The Great Depression: Life on the
THE BIG SCREEN
and RURAL ELECTRIFICATION
"It certainly seems like you kids watch a lot of television."
"Oh, Grandma, I bet you watched it just as much when you were a little
"I didn't watch it at all. It hadn't even been invented yet! In fact,
I was all grown up, married, and had a baby girl before we ever had a television
in our own home."
"You mean you didn't even get to watch movies?"
"Well, there was a movie theatre about seven miles from our house. I
still remember the first movie I saw. It was called A Tale of Two
Cities. I guess my parents thought it would be educational, but it
gave me nightmares for a long time. This lady was standing in a doorway knitting
and looking very bored. Right in front of her was a guillotine and they were
chopping people's heads off! I was so terrified."
"Grandma, that's was nothing much. Out movies are a lot more exciting
"Really? As for me, I didn't start going to any more movies until I
was in Junior High. Then my girl friend and I often rode our bikes to the
movies. We had lots of favorite movie starts and sent off for pictures of
them. I liked Clark Gable and Joseph Cotton best.
I guess Joseph Cotton never made it big. At least you never hear his
name mentioned any more. Maybe I should have hung on to those autographed
pictures. Do you suppose they would be worth a lot of money now? You know
what else we didn't have? Electricity!"
"Grandma! Now I know you're teasing us! How could you live without
electricity. Just electric lights alone! What could you see with nothing
"We had more than that. You see, we were extra lucky. There was a natural
gas well on our land. That gave us gaslights, a gas stove and refrigerator,
and even a gas furnace with radiators in every room. But was I ever surprised
the first time I spent the night at my little girl friend's house. They only
had kerosene lanterns for light and a big potbelly wood stove in the middle
of the living room for heat! When it was time for bed, we put our pajamas
on down by the stove and then rushed upstairs and dove into the featherbed
to snuggle under the comforters to get warm.
Without all sorts of electric appliances, housework was a lot harder
also. I probably wouldn't have had time to watch much television if we had
had it! We all had our jobs to do. Remember, we didn't have a dishwasher,
clothes dryer, vacuum cleaner, and all sorts of things like that. We always
tried to choose sunny, windy days to wash. Then we could hang the clothes
outside on the clothesline. That way, they didn't need so much ironing. We
didn't have some of the materials you have now. Ours were all cotton and
it really wrinkled. I remember my little iron. The handle would come off
so that I could set the rest on the kitchen stove to get hot.
Spring-cleaning included special jobs. We hung rugs over the clothesline
to beat the dust out, and windows had to be washed. Now that's one thing
we did the same way as you do today!
Thank goodness for rural electrification; that's what it was called
when they strung those extra wires on the telephone poles along country