Selling Eggs in the Depression

This past week my daughter and I watched a movie together called Kit Kittredge. The movie itself was fine: good triumphs over evil, as it should in a movie for a 7-year-old. It takes place during the Depression in the 1930’s, and the people in the film experience loss and lowered economic status. There were some underlying, Hollywoodish type themes – for example, is Robin Hood a good guy? Is it OK to rob from the rich and give it to the poor? (the film seemed to imply yes, and I would say no – rich people should give charity, not be the victims of theft). The mother of the main character, a girl named Kit, decides to take in boarders in order to be able to keep their house. Somehow “selling eggs” becomes symbolic of stooping low, and near the end of the film the mother does acquire some chickens so they can sell eggs as well, which Kit is not happy about (but she accepts).

grandfatherWhat bothered me in particular about this was that my paternal grandfather sold eggs in the Depression! That was how he supported his family of seven (five children). He would venture out to the egg farms in New Jersey and bring them back to Brooklyn to sell. My father said at some point he helped with the accounting; at the end of each month, my grandfather would have no money left and need to start a new. There was never any savings, but at least they had food to eat.

What was your family doing in the 1930’s?

Update: See Risa’s post about her grandfather who had a store in Brooklyn.

21 thoughts on “Selling Eggs in the Depression

  • There was never any savings, but at least they had food to eat.
    There is nothing shameful about selling eggs. Your grandfather felt responsible for his family and did his best to support them; he can only be praised for that.

  • I’m with you and Ilana-Davita on this. A message that any honest way of making a living can be considered distasteful makes me uncomfortable.

  • I think selling eggs is a very honorable profession.

    My grandfather was making children’s clothes in the 1930’s in NYC. I never met him. I can imagine he had quite a story or two to tell.

    • Clothes was a common profession in the days. All that seemed to have moved to places like China or Vietnam (cheap labor).

      I never met my maternal grandfather.

      • That is another good question. My mother is not good on historic details, but maybe she could give me an idea, but she hasn’t spoken to me since she was in the hospital and I told her docs the truth about her drinking. My father is a very difficult person to even have a conversation with, but I could try. People have lost parents they deeply love and I can’ even communicate with my difficult living parents….sad…

      • Oh, that is a sorry state. I was thinking maybe a cousin or some more distant relative. I was trying to find out where my paternal grandmother was from, so I asked my cousin who asked my aunt, but then they said call so-and-so who lives on Long Island. I never did, because I don’t know so-and-so…

        Good luck with your mom. Maybe you two not talking works better.

  • I agree with everyone else that your grandfather is to be praised for his honest and admirable efforts to support his family.

    It sounds like the filmmakers allowed their anachronistic 21st century sensibilities, prejudices and biases to slant the movie… ๐Ÿ™

    • Well, to give the movie some credit, it was cute. And it gave my daughter some idea of what the Depression was. I’m the only one who notices the leftist slants of these films (most Hollywood films have a leftist slant). I never did when I was younger.

  • How I wish I had some eggs to sell (and therefore eat!) I love fresh, farm eggs.

    Neither of my parents were alive in the 30’s. My dad’s family was living probably in Kansas City or maybe in the country in mid-Missouri–they moved a bit. Very poor. Taking in ironing, I think. My grandpa worked in tomato fields.

    • Thanks for sharing, Louise. Working in tomato fields sounds like very hard labor. You work and work and only make a little.

      My father said they always ate a lot of eggs growing up. That’s why when they said eggs weren’t healthy (another stupid nutrition idea that was false), he didn’t believe it.

  • What a nice post with food to ponder. Yes, The Depression was quite the time of shock for so many. But, even beforehand, people lived hand to mouth, and were lucky to make it to the next paycheck, if they were able to.

    My mother was eleven years old in 1930. My grandparents had owned a candy store and combination barber store. They weren’t able to keep it for too long after the Crash. It was not only a great loss, financially, but one of pride, to have to give it up.

    They managed to survive through various efforts for a few years before my grandfather had a heart attack and died…I never knew him. The pressure and stress from the preceding years must have been too great for him.

    • “even beforehand, people lived hand to mouth” – compared to life in Europe, life in Brooklyn was probably grand! No Cossacks or pogroms to worry about (my maternal grandmother left Europe after a pogrom).

  • It is a great story of a caring person who works hard to provide for his family. My kids don’t understand this kind of stories yet. They think money grow on trees like in the Pinocchio book ๐Ÿ™‚

    • “Pinocchio” – all I remember is the part where the older boys take advantage of him. And the nose growing. It’s not an easy tale.

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