Ask Aunt Ruthie FAQ on Miscellaneous Stuff


Ask Aunt Ruthie

Ask Aunt Ruthie FAQ Index

This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers regarding miscellaneous stuff in the 1930s time period. Things that don't fit into the other categories in other words.

Question Index

Questions and Answers

Q: What was life like in the 1930s?

A: Life in the 30's was tough mainly because we had not got back on track after the Depression in 1929. Though there might have been some inner resentments, we never questioned our parent's decisions and we most certainly did not talk back. Despite the lack of money we had a lot of fun because we had to invent things to entertain ourselves.

clothes line

Life was not as stressful as it is today for young people. We went with the flow of things and worked hard in school to better ourselves. We did not date until our late teens - though I am sure some broke the rules. Mainly we were children and did not want to grow up so fast. All things came in good time.

I might add that when the 2nd World War broke out in 1939 that made a BIG difference in the lives of teens as many lads enlisted for duty at a young age.

More thoughts: My recollection of 33-36 was the unrest in Europe that had a lot of the world on edge. Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and his policies were the beginning of what ledt to the Second World War in 1939. I had brothers that were among the first troops send to Europe at that time.. As wars often do, it promoted an economical turn around and the start of women taking over men's jobs in factories driving buses and operating street cars to name a few.

In and around 1936 we experienced a hot spell during the summer and we would sit out on our verandahs all night to try and get a little respite from the heat.

Q: Can you compare the 1920s to the 1930s?

A: The 1920's were recuperative years after the First World War.  These were reasonably care- free years and people were getting on with their lives. Fashion for the ladies were primarily long skirts with frilly blouses, marcelled hairdos, cloche hats and leather shoes with straps across the insteps.

The "horseless carriage" (cars) were fairly prominent and lifestyles seemed to be very busy.  Men wore slimcut suits , perhaps bowler hats, high collared shirts with wide ties.  This was the years that had the advent of the dance called "The Charlston"  and the bands were large with a good brass section.  The music could also be very mellow In 1929 the Stock Market crashed which was the biggest economic travesty resulting in people being financially wiped out.  There was a high incidence of suicides because of this.


The 30's were filled with much unemployment and extreme hardship. Things were not quite as lighthearted and as kids we did not go on vacations or have treats .  There just wasn't the money around and unfortunately it took the breakout of World War 2 in 1939 to spur the economy. People helped people to get by these tough years and the neighbourhoods were pretty close.  Blues, dixieland and jazz would be the sounds of music during that time.

Q: What was popular back then?

A: Music of the 30's was a mixed bag of jazz, dixieland, fox trot  and melodious slow dance. Movies were all black and white for most of the thirties. My first movie was "Maytime" with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy (ever hear of them?) In 1939 the still famous "Gone With The Wind" appeared and theatres were packed for many weeks when this movie appeared. If you refer to the classics at video stores you will get a general idea of what was that time.  Probably a lot of Charlie Chaplin and I think you can get some of these.

As for people - well we had Dillinger, Al Capone and FDR was president in 32.  For the most part the 30's were not too comfortable financially so fun and games were pretty well for those that managed to survive the Crash of 29.

boys on bed

the good of the 30's would be that people were all primarily in the same boat - POOR - but neighbour seemed to help neighbour and life seem to have some meaning even though things were tough.  Of course WW2 broke out in 1939 and that was a  sad thing to see young lads shipped overseas to fight the war in Europe.  The up side was that it was the beginning of financial recovery for North America.

Q: Can you share some of your general memories of the time?

A: Life in the 30's was challenging if nothing else.  When the Stock Market crashed in 1929 it had a devastating effect  on the years that followed.  There were some grocery stores to obtain food from and where I lived, it would remain open until midnight on Saturday night. There was the vegetable man who came around with horse and wagon and we could go and pick out the best.  Milk was delivered by horse and wagon as well as bread.

Ocean Blend Tea was delivered by horse and a very quaint red wagon.  Meat was purchased at butcher shops where you chose the cut of meat and the butcher would cut it for you. We had a man with a fish cart that went door to door selling fresh fish which were kept on a block of ice.  He would scale and gut the fish after purchase.

Clothing could be purchased through catalogues  and the big department stores in Toronto such as Eatons and Simpsons were a big source of clothing .  Because of the shortage of money during these times, many of the poorer families had moms that sewed clothing for the family and oft times could remake second hand clothes. As we were among the poor, the city helped out families with clothing and shoes for the kids.  Churches also donated many clothes and toys for children at Christmas. Somehow to us kids, there was nothing unusual about this situation and we took it pretty well in our stride. However, I am sure it was very stressful on the parents to provide food, clothing and shelter for their families.

girl preparing food

To sum up, the 30's were very hard years for many people who were trying to find jobs and eke out a living. Those that had money had cars and the rest used public transportation (bus or streetcar).

More memories: Rural residents that had even a little land, planted vegetables in order to eat.  In the city where I grew up, we were given chits for food and clothing and the churches would send out food baskets and a few toys at Christmas.  There was no such thing as holidays and we mostly played in the streets during summer and also in the school yards.

My mother would get used clothing and convert it into a skirt for me or trousers for my brothers. Amazingly the children were not aware that they were poor as so many were in the same boat.  Moms would bake or make stews or soups, whatever they could afford. Porridge was a favorite for breakfast.

There was no TV and even radios were not prevalent in homes due to money shortages.  We had to make our own fun and did not feel deprived by doing so.  When you compare times then and now, there is little similarity and we are all very rich by comparison.

Q: What was life like for migrant farm workers?

A: Life was by no means easy for migrant farm workers. Work was very tough to come by in the 1930's and the men all over the country went on the move looking for work on the farms.


To add insult to injury, a drought occurred eroding the land and high winds literally blew once fertile land away. They might have been paid 25cents an hour when there was work available.  As for their children - they had some schooling along the way depending where they located.

workers by train

Eking out a living was more of a priority and I daresay education was minimal.

happy guy

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Last updated: May 5, 2005


© Terry Cumming, 2000-2005