Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Signs of the Times

Same old stuff in the news all the time. People spending more money than they earn so they can have the newest of the new. Average Joes sinking their money in the stock market because they believe it's the easy road to riches. People growing more self-centered and placing greater importance upon financial gain. Tax cuts for the wealthy so the burden falls on those who are not.
But hold on a minute. I'm not talking about today, although it does have a familiar ring to it. No, those were the conditions in the late 1920s and were the root causes of The Great Depression that followed. I didn't dream it up; you can read all about it in a classic book by Robert S. McElvaine: The Great Depression.
I remember 1929 and the Wall Street Crash but I wanted to read about its causes for a book I'm doing on the Hoosier Hot Shots. They were three musicians who found themselves out of work when vaudeville died because of movies that no longer were silent and a new-fangled device called radio. So they set out on their own in 1932, the worst possible time to start a new venture. They hit it big, though, because their sometimes zany and usually humorous music was just what a weary, discouraged public needed. Gabe Ward, an old friend and one of the trio, wrote this half a century later: "All we wanted to do was cheer up the 1929 crash victims. It worked!"
But reading McElvaine's book offers little cheer. Fright, it provides a lot of that. Much of what was happening in the years leading up to the big crash make you shake your head in near-disbelief. Archconservatives were pushing for the repeal of Prohibition so a tax could be placed on beer, the workingman's drink. They were attempting to gain control of the Democratic Party so they would have a monopoly on political power. It was their belief that the wealthy should pay no taxes at all and the entire burden should fall on those less well off.
In other words, stupid men had their hands on the throttle.
So the bubble burst. The unemployment rate shot up to 24.9% and those that still had a job were afraid they would soon lose it. Breadlines and soup kitchens popped up all over the country. Many doctors and lawyers found themselves in line for something to keep them from starving. Other men were selling apples on street corners, hoping that would bring in a little money. Bing Crosby had a hit song, "Brother, can you spare a dime?" You heard that plea on every city street. The founder of General Motors was a short-order cook in a bowling alley. Every city of any size had its Hooverville - a shanty town of tents and makeshift shelters built of cast-off wood and cardboard. And then the banks failed and drought brought the Dust Bowl.
So what did Herbert Hoover, who was elected president in 1928 have to say? Not much because his advisors said to ride it out, stay the course and it would just go away. He did say that people should spend money, forgetting that most had none. That led to a tongue-in-cheek popular song that included the line, "Mr. Herbert Hoover says now's the time to buy, so let's have another cup of coffee and let's have another piece of pie."
Years later, still in his ivory tower, Hoover wrote this about the early 1930s in his memoir: "Many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples."
Unbelievable. But the words of a popular song a decade later come to mind, it's later than you think.


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