, "I'm sorry I can't meet you in Omaha. I won't be there. But I will be in the Twin Cities [Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota]. Could you meet me up in the Twin Cities [laughs]."


SPRINGER: Yeah. And yeah. "So incidently my wife and my son will be in Evanston. And there's going to be a family jamboree get-together of both sides of the family and it would be nice if you went to meet those people." And this worked out. I met this Mrs. Tucker and her son and met all the whole tribe. And then as I left to go to the Twin Cities they saw me off on the train and Mrs. Tucker said, "Tomorrow you'll meet my daughter and I hope you like her." [laughs]. The train was chugging away. Next day Mr. Tucker met me at the train and I had sat up all night, 'cause I didn't have money for a Pullman [a sleeping berth on a train] And I was looking kind of seedy and he suggested that at the Curtis Hotel there was a room that the two of us were to have. I might go up there and freshen up while he went out to the University to get Marion his daughter and we'd have a meal together, which we did. And, of course, as I came down on the (I was going to say lift) elevator she was right at the doorway there and very attractive. Very impressive. I had been leaning over backwards not to meet women 'cause I didn't want to get tangled up. I wanted to get out to China. And I thought getting tangled up, I would foul up things. So I hadn't looked at girls at all. But she seemed very attractive. Then he had to go and meet with men and...before our lunch and I thought to myself, "What in the world will I talk to this guy's daughter about?" And as clear as a bell the Lord said, "Just talk to her like you did to her dad" [laughs]. Her dad said that she was to be speak at kind of a preacher during the summer. So I wanted to test her out on what she was going to speak. Well I...after I had had supper with Mr. Tucker who had to leave to Canada, I rendezvoused with his daughter and I didn't know what to do. The Lord said, "Well, you know how to paddle a canoe. Get a canoe off the lake here and just spend the evening talking to her." And to this day Marion has kidded me about that because I would sit in that canoe as far away from her as I could without falling in the lake [Laughs] and talk. And I tal...talked about, "What would you preach? What would your message be if you were going to be this preacher?" I felt that if...if she would vocalize her message, I could tell where she was with the Lord. And that's the way it worked out. And we had to turn in the...the canoe after a downpour of rain [unclear]. And so we sat in the company car and I gave her as best I could in Princetonian language the way of salvation. And she said, "Well, I'd like to believe that." And I said, "Well, do you believe in prayer?" And she said, "Oh yeah, the Lord has answered my prayer many times." So that night she asked the Lord into her heart when she was by herself by her bed and it was the next day that as we rende...met to go to church, she observed that everything...the blue was bluer and the green was greener and that life...she'd had peace in her heart she'd never had before. She was amazed. So she was now born again. So she...she could be one that I would be serious about marrying [chuckles]. We were in conference all summer and I saw her in the fall when I went back to Princeton. And it became clear to both of us that if the Lord so led her to China, well, we'd get married out in China. Our parents preferred that we get married before we go. The CIM didn't do things that way. They always had the kids go out and have about two years, learn the language, learn the customs, see if they could get along with the life out there and then get married. Well, this was the other way around. But because we both were university graduates and a little older than the average runt in those days, they made special arrangements. And Dr. [Robert Hall] Glover [CIM Home Director in the United States from 1929-1943] okayed that we might get married. So we were married about three hours after school was out that summer by one of the profs in the school, Don C. Page, and we had a month of honeymoon and then we were in school together at Moody. And we went out married.
Other Oral History Transcripts Which Mention the Great Depression
Collection 50, T1
Collection 52, T1
Collection 75, T2
Collection 88, T1
Collection 93, T1
Collection 140, T1
Collection 182, T1
Collection 189, T1
Collection 189, T3
Collection 273, T1
Collection 314, T1
Collection 319, T2
Collection 351, T1
Collection 438, T1
Collection 441, T1
Collection 502, T2

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