I was a child of the depression, but we never went hungry
Will and Susie Smith
The Lane Family Home - Orrington, Maine
The garage and field to East
Sometime during the mid-thirties, my Father lost his job. The family moved back to Maine, to be near my Mother's parents, Will and Susie Smith. They were farmers and her father was a Selectman (Town official council member) of Orrington. We rented a large house in Orrington Corners about 7 miles south of Bangor and two miles through a dirt road and over some hills to my Grandfather's home. The rent from the bank that owned it was $10. a month.

Fortunately for the family my Mother, secured an engagement as soloist for the Sunday service of the largest church in Bangor. They paid her $10 a week. She had to go to town on Saturday for a rehearsal and again on Sunday to sing. My Father returned to Boston to look for work.

My Bother Bob and I started attending the local three-room school at South Orrington. This was farm country. Neighbors had cows, horses and chickens. We had a cat and a garden in the summer. In thinking back to this time, when I probably was about ten, many stories come to mind, so I will relate a few, just to show my younger relatives, how tough it was, but how happy we were somehow.

My first dime.

For breakfast, quite often, my mother would make pancakes or as we use to call them flapjacks. I was busy eating mine, when I spoke up and said "look there is a dime in my pancake." Sure enough, there it was, a nice shinny silver dime. So, the next question was - how did a coin get in the flapjack? Thinking for a moment, Mother can up with the answer. Each day, a neighbor who had cows, would deliver a quart of farm fresh milk. We had to put out yesterday's empty milk bottle and leave a dime in it to pay for the new milk. Of course they were suppose to remove the money and wash the bottle before refilling it and delivering it to us or one of the few nearby families. This time they did not take the dime out. And I hope they did not forget to wash the glass bottle, either. The milk was used by my Mother to make our breakfast with a dime in the pancake.

Thanksgiving we almost missed.

We had a charge account at the local general store, down over the hill. They had everything from nails to a pound of hamburger for twenty-five cents. But at times, the account ran up too high, so we would have to wait until Mother got paid again. This Thanksgiving was one of those times. We had only potatoes from last summer's garden and maybe apples from the orchard. I think my mother was going to make baked potatoes with milk gravy for our dinner. No turkey, not even hot dogs. Not much for which to look forward.

Much to our surprise, Ferd Bowden, who owned the general store drove his Ford Model A, into our yard early Thanksgiving morning and walked in with a big box of food and a nice plump chicken, his Thanksgiving gift to us.

I remember we walked out to Grams and Gramps taking the chicken and some of the food, to have Thanksgiving Dinner with them. This was a true Thanksgiving!

Buying our home from the bank.

We rented our house for about two years. This was the depth of the depression and Dad was out of work. Everything was for sale and no one could afford to buy any property.

Probably with the help of Andrew's brother, Uncle Jack, who had a big job as V.P. of Sales with a large paper company in Ohio, we managed to buy the house from the bank.

My Father had put his younger brother through Harvard, when my father was making big money in the hotel business. So, I am sure Jack felt he should help Andrew.

The house was for sale for $2,500. So, Dad talked to the bank. They were very interested in selling. Dad, said to them, I understand you have sold this house twice before and had to foreclose and take it back each time. How much did you get the first time? They said $500. And the next time? $300. And we have rented it for two years, so we have paid you $240. "Yes" was the answer. Taking the asking price and deducting what they had already received, Dad offered $1,500 and bought the house.

Fixing up the house.

Dad was still unemployed, so he stayed home for a while to renovate the house. First he tore off the front porch, and then a small sun-room, by the living room, was removed and replaced with a new window. The large barn was cut down to a one-car garage. We never had an automobile, but at least we had a garage. From the kitchen to the garage, was a long shed, Dad removed a section along the front to make a covered porch. This was where Mother would hang her laundry on rainy days and it would still dry. These changes show up in some of the later pictures above.

Our house with old porch

Wood burning stoves.

One winter, when Dad was home, unemployed, times were pretty tough. One of our neighbors, who lived up the street, had a large wood lot of birch trees about a half-mile from us. They gave permission for Dad to cut down some of these trees for firewood. We had two wood burning stoves, one in the living room and the cook stove in the kitchen. Dad would walk up the street with the children’s sled, cut down a tree. Then he would cut the trunk, which was 4 to 6 inches thick, into four-foot lengths, put them on the sled and haul them home. Back at the house, he would again cut the logs into firewood. They had to be dried out in the oven all day, before they could be used the next day to keep the fires burning. This was all the heat we had in the winter, which could drop down to 20 degrees below zero, on many cold days.

Load of can goods.

At some point, about 1937, Dad secured a position as Assistant Manager of the Crown Hotel, Providence R.I. At least we had a little more money, now. I remember Dad would ship home to us, twenty or thirty cases of canned goods; peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, beans, peas, and other vegetables. We made a place next to the stairs going down to the cellar, for all these canned goods. For many months or longer, each day, Mother would send Bob or myself down to get a few cans for meals. We sure enjoyed the plentiful food, which Dad had bought at wholesale and shipped a couple of times to us.

The depression was a hard lesson.

These years, growing up in Maine during the depression made a lasting impression on me. Work hard, be honest, stay out of debt, don't trust the stock market, and don't invest in insurance, and take care of your family, always have a base, meaning have a home. Because of the Florida Crash in 1926 and the later stock market crash of 1929, first my father and later my grandparents lost all their savings and could not keep up their insurance.

It took Andrew Lane until 1937 to pay off all this debts, down to the last $500. Then he had to declare bankruptcy, as the holder of his last debt had filed a garnishment lien on his salary, and he needed this new job and his salary to support his family.

Andrew Lane 1939

Times are better now.

The last sixty plus years of WWII, prosperity and technology have made many changes in our lives. Hopefully you and your children will never see tough times like we did.

But, tough times make a person very strong and resilient. My kids had every advantage I could give them and they both moved to Hawaii. There are five smart and good looking grandchildren; Shanara, Tashina, Darshana, Andrew and Lucus.  Shanara and Tashi both married and have lovely great grand daughters with Hawaiian names; Malia and Hina’ea. Education is very important, as I have always said, you should never stop learning, Darshana is in collage in California. They all seem to be headed in the right direction. This makes us very proud of everyone.