Margaret Gunn

The value of a dollar…

Mrs. Gunn ponders the future for her great grandchildren

Mrs. Margaret Gunn was born in 1913.  She was born and raised outside of Grand Rapids Michigan, and later raised her own family there.  Ms. Gunn got married and started her family during the worst years of the Depression.  Her and her husband were frugal from the start, which they benefited greatly from latter in life.

Mrs. Gunn: [Before we start I want to show you girls these books I found.  These books document] every cent that [my husband and I] spent for the first two years of our marriage, and there are two of these for two different years, and it’s just shocking to see what we didn’t spend money on.

Q: What did you spend the most money on?

Mrs. Gunn: Well you can look. It’s in columns, and we even wrote down ten cents for this and that.

Q: It looks like groceries and meat.

Mrs. Gunn: Well I can remember going to the super market. We had to shop at night after my husband got home. Of course we didn’t have two cars until many, many years later, and you’d estimate that a brown bag like we get now would average out about a dollar per bag for all the things that went into a bag, and now you can hardly find anything in the store for a dollar…

Q: Not even gum, it’s more expensive than that.

Mrs. Gunn: But the one thing you should realize is when you’re in a certain period you don’t know that [it’s different than any other period.] I think probably you kids are old enough that you’re seeing a difference, aren’t you? In your parents; what they’re spending money on? And what they’re complaining about? One thing I was thinking about [was] years ago if the man of the house got a good job he might very well keep it for the rest of his life or until retirement, and you don’t hear about that anymore…

Q: Well lets get started.  This is Hannah Matthews and Sylvia Lorenzini and we are interviewing Mrs. Margaret Gunn on May 19th, 2009 for Wayland High School History Project. So if you could state your name for us.

Mrs. Gunn: My name is Margaret Mead Gunn.

Q: Where were you living during the Depression years?

Mrs. Gunn: I was in Michigan in a suburb of Grand Rapids, and at the time Grand Rapids was the furniture capital of the world. The best furniture was made there. In fact this [couch] is a piece of Grand Rapids furniture.

Q: When did you buy that couch?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, I don’t remember. We were married several years. All we had was comfortable chair.

Q: So that was the only piece of furniture you had really?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, my husband started – he graduated from the University of Michigan, I graduated from Michigan State – [he started working in a furniture factory], and he had to work different shifts at first. He was a graduate chemical engineer, but the best jobs were these different shifts, and they are awful ‘cause I got a job in the hospital, so I’d tuck him in bed in the morning and go off to work.

Q: When exactly were you born?

Mrs. Gunn: September 22, 1913.

Q: What were your parent’s names?

Mrs. Gunn: George Mead and Inez Mead.

Q: And what did they do for work when you were little? What were their jobs when you were younger?

Mrs. Gunn: My father worked in the office of a furniture company. He was called a correspondent, I think. I used to be so envious of the looks of the secretaries that worked in the office. We lived out in the country with a wonderful view of the big grand river and some of those girls would go in together and rent a little cottage up on the river and then they would have to walk to the street car to get into town to their jobs, and they’d carry their good shoes – high heels to put when they got to work, [they couldn’t walk in them down the unpaved country roads.]

Q: So during the Depression, did you see your parents a lot? Did you still live with them or were you and your husband on your own?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, I guess you consider the worst of the Depression would be in ’29, and we were doing things a little – I was married in, well I looked up those dates, I was married in ’36. Had a baby in ’38…

[Here Mrs. Gunn talked about an event at a local Bedford church that wasn’t relevant to the Depression, but we did learn about her love for gardening and the outdoors.]

Q: Have you always been interested in gardening? Like when you were younger during the Depression was that in your budget? Or did you have to give that up because of the depression?

Mrs. Gunn: Well you grew things then to eat, and you had to remember, even if you were well to do you wouldn’t have been eating the way we eat now because there wasn’t the refrigeration. One thing, when you first talked about the Depression, one of my first thoughts is smelt. You know what smelt are?

Q: No!

Mrs. Gunn: Well, they’re little fish, about that big and they have the smelt run in the spring when they’re going upstream to lay their eggs or whatever they do, and of course back in those days there was no freezing them to eat later on, or anything so they got cheaper and cheaper and everybody just ate smelt until you’d say you never wanted to eat another one again.

Q: Did they taste good?

Mrs. Gunn: Yeah you roll ‘em in corn meal and fry them and they’re kind of crispy. Well the meat itself isn’t. The outer cores are crispy and everybody said I never wanna see another smelt again, but I think we’d all liked the taste of them. I’m trying to remember – it seems to me that in the peak of the smelt run, they got down to something like four pounds for a quarter or something like that – just to get rid of them because they were good food and no use in raising your price ‘cause people couldn’t afford them.

Q: So did you grow tomatoes or vegetables? What did you grow for food?

Mrs. Gunn: Later on when we got the first house we built – we rented for just a couple years and then we built a house – and yeah we had vegetables, radishes. Then we started feeding the birds by growing sunflowers in very big stalks. Yeah I used to do a lot of canning in glass jars and those were usually things that we bought. Like I bought a whole bushel or peaches, and I’d make sauerkraut. You know how you make sauerkraut? What’s it made out of?

Q: It’s made out of cabbage right?

Mrs. Gunn: Yeah. It’s fermented cabbage.

Q: Cabbage and vinegar right?

Mrs. Gunn: I had a big crock. That crock in the corner is something like it. I think we had – that one came from somebody else. I think ours was bigger than that, and it gets kind of smelly. You put a plate on the top of it to press it down and then you put a rock on the plate and then you clean around it every once in a while … and then [we’d] make dill pickles the same was – whole crock full of dill pickles.

Q: So was that sort of your role in the household?

Mrs. Gunn: Oh yes.

Q: Yeah? So you were the at home mother? The cook?

Mrs. Gunn: Well you know housework was a lot more work because you didn’t have as many conveniences. You didn’t have – while I was waiting for you people to come, I was sewing on a quilt that I’m working on in the bedroom and thinking it’s nice soft material and you know back in those days everything had to be ironed. All your housedresses and stuff like that. Cleaning was a lot more work because usually the heating system put more dirt into the air.

Q: What type of modern conveniences did you have? Or did you not have any?

Mrs. Gunn: Well they were coming along. There were vacuum cleaners. Hoover was being made then. That was probably one of the first. We didn’t have anything like a refrigerator for quite awhile. We had a laundry tub we put in basement, and in real hot weather we’d buy some ice and put the chunk of ice in it, and [we’d] just put butter and milk and perishable things in the ice and cover it over with some kind of a tarp, and we had an ice card – you know what an ice card it?

Q: No!

Mrs. Gunn: Well, you put it in your window and it twists – it’s a square card, but it says 25, 50, 100 – how many pounds of ice you want, and the ice man goes by and when he sees you want a chunk of ice, he brings it in over his shoulder, and then finally we got an ice box. Of course an ice box is just the same thing up in the kitchen and the ice keeps melting and you look at it and think well it didn’t melt an awful lot today, I don’t have to dump the pan that’s underneath it. And then you wait a few hours too long and you’ve got a little river flowing across the kitchen floor.

Q: So did you have a radio when you were living with your husband?

Mrs. Gunn: Yeah.

Q: Did you listen to it often?

Mrs. Gunn: I wasn’t addicted to it of course I worked until I had the children then I didn’t work anymore, but it seemed to me I stayed awful busy just doing all the thing I did. I did quite a lot of sewing and a lot of then gardening.

Q: So did you ever listen to FDR – his fireside chats? Did you ever listen to any of those?

Mrs. Gunn: No.

Q: What about FDR? Did you hear a lot of news stories about him? Did you pay close attention to his presidency? How aware were you of his New Deal?

Mrs. Gunn: You know at one point television was just beginning and we decided it’d be more fun. At that time we were living in Ohio for a while. We decided it’d be interesting to have a short wave radio and listen to the boats on the Mississippi River running around having all the problems they had. Well my daughter was lucky, we had a friend who worked in the same company as my husband and she was a little mite of a thing and she liked clothes, and she’d buy clothes and wear them for a while and then give them to Virginia, and she went all the way through high school and they put her into college I think wearing all her handed down clothes. They were better than we could afford then if we just bought them.

Q: During the Depression was it cheaper to make your own clothes or was it less expensive to buy clothing?

Mrs. Gunn: I didn’t make clothes much. I made curtains and knitted and sewed some. It was a busy, busy time; we went to an interesting church when the kids were growing up. It’s a big church in Grand Rapids that has no affiliation. We keep telling them that they’re closet Unitarians. Their beliefs are very much like ours. Many years ago we visited the church and the minister and we said “Well why don’t you just admit you’re Unitarians?” and he said, “Well, I know you need us, but we don’t need you.” That’s as far as we got.

Q: Were you aware of what else was going on in the country during that time? Obviously, you kept track of your money so you were aware that there wasn’t as much available, but was your social life affected? Did friends have to move away? Did family have to move away? Did you have to support you parents at all?

Mrs. Gunn: You know we never seemed to have [much] of social life. My husband was kind of timid. That was why he chose to be a chemical engineer, and the amazing thing was that later on he found he did get along with people and he ended up managing a good sized company.

Q: What was the name of the company?

Mrs. Gunn: Well it was refrigeration that started out as Leonard and then became Alcoa. Well, as Alcoa goes, his wasn’t a big shot job.

This is something I wanted to show you if you’re interested. [Mrs. Gunn brings out a photo album for us to look at] We found that our vacations cost practically nothing. We liked to go camping with gas costing, as I remember, from 23 to 27 cents a gallon you might as well get in your car and drive, and our favorite place was Colorado. [Showed us pictures.] We ate very simply and almost never went in a restaurant. We had one trip into Northern Michigan and up and around there. We were gone 14 days and it rained 12 of them, and we got pretty icky.

Q: Do you have any stories or memories that you remember really well from the Depression? What’s the most interesting story? Like did you ever hear anything crazy on the news? Did you ever have an interesting adventure or anything like that?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, I suppose the news – of course in the early days I didn’t seem to listen to much news…I don’t know what you kids are but I think we’re mostly Democrats. We’re enthusiastic about our new president. Back in those days we were blaming all the problems on – who was it that was president for so long?


Mrs. Gunn: Yeah.

Q: So did you like FDR? Was your family a fan of FDR?

Mrs. Gunn: Not at the time. Nope.

Q: Why not?

Mrs. Gunn: I don’t know.

Q: Was it just because everyone every one didn’t like him?

Mrs. Gunn: We were in a very – it was a strange community. We were in this area that was settled by the Dutch, and they’re very strict in their rules. They probably didn’t approve of anything we did, but they went to church three times on Sunday. How would you like to have to do that? And they don’t work on Sunday. If you’re going to have potatoes on Sunday, you peel them on Saturday, or maybe you cook ‘em on Saturday and cook ‘em again on Sunday or something. And there were nasty little remarks that get passed around that I probably shouldn’t say anything about. They quietly say well yeah they go to church three times on Sunday and jip you in business on Monday.

Q: So did you have any brothers or sister growing up?

Mrs. Gunn: No.

Q: Oh you were an only child?

Mrs. Gunn: Only child.

Q: What was that like? Did you wish you had brothers and sisters?

Mrs. Gunn: Well you know, I miss now, at my age, I miss having somebody close at my age bracket you know… I guess I was probably a pretty spoiled kid. My mother did have kind of a nasty temper, but my father took over and we did all sorts of things together – canoed on the river, and I learned to swim off a dock in the Grand River with water wings. Do you know what water wings are?

Q: Are those like the floaties you put on your arms?

Mrs. Gunn: No they go on your back, and you blow them up and put the little thing in to hold the air and then the time comes – and then he tied a rope around me too, so I wasn’t gonna drown, but I did a lot of swimming and the river’d get pretty icky during the end of the summer. It was warm and there was a tannery where they worked with leather up stream from us and they put some icky stuff in, but you swam anyways and pushed the stuff out of the way.

Q: So life for you in the Depression, did it change much from when you were a little kid? Because you got married in the middle of the Depression, right? So before you were married, did that life change a lot?

Mrs. Gunn: I don’t think that we, at my age, felt it much. My father never lost his job, of course if he had that would make a big difference.

Q: Did your mom work after she had you or was she always at home?

Mrs. Gunn: She liked to get out, and my father used to point out to her that she was losing money on her job. She liked to be with people, so she worked for a little tiny newspaper, community newspaper, using our car and our gas to run around and get little ads like little classified ads.

Q: So she had a very strong social life?

Mrs. Gunn: She liked to get out.

Q: She got along with people well?

Mrs. Gunn: Yeah. Unfortunately there was 18 years difference in my parents’ ages. I would not recommend that to you kids. Find someone closer to your own age and you have a better chance.

Q: How far apart were you and your husband in age?

Mrs. Gunn: One year.

Q: Was that the result of your parents being so far apart? Did you want to find someone closer to your own age because your parents were so far apart?

Mrs. Gunn: Mmhmm

Q: How long were you and your husband married?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, a long time. He died some time ago.

Q: How did you meet him?

Mrs. Gunn: [laughs] I met him by breaking a test tube. I was taking chemistry.

Q: Did he work at the hospital where you worked?

Mrs. Gunn: No this was when I was in junior college, and he got a little job in the lab. I don’t know whether he got money for it, or just something else, but I guess they called him a lab assistant or something. And if you broke a test tube or something you took the broken pieces and I guess you had to pay a nickel or something like that to replace it if you did that. And then we got to talking and I was telling him about my canoe and so he ended up coming to see me and get a ride in the canoe, and then the canoe was stolen. Well there goes that! But by that time he liked the canoe enough that we bought another canoe.

Q: So you were a very outdoorsy person? You liked the outdoors a lot?

Mrs. Gunn: Well quite a bit. I never was good at walking a lot. And when I was all grown up, I probably was 60, 70 years old when I met a lady from the Appalachian Mountain Club, and I said, “You know I just don’t walk easily.” And she said, “Show me how you walk.” And so I walked a few steps and she said “Well no wonder! You’re not using enough of your body, you gotta bend you knees!” and all these things. I figured it’s too late to learn that.

Q: Too late to change it now!

Mrs. Gunn: Then I had this accident 2 ½ years ago with my car and bung myself up pretty bad. I broke this wrist [points to wrist] and this knee [points to knee], and bung my head and had 14 staples in the top of my head. So that’s what this comes from. [Showed us her special walker.]

Q: So you know E.R.? Right?

Mrs. Gunn: Mmhmm.

Q: Yah, so she told me that you were a pilot?

Mrs. Gunn: Mmhmm.

Q: Oh really. So when was that?

Mrs. Gunn: Well that was in my older years, young-old years. No, we were living in Canada then, and my husband took a job managing a plan over there. And then his work changed, and he took a job in Ohio, and so he went on ahead to start the job, and I was to stay behind and sell the house. We had it built especially for us. And we kinda had to wait for either another American to come over with some money and buy it or something. And so I was bored to death, and kinda nervous about was I ever going to get down there and join him? And so I’d always kinda wanted to fly, so I went out and talked to them about it. And so I soloed over there, and then I got a chance to get to Ohio, so I got my license in Ohio which was fortunate. But it was different in Canada. I was flying out of the big airport where they try and scan where the planes were going and that was quite tricky. But it was a good background. And then I looked to see where I would be flying in Ohio and I was flying off of Grass Strip. Do you know what a Grass Strip is?

Q: Yeah.

Mrs. Gunn: It’s a strip of grass! And you’re looking out for dogs or maybe a cow or something and if you want to know if there’s any traffic, I didn’t even have so much as a radio in the car, in the plane.

Q: Oh really!

Mrs. Gunn: So if you want to know if there’s other traffic, you tilt your wings, and look and see! Sometimes it would be a good idea if some of these pilots that are doing bigger things would look and see what’s around them!

Q: When was this?

Mrs. Gunn: Quite a while ago, in the 50s.

Q: In the 50’s, really.

Mrs. Gunn: Yes I suppose that doesn’t seem like too long ago.

Q: Oh no, that’s a long time ago! So did you ever do anything like that when you were younger? Did you ever hear about Charles Lindbergh? Did you hear news stories about him and about other people like that?

Mrs. Gunn: No I just like the outdoors and I like fresh air. Until this day I don’t like elevators that you have to work yourself, ‘cause when I grew up you had an elevator operator.

Q: They did it for you.

Mrs. Gunn: I’m not scared of them anymore I just don’t like them!

Q: Right now in our history class we are learning about FDR, and the New Deal and all of his programs, and Hoovervilles. Did you ever hear, did you ever see one, hear about one, anything like that?

Mrs. Gunn: You know we didn’t pay very much attention to politics.

Q: So the only way the Depression really affected you and your husband was just that you had to watch what kind of money you had to spend? Or did it affect your job at all? Any pay cuts anything like that?

Mrs. Gunn: No we never lost a job. That would be tough!

Q: Yeah.

Mrs. Gunn: When we were first married we rented a little house, and we had a choice of, of course he was running a factory so that area right around that was the only place anyone would want to live, I got this job in the hospital. It was kind of a funny job, I was trained to be a bacteriologist and I had offers to go to some little town nearby and get paid a little bit and then they’d throw in room and board for the nurses. But I didn’t want to do that because I knew I was going to get married soon. So finally I landed this job that they had thrown a bunch of things together. That’s one thing to think about in a hospital, there was no hospitalization insurance then. And if you got sick or if you were going to have a baby you just might not go to the hospital because you couldn’t afford it. They had closed off, this was a big hospital, and they had closed off, I can’t remember if it was one or two floors entirely, and so they took some of the people that had been working there and the job that I took over had a little bit of everything and I was doing a lot of bluffing. “Oh sure I can do this, and I can do that.” I was a receptionist for the x-ray department, and learning to take x-rays at the same time.

Q: Did you ever actually get to take an x-ray?

Mrs. Gunn: Yah I took x-rays, but I was learning as I went along. But I also had to type up the menus for the different departments. And it was funny, I think now the menus in the hospital are quite similar right through the hospital, but the private rooms got better food so there was more to type in their menus. And then the kind of fun part of it was after surgery…the surgeon was supposed to come to my office and dictate what he had done in the operation, and that’s where a lot of the bluffing came in. I didn’t know enough of that vocabulary but I learned it fast! But I had a little power because the doctors were required to do that. And some of them were a little bit ‘lax about it. There was a surgeon that came down from quite far up North in Michigan and did some surgery once in awhile. And he’d forget to come in, and I could go to the director of the hospital and say, “Doctor So-and-so from his town way up in Michigan didn’t give me his dictation.” And so he’d get after him.

Q: So did you always work at a hospital? Was that your only job?

Mrs. Gunn: That was my only job.

Q: Did you enjoy it?

Mrs. Gunn: I didn’t work after-

Q: After you had your children, right. About how long did you work?

Mrs. Gunn: It was about 3 years I think.

Q: Was it hard to give up working, or did you want to stay at home?

Mrs. Gunn: I don’t know that I thought much about it. I just wanted to take care of my baby, and more people were doing that.

Q: What were your children’s schools like? Were they small, did they have big classes?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, the school that I remember best was a cement block building, you know just pretty dreary, 4 rooms on the main floor and 4 rooms on the top, and because it was war time everything was very patriotic, and you lined up outdoors to go in with a victrola that you wind up on the landing playing something patriotic. Of course if the thing ran down because somebody hadn’t wound it well that was funny. Ha-ha-funny.

Q: Nice little joke of the day. So was everything really patriotic when your kids went to school? Was it around World War II, or was it during the Depression? Was your family ever involved? Did your husband have to fight?

Mrs. Gunn: No he was kind of in between. He was declared necessary to the war effort because his factory switched over from making refrigerators to making propellers for planes.

Q: So he was helping here at home instead of overseas.

Mrs. Gunn: No he wasn’t in the army, and his brother wasn’t either. His brother when he was about the age of you kids, I imagine, he developed some kind of a growth in his head, some sort of a tumor that he had to have removed, and they didn’t want him in the army.

Q: So did your husband support, was his business, did his income-

Mrs. Gunn: [My husband] worked under the army. They told him what to make, and in fact he made a lot of trips from Michigan to somewhere in Connecticut where they were assembling planes and things.

Q: So because your husband was helping make propellers for the army, did he have a lot more income, did he make a lot more money, or was it just the same as always?

Mrs. Gunn: No, no I don’t think so.

Q: So the depression and the war didn’t really affect how you lived day to day?

Mrs. Gunn: No.

Q: Were you, were you, I’m sorry-

Mrs. Gunn: No we were always very careful about money. We did something that I still do to this day; we operate on a cash basis. And people say, “well you don’t mean for a house, or a car, or something big like that?” and I do mean that. We built three different houses where we’d have them framed out mostly, and then we’d take over with the finishing of the inside and everything. And we moved into the first house we built just before my daughter went into kindergarten, and that was an experience. We built the garage first because we wanted to be sure we had some place to live. It was kind of handy because I could wake up in the morning and bed was right beside the kitchen stove. It was a 20 by 20 garage, and we slept four people in there, and that was our living. I remember one lady came to see me with a little girl, and the little girl said she wanted a drink of water, and I said “Oh I guess our pitcher’s empty.” I had to go outdoors go down the steps into the house that wasn’t there yet, but we had the well, so we could get a pale of water. And I had hoped they wouldn’t insist on a glass of water right at the moment, and have to go down the flight of stairs again.

Q: Were you nervous at all when you heard the Stock Market crashed, or did you just think nothing too bad would happen from it? Did you ever invest in the Stock Market?

Mrs. Gunn: Well at that time we didn’t have any stalk yet. I have a little bit now. I guess I’m more worried now!

Q: So you didn’t invest when you were younger at all, in the Stock Market ever? You just stayed away from it? Did your parents?

Mrs. Gunn: Well we did some saving for my daughter’s college, and there weren’t as many scholarships around.

Q: So when did you start saving for college, just a few years before she went, or was it a long term thing?

Mrs. Gunn: Well we knew she was going to want a good education. She was going through school setting records for high grades that had never been set before. I guess there was one girl some years before her [who] had had just a fraction higher grades, other than that she had the highest grades in the school. So we were looking at the better schools for something like her. She ended up at Swarthmore.

Q: Oh that’s a great school. We are looking at colleges now. But you didn’t start saving when she was very little right?

Mrs. Gunn: No we just were always cautious with money. I think I still am.

Q: That’s very smart. We can tell from these! [referring to the expense books.] So you didn’t ever really have to worry about it because you were just careful from the beginning?

Mrs. Gunn: Well we, if you look in those money books, you see there’s a column for entertainment. I think you’ll find that it’s quite vacant. Because you know we lived near a gravel pit. What can you do in a gravel pit?

Q: I don’t know.

Mrs. Gunn: What would you do if you go walking in a gravel pit?

Q: Wouldn’t you fall and hurt yourself?

Mrs. Gunn: We were looking for fossils and stuff like that! And we did a lot of walking like that, and going to the parks around. Oh we’d go to the occasional show. After my father died I found some letters that he had written to my mother. She evidently had gone up north to look after some relative who was sick or something, he was left alone to keep house for himself for just a few days I think. Back in those days you could get a letter back and forth up through Michigan in one day. Now it probably takes about 4. Anyway he was saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I have gone to a couple of movies. I sit up in the balcony for I don’t know 11 cents, or something like that!” He was lonesome, so he’d go to a show.

Q: And was that during the Depression or was that after?

Mrs. Gunn: That would have been early, probably before the Depression hit bad.

Q: So it was 11 cents?

Mrs. Gunn: Mmhmm.

Q: Wow. Do you know how much it cost to go see a movie during the Depression?

Mrs. Gunn: Just pennies, well depending on where you went.

Q: Who were the popular actors?

Mrs. Gunn: Our church in Michigan burnt down at one point, so they had their church in one of the theaters for a while ‘til they built the big new church.

Q: Who were the big stars in the movies? Who were the most famous people in the movies? Do you remember your favorite actors or actresses?

Mrs. Gunn: Ever hear of Mary Pickford?

Q: Oh, I feel like I should know that name.

Mrs. Gunn: I don’t know any of the – do you kids go to movies much?

Q: Yes, all the time! We love movies! I love watching movies at home now on demand is my favorite thing.

Mrs. Gunn: What does it cost to go to the movies now?

Q: It’s about 10 dollars now. But then for popcorn that’s another 10, so it’s about 20, 20 dollars. It’s very expensive. And gas nowadays; uh it’s killing me!

Mrs. Gunn: You have to buy popcorn in there?

Q: Yah, they have all the concession stands now.

Mrs. Gunn: Well we used to grow our own popcorn.

Q: Oh really!

Mrs. Gunn: We’d grow these little ‘bity ears of popcorn that were red before you pop ‘em, dark red. And then when they pop the white turns up and they were real pretty and very tender. You can still buy then I guess if you want to.

Q: Oh really.

Mrs. Gunn: I mean buy them to plant, and then dry them and everything.

Q: So do you have any more stories about the Depression, or about anything around that time that you want to share with us?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, we had neighbors. This man was a salesman of this Grand Rapids made furniture and he used to travel way out to the West Coast by train of course, there wasn’t any other way, and he was always trying to convince my parents that it was the new thing to move to California. And I was timid, and I didn’t want to move anywhere, and I just didn’t want them talking to my folks about maybe we’d have to move to California, but they didn’t fall for it either!

Q: Oh good!

Mrs. Gunn: They just listened to it!

Q: Alright. Do you have anything else you want to tell us about the Depression?

Mrs. Gunn: Well, it’s hard to think. You know, you go on and you’re living as normal a life as you can. You’re not thinking Depression all the time. What kind of an age do you feel you’re in now?

Q: I definitely think we especially living in Wayland, we live in a town that’s a little bit more privileged. It doesn’t feel like we’re really going through – I mean you can tell some places that we are going through harsh economic times, but then other times I don’t really-I’m not thinking about it all the time. So Wayland is a place where you don’t have to worry about it too much, but I know my mom is pressuring me to get a job and pay for stuff, and my family’s been cutting back.

Mrs. Gunn: Well I think I see it as a time of uncertainty where you just don’t know. I look at my great-grandchildren that are 7 and 9 or something like that, and I think what kind of a world are we handing on to them? What’s it gonna be like when they grow up? As I mentioned before I think, back in those old, older days if a man got a good job, he’d very likely work that one job his whole life. Maybe get a little penchant in the end, or something. But it wasn’t considered really proper to jump around from one job to the other. You get a good job and you stick to it.

Q: Uh-huh.

Mrs. Gunn: And then of course the women didn’t come out so well in that end. I don’t know whether, I guess women aren’t up quite to men’s pace tail yet are they?

Q: Not quite, but we’re getting there. We’ll get there sooner or later.

[Here Mrs. Gunn asked what we would like to be when we grow up, and she also asked about what languages we were studying in school which led to a story she had about her years as a Latin student.]

Mrs. Gunn: I’ll tell you about Latin! I had a year or so, in this community where we lived, outside of Grand Rapids, and fortunately the school board was sensible enough to decide to pay our tuition to any of the city high schools we wanted to go to because they were bigger and better established then to build a little ‘bity high school on our community. So we went to different high schools, some went to one, and some went to the other. And we discovered that if we wanted, I don’t know whether if it was a second year of Latin or the third, we had to go to a still different high school. And so some of us decided that would be kinda fun. It was required of the Pre Med. kids I think, and I think we had to get ourselves there which meant a street car right and quite a bit of walking. And then somebody had a car and we’d pile into his car and hurry back to our original school for the rest of the day, so we thought that’s kind of fun. Get the inside of a second high school! I imagine they teach Latin very different now!

Q: Yeah, it’s fun I like it. Did you travel a lot when you were younger?

Mrs. Gunn: In school you mean?

Q: Yeah, did you ever study abroad?

Mrs. Gunn: No.

Q: Have you ever been to Europe?

Mrs. Gunn: I’ve been to England and Scotland. My daughter was married in Scotland.

Q: Oh wow.

Mrs. Gunn: And had the ceremony in an interesting little old sort of a castle. We were in awe!

Q: I think we’re good, thank you so much! That was absolutely wonderful, thank you.

Mrs. Gunn: I hope I was more help than I think I probably was.

Q: No, you were so much help.

Other Interviews