As recalled by Eva Goza
The Great Depression of the 1930s was a long-term event and experience that made life-long impressions on many people living in South Arkansas during that time. One such person was Eva Goza of the Marysville Community, west of El Dorado near the Columbia-Union County line. She was 84 years old in 1986 when she shared her memories of "self-sufficiency" life in rural Arkansas during the Depression in this interview taken from the archives of the South Arkansas Community College Library.
-- Bart Reed
My name is Eva Goza. I have lived in the Marysville Community in Union County for the past 62 years. I was born on March 31, 1902. I am 84 years old. When the Depression began in 1929, I was 27 years old.
In 1930, we had a drought and didn't make too much cotton. The drought was very hard on the farmers. Cotton was at a very low price and didn't make very much for two years on account of the drought. We had to carry our cotton to Mt. Holly, which is about five or six miles from where I live. Part of the time we had to carry it to Magnolia after we had it ginned because it drew a better price. 1930-34 were the worst years for us. My husband farmed. We had our own beef, pork, chickens, butter, and eggs. We lived on what we raised on the farm. We didn't run off to town to buy things.
In 1933 my husband went to work for the WPA. The government gave men work on the public roads. The WPA paid low wages, but it was better than nothing.
We had three children then, and it was pretty hard to make a living. We had a wage hand when the farming was going pretty good. The children were too young to help out on the farm.
We owned our land and house. The house had four large rooms. I've been living here for 62 years. We had 120 acres. My husband farmed 40 acres. Most of the land was in pasture land. We would pay so much when we sold our cotton. We paid for the house and land in three years. In 1934, our house burned, and we lost almost everything. It really was tough the next couple of years. We lived over it, and we were happy most of the time. We didn't let the Depression bother us too much. We were thankful for what we did have.
We churned butter by hand with a dasher and a churn. We had plenty of our own milk and butter. We raised our own chickens and fryers. We would always put the fryers up in a pen for about three weeks so they would be good and fat. We had some goats. Once in awhile, we would kill a goat. My husband would go squirrel hunting and fishing. We were as happy then as we have ever been since. We had lots of dried fruit. We had pressure cookers, and we canned a lot. We made our own meal at the grist mill.
My two girls were in school in Mt. Holly. They caught the bus down on the main road. They had to walk about half a quarter to catch the bus.
We had real close neighbors. We tried to help each other the best we could. There just wasn't any strangers around here then. Everybody owned their own homes, and nobody sold out.
We had kerosene lamps. Later we got lamps with a wick that you had to pump up. They gave a real pretty light. You could hang them from the ceiling or put them wherever you needed a light. We heated our home with a fireplace until our home burned in 1934. Then we had a heater. My husband got all of the firewood. He hired a fellow to help him saw the wood. He got all of his wood up in the fall of the year. That would do him all winter. He would always get enough stove wood to do him until he got his crop made the next spring.
We had wood cooking stoves, an oven, and a firebox. Everything got hot. You could cook on top of the stove and in the oven too.
I sewed for me and the girls. At that time we had one boy. I sewed and made all our clothes. We were comfortably dressed in the winter. We had no electricity. We washed our clothes outside with a wash pot. We had a board well, and later we made us a dug well. Then we had more water. With the board well, we had to be might saving with the water. We drawed our water up the day before we washed. I had a rub board to rub the clothes out on.
We would put our food down in the well to keep meats and things. Then we had our own ice box. There was an ice man who hauled ice to the houses. We would put 100 pounds of ice in the ice box. This would last about a week. We were mighty saving with the ice.
There wasn't too much leisure time. But the kids would meet here and play ball in the afternoons. Once in awhile someone would have a party or a pound supper. At a pound supper, everybody that went would take a pound of something – cake, pies, sardines, salmon, cookies, or fruit. They would square dance. When they got tired of dancing, they would go in where the table was fixed. They would eat and visit. Everybody would enjoy a good time of fellowship. On Sunday afternoons, we would all meet in the ribbon cane field. Everybody would bring their knives. We would sit and peel the ribbon cane and chew it. We had lots of fun that way. That was about all the recreation we had on Sunday afternoons.
At Christmas, my husband would take the children out in the woods and get a pretty holly tree. They would also get lots of vines to decorate the house with. We bought just a few Christmas decorations. We would buy fans that would open up and leave them open. The girls would get a doll. We didn't spend very much for pleasure things. We always had apples, oranges, and candy. We would pop corn and string it. We would trim our tree with the popcorn strings. We would make syrup candy and popcorn balls. We would have an old-time sorghum pulling. They would pull the candy. The longer you pulled it, the brighter it got. Then you would twist it up and break it into pieces. It was good to eat.
Anybody can do on a lot less if you have to. Luxury doesn't make happiness.