When Robin told me in early January she was sending me a book she knew I must have, little did I know it would be such a fascinating and absorbing experience for me. Even just reading the author’s notes and the prologue, I knew Robin got it right. This book touched my life in an unusual and meaningful way. When she sent the book, Robin must have known I would escape the long winter days of January into a unique journey back to family life on the farm. No matter the winter storm clouds of January…for me the sun was shining.
Jonathan Alter’s book, THE DEFINING MOMENT: FDR’S HUNDRED DAYS AND THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE, brought back some vivid memories of that special time. I was 14 years old when FDR took the oath of office and became the 32nd president of the United States. And that was a defining moment in the life of our family. After finishing that book, I read back through my mother’s diary — which I ran across almost magically while cleaning out a closet. She wrote of the great depression and told how they were “struggling to make ends meet.”
From Mother’s diary account of the years 1930—33:
These were the “depression years” and were years of stress and strain. Wheat sold for 29 cents per bushel…A.L. hauled loads of wheat to Manti for 65 cents per bushel and then the crop would not stretch to cover our current indebtedness. For two or three years the going was rough to say the least. It was impossible to meet the demands and it looked as if our days at the farm were numbered. I do not remember the exact year or time of year, but it was during these depression days from 1929 to 1933, or thereabouts, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt , knowing the conditions and to stop the many foreclosures on farms throughout the country, issued a “Moratorium,” which set a period of time during which no one could demand payment of debts owed, and the farmers were given an opportunity to make arrangements whereby their creditors would wait until such a time for them to get their affairs in order…
Mother wrote that they had been paying 7% at first then 8%. they had paid $22,000.00 in interest on a $25,000.00 farm. Favorable laws were passed and they were able to get a Federal loan to complete the payment and the interest was reduced to 3-1/2 %. They had moved to the farm in 1914 and were free from debt at the end of 30 years.
Mother wrote that “It was a happy day for us when the long years of struggle to keep the farm were over.”
They didn’t live on the farm all thirty years but they probably spent the best years of their physical lives on the farm. Thanks to some of those early changes during the first part of FDR’s administration, they were able to secure the farm and that changed our lives dramatically.
What an amazing reading experience that brought back such an historical time in our lives, while at the same time giving me a close up look at the historical events taking place today. At the end of January, I witnessed a present-day “defining moment” as I watched Barack Obama take the oath of office and become the 44th president of the United States … truly a defining historical moment as the first African American to hold that office … And reason to hope.