Some Christmas perspective: letters from the 1930s

Sometimes a little perspective helps to clarify our own circumstances.

I recently came across correspondence written by our ancestors. The letters span the years between 1928 and 1936. The mood changes from comfortable and optimistic, to worried, to discouraged, to desperate.

In 1928, times were good. People had no inkling of the challenges to come. They proudly made use of electricity as they gathered around their radio in the evenings.

letter-jan-1928

By October 1930, people had started to feel the pinch, but hope did not elude them. Reading this now, we know the long, lingering hard times that lay ahead of them—the Great Depression and then World War II—but back then, they were certain it was a short-term dip.

letter-oct-1930

In 1933 many people were out of work. Lay off notices were dreaded but common. Without a social safety net, no work meant no food or shelter. This lay off notice came just before Christmas.

letter-dec-1933

At Christmas 1934, this letter was sent:  “. . . we find that it will be impossible to send any gifts this year, and therefore we would rather not receive any gifts this year.”

letter-dec-1934-part1

letter-dec.1934-part2

By comparison, we are wealthy beyond all imagining. Our social safety net is not perfect, but it helps.

Rest easy. Enjoy our luxury. Happy Holidays.

2 thoughts on “Some Christmas perspective: letters from the 1930s

  1. wordsurfer

    This made me a little sad. Reading old letters is like seeing ghosts, I think. I imagine the person writing it and what happened to them that they had no idea about when writing the letter and it’s sometimes scary and sometimes also motivating.

    Reply

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