A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

Language: English

Pages: 384


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"A wonderful reminder that economic hardship can bring suffering but can also foster compassion and community." -The Boston Globe

In hard economic times like these, readers will find bestselling author Ted Gup's unique book uplifting as well as captivating. Inside a suitcase kept in his mother's attic, Gup discovered letters written to his grandfather in response to an ad placed in a Canton, Ohio, newspaper in 1933 that offered cash to seventy-five families facing a devastating Christmas. The author travels coast to coast to unveil the lives behind the letters, describing a range of hardships and recreating in his research the hopes and suffering of Depression-era Americans, even as he uncovers the secret life led by the grandfather he thought he knew.

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ever-expanding brood. Even when her own shopping was done, she liked nothing better than to go out among the crowds on Christmas Eve and bid strangers a merry Christmas. From out of the Great Depression, Elizabeth carried with her a faith that things would work out but also a determination to help them along, to conserve and make use of whatever was at hand. Her children recall being deployed each spring to gather up the dandelions in the yard. She would mix them with vinegar and bits of bacon

America was not misplaced. The sons and daughters of those he’d helped, and millions like them, raised during the Great Depression, would soon march off to defeat Hitler and risk their lives to bring an end to the prejudices and tyranny that had defined his youth. Roy Teis’s sons enlisted the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nora Romesberg’s son joined not long after. So too did the sons of Rachel DeHoff. And scores more enlisted from among the families B. Virdot aided. They had learned

picture of him as a man in a white suit on a horse. The book Men of Mark in Georgia devotes a chapter to one of his distinguished forebears. Brigham’s father, Charles, was a flamboyant man who also owned a three-story department store that had everything the people of Girard could imagine. When there were sales, the local paper reported, he would stand on the balcony tossing coins to the crowds below. But it was the land that Lewis Brigham knew to be his birthright that figured into all his

Don told my mother he was going to give Sam a present—a light blue windbreaker with the crest of La Gorce Country Club emblazoned on the pocket along with the letters “LGCC”—my mother predicted he would refuse it on principle. But when Don jokingly told Sam the letters LGCC stood for “Large Gains Could Come,” Sam laughed and proudly donned the jacket. By then, Sam was well into his eighties and had made a curious peace with the world and its prejudices. The jacket became a favorite of his, a

have two children and my husband dependent on me. I am employed at Timken’s factory. Manage to live on my salary but winter is always so tough. The children need so many things and the extra coal and light bills to pay. Don’t have any money to buy the children any thing for Xmas this yer. We have our own home. Was left to us by Mr. Hillman’s mother. Also had a few hundred dollars but that has been gone a couple years ago. I get very much blue and discouraged when you work and then never have

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