Driving down the highway this summer I saw a lot of dried-up sloughs. These sloughs had been overflowing with water last year.
The lush green hay crops of last year dried and turned brown before they could even get tall enough to cut this year.
Seeing all that made me think of the ‘Dirty Thirties”. No, I was not there in person, but 10 years ago I had the awesome job of going through 100 years of the ECA Review newspaper to gather stories to make into a history book.
You can learn a lot from the local newspapers, not just about the community but about what life was like at different times.
When I got to the newspapers of the 1930’s I finally understood why it was called the “great depression”. It really was depressing even to read about it.
They would start the year off with perfect weather for seeding, making everyone happy and sure of having bumper crop that year.
Then the rains would stop and the fields would dry up, and the winds would come and blow all that dried dirt from the fields into dust storms.
What little crop that managed to grow would soon be destroyed by the grasshoppers that swept through the land.
With very little grain or hay, the farmers were desperate for feed for their livestock. With no grain to sell they had no way to buy any either.
This happened year after year for most of the 1930s.
Many farmers just gave up and left. In October of 1934, the newspaper reported that five train cars were loaded with household effects to be shipped to various points.
There were also reports of some being so overwhelmed by it all that they committed suicide.
Government gave some help with bull loaning and surplus stock purchasing programs.
There were also grants towns could get to be used for “the purpose of relieving stress among the needy.”
The M.D of Coronation received a $12,600 grant.
The biggest help came from the community– people helping people.
The Women’s Institute would clean and mend donated clothing for children to be able to attend school. Stores and restaurants reduced prices.
People did 25 cent chicken dinner fundraisers for families. Town council created make work jobs to give people at least some part time employment.
People who managed to get a good garden crop would donate vegetables to the hospital.
In 1933 the Dominion Tobacco Company held a Canada-wide contest to see which community could send in the most Dominion tobacco labels. The Coronation Elks campaigned for weeks to get everyone to bring in their wrappers.
They ended up winning first prize for their community class size.
The prize was 250 toys which they received a few days before Christmas so they hurried and wrapped and delivered all to 80 needy families in the area.
This year has only been one year of drought so far, and farmers get a lot more Government help now.
Hopefully, things will not get as bad as it was back then.
We just need to remember that we can get through anything if we stick together and help each other.
by Lois Perepelitz