Hard Times: An Illustrated Oral History of the Great Depression
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First published in 1970, Studs Terkel’s bestselling Hard Times has been called “a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit” (Saturday Review) and “an invaluable record” (The New York Times). With his trademark grace and compassion, Terkel evokes a mosaic of memories from those who were richest to those who were destitute: politicians, businessmen, artists and writers, racketeers, speakeasy operators, strikers, impoverished farmers, people who were just kids, and those who remember losing a fortune.
Now, in a handsome new illustrated edition, a selection of Studs’s unforgettable interviews are complemented by images from another rich documentary trove of the Depression experience: Farm Security Administration photographs from the Library of Congress. Interspersed throughout the text of Hard Times, these breathtaking photographs by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Jack Delano, and others expand the human scope of the voices captured in the book, adding a new dimension to Terkel’s incomparable volume. Hard Times is the perfect introduction to Terkel’s work for new readers, as well as a beautiful new addition to any Terkel library.
weren’t able to get in without a black tie. If the host didn’t like the way someone looked, he would say there are no more tables. I used to work there three months straight. You’d often get the same audiences, but it was all right. On last nights, every table had champagne. We all stood up, made a toast and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” This was ’37, ’38, ’39. We thought of the poor, at that time, as quite divorced from us, who were not poor. By the exercise of one’s charity, life could be made all
and things like that. But they had a truck of oranges parked in the alley. Somebody asked them who the oranges were for, and they wouldn’t tell ’em. So they said, well, we’re gonna take those oranges. And they did. My dad was one of the ones that got up on the truck. They called the police, and the police chased us all away. But we got the oranges. It’s different today. People are made to feel ashamed now if they don’t have anything. Back then, I’m not sure how the rich felt. I think the rich
legislation. . . . They attracted people who subsequently became labor organizers, particularly in the CIO. They were youthful in character and in ideas. They were not hidebound as left-wing political parties were in that period, although Communists and Socialists took part. They sort of threw away the rule book and just organized people to get something to eat. The unemployed council people out in St. Louis were responsible for the first strike I ever saw—a tiff* miners’ strike in southern
reelected, except one congressman in New York. I think if it weren’t for the war, Roosevelt probably would have been defeated in 1940. You would probably have had a more business-minded administration: less centralizing on the part of Washington. More normal conditions would have prevailed. During those first hundred days, wasn’t there a slight fear in some quarters that our society . . . ? I never had any doubt that our society would survive—and survive in much the way that it had existed
bill. This brought on another ruckus. Ickes thought it should go for public works: Grand Coulee Dam, Bonneville, projects of this type. They’re slow to get under way—wonderful, but they take time. Hopkins thought people should be put to work immediately, even though it might not be done very efficiently.” Among the agencies created was the Resettlement Administration. It was independent of the Department of Agriculture, with Rex Tugwell as head, reporting directly to the president. This was a