Maplewood History: Depression – 1930s by Bill Jones


We moved to Maplewood from St. Louis city for clean air.  The county offices put a big yellow sign beside our door on Zephyr Place.  The sign said “Caution. Resident is a TB patient.” My mother lived in her own bedroom at our house and we had  5-days-a-week home visits from our doctor that cost $3.00 per visit.

In 1932, my daddy woke me up.  “You don’t have to get dressed for kindergarten.  Just put on your knickers and your shirt.” I got dressed and daddy said “You’re going with me today to work.”  Suddenly my mother was getting dressed and drove daddy and me to the Maplewood train station. (Mother was still allowed to drive.)  The conductor lifted me up and sat me on the walkway to the seats. This was wonderful for me—a little kid on my way to my dad’s work.  The conductor said to my dad, “I’ll have to let you off at the roundhouse. That’s not far from your office.” Dad said, “That will be fine.”  I could not understand why I was being treated so royally. Daddy carried me to the roundhouse. He said, “Are you alright?” I said, “This is really neat, Dad.”

When I got to the office, his secretary sat me down next to her desk.  I asked, “What are we doing?” She said, “We’re making soldiers.” She typed a line of zeros and typed a slash mark across the zeros and said, “Now you have a whole page of soldiers.”  My father’s phone rang. He answered and pulled me up on his lap. My mother always put a white handkerchief in my dad’s upper jacket pocket. As a little kid, I realized my daddy had tears in his eyes.  I reached over for the handkerchief and blotted my daddy’s eyes. I asked, “What’s wrong, dad?” He said, “Your baby sister, Beverly, is in Heaven.” I said, “No, daddy, she’s in Children’s Hospital with Aunt Isabel and Aunt Laura.  My dad’s eyes filled with tears again and he squeezed me. His assistant, Louie, said, “Bill, I heard what you said. The President has closed all the banks and you don’t have any money to bury your baby.” Louie opened the bottom drawer of his desk and slid an envelope over to my dad.  Daddy said, “What is it?” Louie said, “Two months of my salary in cash for times like this. Go take care of your family.” He came over and shook my dad’s hand and said, “Take care of your family.”

The store keeper called the little truck driver and said, “Take Mr. Jones wherever he wants to go.”  We got in the truck and went to the funeral home. He said, “Are you alright, Mr. Jones?” Daddy said, “I guess so.  My 2-year-old daughter just died.” The truck driver said, “Oh, man!” We went to the funeral home and did the business with the funeral director.  The lady there brought me hot chocolate and cookies. The truck driver drove us to Children’s Hospital and gave us a bit of wisdom we had never before heard.  He said, “All about this depression is people helping people in need.” This memory stuck with me all my life because daddy took bushels of groceries to my two grandmothers’ houses every week.    My daddy said, “Billy, remember those words all your life. The depression is a time where each of us must address the needs of others.”

Billy Jones, Jr. – Age 93

Fifth Generation Great-Great-Grandfather of Isaiah Richard Caudel

10 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Depression – 1930s by Bill Jones

  1. That is a powerful story. Some parts of life were terrible back then and the people who made it through were a different breed and powerful.
    Thanks for sharing that with us.

  2. It is so very interesting to hear these histories. There were diseases back then for which we now have treatments. My grandfather’s cousin had only one lung because of TB. My mom’s best friend in high school died from polio and my mom got it the following week and survived. In college, a friend died of meningitis. We don’t see that happening now so this new virus is very scary to everyone. I’m asking my mom for more stories from her life, being only 6 years younger than Bill.

  3. A ninety plus year old story from hard days.
    How relevant to these days.
    Very meaningful.
    Thank you!

  4. Thank you so much for this story Bill. What a sad time it must have been,
    and without your recall we would never know how it was for the folks that went through it.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Nancy. Bill has opened our eyes to conditions in the past many times. We are all grateful to him and don’t forget Barb, who typed them all.