Those of us who lived through the 1930's will remember the depression in the light of our own experiences.
During the 1920's unemployment had been on the rise.The war ended, many soldiers returned to no jobs, and the demand for American agricultural products was diminishing as European nations went back into production.
The real blow came to Rich Hill on August 27, 1930, when our two banks failed to open at 9:00 a.m. The same pattern followed here as elsewhere across the nation. It was heart breaking for the elderly, who lost the savings they had hoped to use in their nonproductive years. Businesses were hard hit and many working men lost their jobs.
At this time all the buildings in the business district were occupied. There were two feed and poultry houses, two lumber yards, an elevator, four barber shops, with two or three chairs and a shoe shine boy, a bakery, a cleaning and tailoring shop, shoe repair shop, harness shop, two hardware stores, two men's clothing stores, two drug stores with soda fountains, two jewelry stores, two dry-good stores, insurance offices, two medical doctors, two osteopaths, two dentists, a lawyer, a photograph studio, variety store, six or more grocery stores, a hotel, a theatre, restaurants, a telephone exchange, two local newspapers, a milinery shop, a hatchery, a blacksmith, garages, filling stations, two funeral homes, an implement shop, two butcher shops.and two second hand stores.
A familiar sound at 7:00 and 4:00 P.M. was the mine whistle. The mines furnished energy for the light and water plant, the Krieger-Klumpp Ice Plant,the local residences in addition to shipping some coal out on the railroad. The coal sold for $3.50 to $4.00 per ton.It was delivered by horse and wagon the men shoveled the coal into the coal houses. Men who worked in the mines were paid $2.50 per day in 1931.Most unskilled labor was $1.00 per day and carpenters received $.50 per hour.
The men who worked at the city power and light plant had year around employment.The Kreiger-Klumpp Ice Plant employed men three 8 hour shifts from May through October. Ice was delivered daily by an ice wagon with a little platform on the back for the man to stand on. People placed a card in the window to tell the ice man how much ice he was to put in their ice box. A twenty-five pound block of ice cost 15c. The large blocks of ice were scored and the ice man cut the size you ordered. Children would follow the ice wagon and Mr. Kreiger would give them chips of ice that broke off when he cut it. The men who worked at the Ice Plant would blow a whistle at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., and 10:00 p.m. when they were going off their shift. After the plant closed in October, deliveries were made only to the business district. The ice plant continued in operation through the depression and until refrigerators were available about the time of World War II.
My father was sexton at the cemetery and worked for $30.00 a month May through October. For the remainder of the year, he was paid for grave digging a box grave. If the family of the deceased was unable to pay, friends could get a permit from the City Hall to dig the grave for nothing. During the winter months my father would trim trees or do whatever he could get to do. My mother would sew for people and often got as little as 50c for making a dress and $2.00 for a coat. My parents managed to pay the bills and make payments on the place on this small income. We must remember that the water bill was $1.00 per month and if you couldn't afford $1.50 a month for electricity, you used a kerosene lamp. There were not many electric appliances. Washing was done on, the board, water was heated in the wash boiler and poor but we were fortunate; my father had a job.