Grace Jarvis McDaniel: Memories of The Great Depression


Grace Jarvis McDaniel

Grace Louise Jarvis McDaniel (1928-2016).  was born in Hemingway to Charlie Jarvis (1886-1960) and Arva Gordon Jarvis (1888-1975). She married Landrum Walker McDaniel, Sr. (1928-1991).  She lived most of her life at the ancestral home in Hemingway. She was a member of the Old Johnsonville United Methodist Church since 1954 and was the church historian for many years. She was a graduate of Hemingway High school and Florence Business College, and was employed at Ruffin’s Department Store for approximately 25 years.  Her life's passion was writing poetry.

Mrs. McDaniel recounted the following information about her life to a young relative as part of a 5th grade school project:

"The depression was an extremely impoverished time.  People who lost their money in banks sometimes committed suicide, but I didn't know anyone who owned stocks.  My parents didn't seem to blame President Hoover for the depression.

The CCC Project didn't help my family, but my cousin planted trees for the project.  The WPA Project started by the government helped peopl to have jobs and small incomes.  My father was a foreman of a detail crew that dug drainage ditches.  I remember hearing my father's and my cousin's footsteps crunching on the frozen ground when they went to work.  My father had a big white horse he rented to farmer to carry their cotton to the gin.  A commodity truck came by to bring goverment staples like flour.  People sat in pine straw to wait for the commodity truck.

There was no electricity at the time and we used outside wells for water.  We boiled white clothes to clean them.  We made lye soap from meat, grease, and lye cooked together and cooled - we cut it into squares for soap. 

We had potbelly stoves in school which used coal for fuel.  When I was 7 years old, I attended first grade.  There was no bus and no transportation except horse and wagon.  They had no lunchroom but had a soup kitchen - most took biscuits from home.  In 1936, a school bus started to take us to school, so bad times must have been ending.  

My family used no medical care, but we had Vick's salve for colds and collard leaves for fever.  Dr. Baker and Dr. Ulmer were in Hemingway for emergencies. 

My family used wood for cooking and heating.  My daddy milked the cow for our milk.  He also killed hogs in the mid-winter since we didn't have a refrigerator.  We preserved meat with salt.  We didn't have a car but we used a horse and buggy.  Women's clothes were all made at home then, and Daddy had ready made pants and shirts.  We ate mostly from the garden, and we canned vegetables and meats."