After the crash, the amount of goods and services produced by American companies plunged, and many people lost their jobs. People all over the country stood in lines to get bread or eat at free soup kitchens.
Thurman Hoskins [left] remembers being hungry as a young boy growing up in Kansas City. “So, she [his mother] said, ‘Well, we don’t have anything here now. But, you just wait here and I’ll be right back.’ So, she came back and she had a loaf of bread and a stick of butter. And she gave me slices of bread with butter on until I was full. As a matter of fact it took half of that loaf. It was ‘Tastee Bread.'”A country’s Gross National Product (GNP) is a measure of the total goods and services produced during a year. Between 1929 and 1933, the U.S. GNP dropped by nearly 33 percent. That means that one third of the goods and services produced before the Depression were no longer produced by the middle of the decade.The unemployment rate measures the number of people who are looking for work and can’t find a job. In 1933, unemployment reached 25 percent. One out of every four people looking for work couldn’t find a job – and that is counting only those who were still looking. The unemployment rate did not count the many people who gave up trying to find a job.
In addition, there was no welfare system to help people in economic trouble. Some financial help was doled out by county commissioners, but benefits varied widely. In some counties, getting help depended on whether or not you knew a commissioner.Dean Buller (right) was a county commissioner in York County and worked hard to help local people when the county had a limited budget. “There was no relief [from the federal government] in those days either. There was no Social Security or nothing. I mean, you had to make it on your own.” Later, Buller was elected as a county commissioner, and he took the responsibility seriously. “When I first got on, we were also responsible for the people who were on relief. I mean, we had to take care of those people, too. But later, the state took it over, and then all we had to do was take care of them for the first six weeks.”Written by Bill Ganzel of the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.