Beginning of a New Time

I remember faded newspapers riding the icy wind, which was blowing north in the deserted streets of New York. I held my coat closer to me as I walked against the wind heading home. I had just come from Mrs. Baker's house from watching her children and cleaning after them. For ten dollars a week, it was good money for such little hassle. Besides, my family needed the money very badly. Since my father lost his job in the stock market crash four years ago, my mom and I took over the burden of providing for the family. The long walk was tedious; I remember it seemed like walking forever over the ice glaciers of the North Pole. However, unfortunately, it was a usual winter in New York.

My father before these rough and hopeless times was a successful businessman. He ran his own Advertising firm and was a corporate lawyer. He had hundreds of employees at his advertising firm and he won many cases in court against and for companies. It broke his heart to lay them off. Many companies that were investing in the firm went bankrupt and the firm had no money and no income. The corporation lost everything. He was laid off at the law firm because it had run out of money.

It seemed like an eternity since that happened in 1929, but in these memories, I am recalling it was 1933. My father was in the lowest morale I have ever seen him on my then short time on this planet. Not even the radio helped ease his guilt and depression.

As I continued walking down the streets, I passed a group of shacks hidden in an alley. I think Mama said they were called "Hoovervilles" to mock the former president Hubert Hoover. Mama also said he refused to give money to the unemployed which was one-forth of the nation's population. The groups of shacks were pitifully constructed, walls out of newspapers and cardboard from boxes, roofs made of tin and aluminum. Such a pathetic sight. When the snow has fallen, the shanties would not be adequate shelter or cover. I did not know how, and still do not, know how they could stand living in those shacks. I realized how lucky I am, to have had a roof over my head and to have had a hot meal waiting for me at the end of this wearisome journey. On a blustery day such as this particular one, a bowl of hot soup probably sounded delicious.

With only one block to go, the wind shifted from the north to the south. I started to run home not because its easier to run with the wind at my back, but because I sensed that something good has happened or will happen that I needed to get home as soon as possible.

As soon as I reached the building, I smelt the fresh baked bread that Mrs. Watkins baked. She was an old woman who we cared for as well. She was a baker before these trying times. I ran up the three flights of stairs to the two-bedroom apartment that I lived in. I burst through the door. As I, close it there are many people staring at me. My mother, my little brother Gary, and Mrs. Watkins were the spies. Papa was moping on he and Mama's bed. I could faintly hear him sobbing.

"My dear child where have you been we've been worried sick." Mama said as I hung my coat up.

"I've been coming home, the wind was against me today except for the last block. Why is papa crying?"

"He thinks your dead. He thinks that you are an icicle on 19th street. You're in big trouble missy." Adds Gary as he made a face at me. For seven years old, he sure was annoying. Matter in fact he always annoying up until he joined the marines and fought in World War 2 than he realized how important family was in life.

I then rushed toward the bedroom, but was stopped short of a wooden dog. I trip over it and I land on my hands and my chin. I screamed, "Gary! Why did you leave your toy out where someone such as accident prone people as me, would trip on it?"

Gary just giggled. "You're face is redder now than when you came in. You look like Miss Carol at school when she's really mad."

I brushed myself off and responded with a sigh and, "Boy we got to teach you some manners."

I heard footsteps coming from the bedroom. Soon Papa appeared. He came toward me and hugged me with tears streaming down his cheeks. Mama once said he would cry at a drop of the pin. Just an example of how troubled times change people.

Mama said then, "Okay in order to beat the long lines at the bread line, than we need to get going."

Everyone, except Papa, rushed toward the door. I smelt and saw the bread I had smelt earlier when I had came in. I then understood why papa never came with us, that he would rather stay at home and eat what we had bought or made, than go with us, as a family, to a charity given cause that was well meant. I then closed the door, for I was the last one out.

When we finally came to the place of the bread line it only reached to 17th street today instead of the usual 23rd street end. We were standing in line when Gary started to whine.

"Mom why do we haveta stand in the cold to eat?" Gary wined.

"Because we have to eat and there's no other way." Mama answered.
"Well then why do we bake bread everyday?"

"Because Papa needs to eat too."

"Well than why doesn't papa eat with us?"

"Because papa is too ashamed to eat in public, eating off of charity. He is ashamed that he can't provide for himself or for his family." I piped up.

"Mary Elizabeth Rhodes, How dare you?"

"Mama I'm sorry but it's the truth," I said with tears in my eyes, "Papa is embarrassed of us isn't he."

"You are terribly wrong, I'm appalled that you would ever think such a thing. He would never be ashamed of any of us. Your just . very emotional, right now so he needs some time alone." Mama answered.

"Hasn't he had enough time alone? I mean he has had four years."

"You're right but as long he doesn't do anything drastic he should be alright."

"Okay mama you know better than I do."

For a long period, there was silence among us. I was looking around and seeing all the people around us. I saw Abner Williams; one of my classmates at that time who had always bragged the he had the better things in life. He was a few people behind us. He was holding his head down to make sure he was not seen by anyone. He saw me looking at him and made a face at me. Then he just stood up straight and just stared into empty space. I guess he finally realized he was not the only one who lost nearly everything.

Then finally after long hours of waiting we got our meal. Even though it was cold soup and bread, we still ate it with gratitude.

When we finally got home, papa was listening to the radio. After we had hung our coats up, we joined him at the radio. Than an announcer said, "We here at NBC broadcasting would like to bring to you our president Franklin D. Roosevelt."

I will always remember that day, It was the day that Roosevelt told the nation about his New Deal and his plan to get this country back on the map. I remember that papa said at the beginning of this tragedy that the United States was not the only country affected. Germany, was hit hard as well by this collapse.

When my father was listening to a certain part of the speech he smiled, he smiled for the first time in five years. Roosevelt was talking about how he needed workers to help in the government such as lawyers, businessmen, professors, and other occupations to advise the president of the economy. My father jumped up out of his chair and said, "We are moving to Washington!" Of course, not one of us believed him since we did not have a lot of money. Matter of fact we only had $12.26. How we would get the money to move?

In the following weeks, we got a check from the government giving us $200.00 to live off because of unemployment. Guess what happened to it. We moved to Washington DC. My father was lucky enough to get a job being an advisor to Roosevelt, not personally but close, and we were prosperous for the years to come.

Now as I walk through the FDR memorial in DC, I remember all the things that one man did for America. I see in engraved marble his speeches, his addresses, and many fountains about the maze of stone. I come to the wall that says, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" The most famous quote of them all. I have to admit that it's the truth. Why worry about tomorrow when it will take care of itself? Why fear losing everything? Like a modern phrase says been there done that. I've lived it and I've survived. No matter what remember to be grateful for what you have and never take it for granted. It can all be taken away in an instant. That was certainly true back then 65 years ago and is still true today. As I walk out the exit, a newspaper flies through the air, and I remember that day, the day where all things came together, that beginning of a new time in my life. A new time that would change many people forever.