Great Depression

HISTORICAL FICTION JOINS THE BONUS MARCH OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION

by Glen Craney American soldiers denied their service bonuses. Protesters stage sit-ins to expose the greed of big banks. Homeless veterans huddle in tents. Rising anger against politicians sparks a populist movement. Headlines ripped from this year’s front pages—and from newspapers published eighty-five years ago. History doesn’t repeat itself, Mark Twain warned, but it often rhymes. And during the Great Depression, similar stories of woe and outrage held the nation’s alarmed attention. Long before Occupy Wall Street, there was Occupy Washington. In my historical novel, The Yanks Are Starving, I tell the story of eight Americans who survived the fighting in France during World War I and came together fourteen years later to determine the fate of a nation on the brink of upheaval. Culminating with what became known as the Bonus March of unemployed war veterans, the novel is a sweeping epic of the government betrayal that sparked the only violent clash between two American armies under the same flag. I became interested in the history of the Bonus March while covering Congress as a Washington, D.C. reporter. After moving to Los Angeles to write movie scripts, I turned my research into one of those screenplays that Hollywood executives…

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A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

When we think of Thanksgiving we can smell the aroma of a turkey baking and pumpkin pie cooling, whipped cream and whipped potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy. It’s a tradition so ingrained in memory our thoughts automatically rush to full bellies and football, family and friends. Not so long ago, during the Great Depression, most of the country could only dream of a table laden with a fat turkey and all the fixings. And if you lived in the dust bowl in the 1930’s you forgot how to dream of a table filled with food or even a table with any food. But the American people are strong, resilient, and hopeful.   Envision living at the worst of times in a part of the country where daily survival meant fighting the wind storms and praying the small garden you planted would yield a potato or two and the chickens would survive for a few more weeks. Thanksgiving still meant a holiday and sharing. It provided a reason to get together and be thankful. I imagine during those times what a Thanksgiving would be like for those in small towns made up of farmers and ranchers, where neighbors knew each other…

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The Hobo Family

During the Great Depression, Maddy Skobel, my main character in Line by Line, reacts to her first real Thanksgiving dinner.  Maddy is a hobo who has been welcomed into the home of Phillipe and Francine Durrand: That afternoon, as I watched Phillipe carve a whole turkey, I thought about families.  In New Harmony, my family’s Thanksgiving Day never looked like the illustrations in Harper’s Weekly or the Saturday Evening Post. . .  I had never been part of a dinner where just one big, plump, stuffed and roasted golden brown turkey with drumsticks was brought to the table whole and served at one time. I thought about how there were two kinds of families: the ones made up of people related by blood, which you’re automatically part of, like it or not, and the families you choose for yourself.  Today Francine and Phillipe chose to include me.  I knew I was lucky, because there was a very large hobo family out there that didn’t have enough to eat. Because Maddy was a hobo, I needed to research how hobos lived—and survived—the Great Depression.  That quest took me to Britt, Iowa, where the National Hobo Convention has convened each August for…

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