History Brief: Daily Life in the 1930s


Every family was different in the 1930s, but
there were some things that many of them had in common. What was day to day life like in
the 1930s? What did families do? A typical family during the Great Depression
would have consisted of a father, mother, and several children. The average day would
commence with the father of the family leaving for work. That is, of course, if he was lucky
enough to still be employed. Shortly after he had left, the children would leave for
school. Most children walked to school or rode
the school bus. The mother of the family usually did laundry
on Monday mornings. Some families had new, labor-saving washing machines, but washing
clothes by hand was still common. The clothes were hung out to dry on a clothes line. Tuesday
was ironing day. Some families had electric irons, but many women still used a heavy,
black flat-iron that was heated on the stove. The most common form of entertainment was
the radio. Radio programs would entertain families throughout the day with various kinds
of programming. During the day, soap operas would interest mothers while they worked in
the home. After school, action and adventure programs for kids were common. In the evening,
programs that the entire family might enjoy would take over the airwaves.
If the family didn’t want to listen to the radio, they might choose to play a board game,
which were becoming popular in the ’30s. Sorry! was released by Parker Brothers in 1934 and
still remains popular today. By far, the most successful board game was Monopoly. This game
gave people the chance to buy and sell property with money they could only dream of having.
On Saturday evening, it was common for a family to go shopping, if they had the money to do
so. There were a variety of stores downtown, from shoe stores, to clothing, sporting goods,
and music shops. Most families didn’t have a lot of money to
spend at these stores. The average take home pay was about $17 a week. Some made as little
as $7 a week. Doctors made about $60 a week. The prices of products reflected the economic
conditions. A men’s shirt cost about $1. A washing machine could be purchased for about
$33. A winter coat might cost anywhere from $18 to $28. A milkshake might cost a dime,
and a bag of roasted peanuts could be purchased for a penny.
Since many families had so little money, certain things that were once commonplace became luxuries.
For example, going to the barber was no longer an option for many families. Haircuts at home
became standard practice. Families also stopped going to the dentist for regular check-ups,
and doctor visits were saved for very serious conditions. Some women even started giving
birth at home in an effort to save money. Unfortunately, not every family could afford
to go shopping or purchase new clothes. Some families were forced to patch shoes with rubber
from worn out tires. Even families that had once been affluent began dressing their children
in hand-me-downs. The Great Depression made life extremely difficult
for many people. Unemployment rates reached unbelievable numbers, with as much as 25%
of the population unable to find work. This meant that an estimated 13-15 million Americans
did not have a job. Those looking for work were desperate. A business
would advertise for six positions that needed to be filled and more than 15,000 applicants
would apply. Some of those who couldn’t find work began riding the rails. Known as hobos,
they illegally boarded boxcars on trains, hoping to find work in the next town.
Those who were fortunate enough to keep their job saw their wages slashed by as much as
60%. A worker who had once made $1 an hour would be reduced to 40 cents and be happy
to have it. All across the nation, fathers who had once held important positions in companies
were now searching dumpsters for their family’s next meal.
Food was scarce for many. Cabbage soup became a common meal. Meat and vegetables could no
longer be afforded. Some families even resorted to taking turns eating. Some members of the
family would eat on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, while others ate on Tuesdays, Thursdays,
and Saturdays (with perhaps the entire family eating together on Sunday).
In order to cut heating costs, families resigned to heating only one room of their house. They
used many different heating sources, from wood, to coal that they had found, or even
corncobs. In an effort to save money, many families
shared homes. Some younger children were sent away to live with relatives in a different
part of the country. In other cases, kids as young as 13 were told to leave home and
go find work. Obviously, every family was different, and
each had its own set of circumstances. However, each family did everything it could to make
it through one of the most difficult times in American history.

100 thoughts on “History Brief: Daily Life in the 1930s”

  1. Poverty has a look and not just in clothing. There is a look of poverty on people's faces. Growing up poor, I've had to get a poverty mentality out of my life. Thankfully, we can achieve much when we learn to think differently.

  2. Today, if you go to mc donalds, restaurants or any take away shop, you can see the food thrown away on the road or putted into bin without finish it.

  3. Between :50 and :55, that's a wringer washer! And I grew up with one in the 1960s and 70s! New detergent boxes had, on one side of them in the 1960s, instructions for how much detergent goes into a wringer washer or the automatic kind! Did you say a pound of peanuts for a penny? A BIG box of Cracker Jack was a dime in the 1960s! In the 1930s my grandpa worked as a fireman. And at 35 cents I got two and a half milkshakes, how about that!

  4. And here we are today in 2019 and most people die before they have enough money for doctors and dentists. Most people are working poor, while the Waltons own everything.

  5. Can someone please explain to me how everything was so cheap back then? And some of these things made in the 30s are still around like that iron.

  6. Females had it so hrad back then , while the husband worked in a coal mine, she would iron clothes and listen to soaps on the radio. Im sure glad feminism liberated these single mothers.

  7. Seeing the poverty not only in this video but in numerous other sources, what really burns me up is how the Depression was reportedly engineered by a certain few financiers, meaning it was made to happen. Then to make matters even worse, these same evil people saw to it that the Depression was prolonged, ending only when the US was drawn into WWII when we were attacked by Japan in Dec. 1941. I often wonder if there's a special place in Hell for people like that.

  8. Spot on. And it got worse under the Democrats (1932-1951), who used the war machine to "improve" things (& get rid of more objectionables).

  9. The Great Depression, The biggest robbery in history. Next to the theft of the land the native americans lost to undocumented immigrants

  10. Good plan if you wanted to plan a second world war, and have people running to the recruiters looking for work. germany had a hyperinflation in the 20s. The men who run our world are extremely sick and filthy rich, God will bring the hammer down on them someday

  11. Good 'ol capitalism. A lot of people in America look like this now. How ironic the most popular game to play is monopoly.

  12. And the spoiled entitled generations complains if they do not get a new phone as soon as it comes out. I soooooo wish we could go back in time!

  13. My grandmother told me that her family had so many kids that each kid ate on certain days of the week. Each child had chores every day and the rest of the time school studying was the norm. When old enough, each child went and got a job and the money brought home was used for the household.

  14. A lot of the statistics quoted in this video have been disproved and are common exaggerations that were perpetuated without foundation for generations. If one takes a deeper look you find there was expansion in a lot of modern industry with good pay, lots of housing expansion and many cities,especially out west were enjoying massive expansion. The aviation industry in southern California being a good example.Many of the programs set up by the F.D.R. administration actually prolonged the depression.People need to educate themselves on the causes and effects of the great depression, you might be enlightened as to who caused it and why.

  15. My great grandmother was born near the end of the depression.
    I remember my grandmother stated she used to get handme down clothes from the local mayor's daughter.
    Sence the family were friends with them.
    I believe she was quite blessed, her family still had hardships though.

  16. My Mammaw had already birthed 2 babies by herself at home on their Missouri cotton farm by the time my Dad was born in '39. She always saved and recycled everything. And she could make the best homemade cornbread out of almost nothing! Miss you Mammaw 💖👵

  17. Why are people so fucking stupid hey we’re super poor we have no money and it’s the depression I know let’s have kids great idea that’ll make us even more miserable all you’re making is murderers degenerates And drunks and homeless people fucking stupid

  18. I don’t care what the circumstances are if you don’t have money for children then you don’t deserve children children cost a shit ton of money a shit ton really wish people had common sense

  19. The 30's were a good time for my family. My grandma had her brothers and sisters mom and dad and he worked in coal mines. She had no idea they were poor. Her moma raised a garden

  20. What they had was enough. They seem contented. The great depression did not make them depressed. Suicide was not in their vocabulary.

  21. The money that could have saved America went from the Robber Barron's to Hitler"s military build up….TRAITORS.
    Prescott Bush was convicted of trading With The Enemy Act".
    Then his children become president and governors. The American memory or investigating skills think this is bullshit, but it's fucking TRUE!

  22. People say history repeats itself, I think since people are not as self reliant as they used to be, WHEN another True economic collapse happens again it will be so much more worse than this. People will be rioting in the streets for food for their families.

  23. It wasn't all the same. In The South it was bad times as usual, but then that bad wasn't that bad . Consider The East, or The Rust Belt, the huge numbers of the unemployed, the South had none of that, still, no money, but more than you could eat.

  24. my memaw was born a few years before the Great Depression. horrible to think she went through this, i don’t want to ask her what it was like since she had to live through it.

  25. Wish they would teach the younger generations and pass on these stories so that we never forget gratefulness, humility and to teach creativity. Creativity came during the times we people had to invent ways of living to survive or repurpose things so we don’t become so wasteful or indifferent to those around us. Community was more important in helping one another as well because everyone had a better heart of understanding and love for one another- including their neighbors!

  26. My parents married in the Moody Bible Institute in ‘30. That’s where they met when both were attending classes at Moody. They settled here in Ontario Canada where dad was born & raised,…..& my American mom got her Canadian citizenship. My three older siblings were born in the ‘30’s. I was the final addition in ‘46 soon after the boys came marching home. I remember listening to the radio every night. We didn’t get a TV until my sister bought us one when I was 11…..in ‘57……when she was finally employed after quitting school when she finished grade 10. Of course it was a black & white set. That was the most exciting day of my life up to then. I no longer had to go to the neighbours to watch TV after school!!! lol

  27. When I was 10 we moved from a country community to right beside a busy highway just on the outskirts of a large town. There was a handy convenient little place a five-minute walk from our house….that sold gas, & candy & pop & bags of chips, & it also sold meals eaten in several booths. Pop, chips, chocolate bars…..each cost ten cents! This was in the late ‘50’s. I remember the outrage when a (glass) bottle of pop eventually went up to twenty-five cents! lol

  28. When I was still living with mom & dad, still in school, I remember mom being able to buy a week’s worth of groceries for the three of us for $20….in the early ‘60’s. Dad & mom were both employed before I was born in ‘46……working for a huge business planting all kinds of vegetables which would be sold to grocery stores. Then mom remained at home when I (4th & final child) was born. Then she became employed again when I was ten,….in a government-run employment office. People working for the government were called civil servants….& were paid well. Dad found assorted types of manual labour…..as a grave digger in a cemetery…..& then as a cleaner in a bomb shelter in a town half an hour from our home…..where army families lived. Mom & dad always had a large vegetable garden & a fruit garden….& grew more than enough for our family….so they had enough to sell some too. We weren’t well off, but God always supplied for all our needs!

  29. People need to realize all u need is a job car roof food for life can your food have a garden kids today will not make it they haven't been taught save all you can so u can live

  30. That was a clean version! They were bitten and chewed on by big rats the size of cats! No sewerage system. They sold their baby daughters for sex. Those children were weighted down with syphlis.

  31. This was a rich family, we lived in real poverty on a farm if it wasn't for the hard work if you could walk you had a job and we ate a lot of potatoes my grandfather lucked out when they told him you could clame land so he walked for one day in all directions and put in a stake and that was his land to farm first he cut lumber by hand and two man saw then he started farming with a horse team he ordered a wife from a magazine then he and his first wife had ten kids she died and remarried a INDIAN wife and had two more my dad was the eleventh and everyone worked

  32. Definitely love watching these vids to ground myself and show my kids how much we have to be thankful for AND to see what many did and consider learning to do them as a way to bring the family closer and not lose those vital skills that many dont know "how to" anymore.

  33. Well at least if you were white during those times you didn’t have to worry about being lynched for no reason at all on top of ALL the other issues…. just saying

  34. My mom was born in 32. She's the oldest of twelve. Nine were girls and there were two sets of twins. I have a set of twin aunt's who are only three years older than me. I learned a lot from the women in our family on how to get by on just a little.

  35. My parents (age 86 & 83) went thru the Great Depression. They STILL have penny pinching ways. Now that they're not as able, and we tell them to hire ppl to do tasks…they say they can't see (paying) someone else when they can some what do it (albeit slowly, canes and all).

  36. My great gramma lived back then she was lucky enough to come from a well off family her father had his own buisness so they didn’t have to struggle very much

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