Written by The Cheeky Princess
I am a young girl. I am only 14 years old and I already have to get a job so my family can afford food. It’s 1930 and I am a hairdresser. I didn’t have any training but they were short on staff. I was very impressed to see that so many people came in, some people were tall, some short, some were rich, and I think I had to clean my scissors twice after trimming the hair of a Hobo who wanted to look good for a job interview. Things were going fine.
I only made a dollar a day, but that’s pretty darn good pay for a girl in the depression, yet winters were tough. My Mama got the fever once, I sacrificed my favorite blanket for her. Eventually things got better. I went to school every day, but then I’d sneak out and go to work. This continued on for several years.
My friends had tougher times than, me. I don’t remember her name but there was a rumor going around about a girl who had to eat her family horse. GROSS! I can’t imagine possibly doing that. Yet lots of families didn’t have daughters skipping school to work at the shops.
I was dumb and stupid at the time, I assumed the money I earned, with Mama and Papa working so hard was enough for the family. Once Mama got that fever, I had to take a second job. I wasn’t going to school anymore.
I arrived at the Williams Farm in the Okanagan, near where I live, and I pick fruit, I earned just a couple cents working from 5am to 10am when I left for my job at the salon. I met some very interesting people on the farm, even a hobo who rode the rails to get here. At the hair salon I worked harder than ever. I was 16 and learning that there is no such thing as job security. I worked hard for 8 hours a day then go home and check on Mama.
That winter Mama was getting very sick. I was afraid she wouldn’t live to see her 40th Birthday. My Papa was out cutting wood on the night-shift, and sleeping all day, so I was all she had to watch her and all my kid sisters.
I realized in January that even with all my efforts to get her warm soup, warm blankets and lots of love and even though I was doing good, and she wasn’t going to die with me around, we needed medicine or Mama wasn’t going to heal anytime soon. So I woke up Papa and told him my plan on a Sunday. He said “Oh my punkin tart, medicine cost money and we ain’t got no money. If you can save up the 6 dollars needed for the medicine, and still feed the kids, I’ll save up the rest of the money we don’t spend on rent, to buy a cake for when Clarice wakes up.”
Well those words were out and my 3 sisters heard the word Cake. There was our motivation!
“Hey! I will harvest our apples and make apple cider! 1 cent for a family of 4!” said my oldest little sister. “Wow, that’s a good idea!” I exclaimed.
I had some doubts, but at least 2 families a day bought cider from my sister, and my 2 jobs made an average of a dollar and 10 cents a day. Combining my jobs, the cider and Papas woodcutting, and coal mining jobs, we made about 14.75 a week! That was useful.
By March of 1935 we were 3 dollars ahead. That means in 2 months we’d only saved half the money needed for Mamas medication. I told my family that we were going to cut down on the food prices by cutting back and only buying cheap foods and never buying any meat. We ate most of our apples and only kept a little for making Cider. I also signed on as a maid from 6-10 each night. I taught my oldest sister how to take care of Mama so she wouldn’t go dying on us.
I was actually one of the best maids there. I earned around fifty cents a day which was 40 cents a day better than my fruit picking jobs. I did a lot of hard work, but eventually I made the mistake of assuming my jobs were permanent. Stupid, stupid me. I soon found out that I was replaced on the farm, by a Hobo who was willing to work for even less than me. So then I had more time to spend with Mama.
I was with Mama up until April. I started using the space between the rows of apple trees to plant potatoes. That was a great idea and we didn’t have to buy food for a whole month! In May, with the warming temperature, we had enough money for Mamas medicine and the cake. My birthday was just around the corner, so when Mama woke up, she said to wait until my birthday. I was so happy! My Mama was healthy again, and just in time for my birthday too.
Even though I’d lost my job as a harvester, now that my Mama was awake, we were good with money. Mama was impressed at how well I was able to keep up with my chores while saving her life, but she was also upset that I was 19 and only had a 9th grade education. She made me quit my hairdresser job, but let me keep the maid job.
By the summer of 1938 I finished school, I was 22 years old and my oldest younger sister was 16. I caught up on a lot of the gossip. Apparently this guy lived in the woods all his life and only came out to tell the public that his dad died. That was sad. Another man told me how he got so hungry he ate his boots.
That year I met a nice boy and married him. He died in the war less than 2 years later, but not until after I was able to open my own restaurant that was thriving. My sister grew up to be a doctor and my other 2 sisters are still growing. I’m 28 years old and run the most popular restaurant in town.