Camera Rolls: 311:25
Sound Rolls: 311:15
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Helen Wik , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on January 27, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
Take eleven up. Interview with Helen Wik.
Helen you can actually begin just as you did, "I was awfully glad when we got a car."
Well that was a wonderful old grey Buick. It had jump seats in it, we could seat nine. Some of us were pretty small at the time and it gave us freedom to drive around. We had an aunt and uncle living two and a half miles and going from church to there for a big family dinner was wonderful. Also going back there when they harvested apples was really—we would pick up bags, take them home, borrow a squeezer and make cider and all those things. Jam, jelly, those were the days we had big gardens. You planted everything and you canned and kept it. I remember one time we would have to gather the bits of wood and corn cobs and whatever to keep the stove going, and with the big washtub on it with the jars in it and so forth. One time we ran out and even wanted to do one more bunch, and we used a cream can. It would hold four quarts of beans, I think it was, and then we'd have beans all winter, which was good for us. One thing we had was a root cellar where from our gardening we took all of the carrots and other potatoes down in the cellar, and we had to have enough to do until spring.
I'm curious, during the Depression when times were very hard, what is the worst memory you have of hard times?
Well, there just wasn't any money. I wore "hand-me-downs" and I remember feeling so badly one Easter. No new shoes. I could wear an old cast-off pair of my sister's. They were comfortable. Another thing, my older sister was teaching school, so she was wearing fairly good dresses, but instead of taking the dress apart and adapting it for my age they just cut it down and it fit me, but here I was in some satin and braid and so forth going off to school. A little hard to play at recess time. Well, we all were kind of in the same boat. Our neighbors, they couldn't do as much as they wanted to do and so forth.
Did you ever think about people in the city being in the same boat with you? Remember that people will not hear my question. I'm just curious.
One of my sisters who was married lived in a small town and we would go in and visit her, and they were having difficult times too. There were not too many new cars in the small town. This was in Terrell, Nebraska. It looked to be very difficult. My brother-in-law ran a [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . So he was out in the country selling products and so forth and would exchange a product for a chicken or whatever else that could bring in something for food.
Take twelve up.
You can start from the beginning. Hold on one second until this truck goes by. OK.
With the coming of the cars you really found more women in town, like a Saturday afternoon, because they could ride much easier rather than a buggy or poop wagon sometimes. So
it really changed their lifestyle
** because they began to go into the city and look into stores and so on, which in turn affected their lives. I remember we had this great big Buick thing and how great it was when all of us could get together and go on picnics and so on. A few years later I remember my sister and another group of four girls, college girls, packed up the trunk and took off for Estes Park. Now you couldn't have done that without the car, and they had a great time. We have a lot of pictures and so on from that.
Did the automobile make a difference in the, for lack of a better term, the equality between men and women? Did it make any difference or was that too early?
No, I don't think so.
The girls learned to drive as well as the men and they'd send them in for parts or to get a sickle sharpened or something,
** and would be very easy to do. But of course on a Sunday or a big outing the man took the wheel.
** Otherwise it worked out fairly well.
Good. I think that's it.
Had you ever you ever heard of Henry Ford when you were little, when you were on the farm?
Oh I must have. There were Fords and tractors but now I don't know when they came in but a neighbor had one, I remember, and during the harvest time and so on we saw them.
Did Henry Ford represent anything to you? Did you have any notion of some old guy with a long white beard?
No, no. [laughs]