Notes from the Pandemic
I used to ask my dad, “What was it like during the Depression?”
He was twelve years old when the stock market crashed, and a young man by the time the economy picked up again; I figured he must have lots of stories. The only one I recall him telling me was the day his father came home and announced that the owners of the store where he worked, B.H. Stief Jewelry in downtown Nashville, had decided to avoid layoffs by instead giving everyone a fifty-percent reduction in pay. Just like that, the family’s income was cut in half.
In the years since, whenever I think about the Depression I remember that story. Beyond that, as far as my father was concerned, the picture is blank.
The world is in the midst of another great cataclysm, the caronavirus pandemic. I can imagine my grandchildren asking me what it was like to live through it, as I asked my dad about the Depression. These notes will be my way of answering. Through a series of short impressions and accounts, I’ll try to describe what the pandemic was like for my wife Yvonne and me, quarantined at home along with everyone else, venturing out only rarely, and then required to wear face masks and stand at least six feet from others. What a strange way to live.
I make no claim that the notes are exciting; in fact, they have an everyday quality that, for a while, made me reluctant to write them at all. But I wish I had known more about the everyday memories of my dad’s Depression experience—not because the memories were remarkable but because they were my dad’s.
I thought you might enjoy looking over my shoulder as I write these notes. Follow the notes in future posts.