Financial crisis revives memories of Great Depression

Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:01am EDT
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By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - When Wall Street crashed in 1929, retiree Helen Haas remembers lining up with her mother at a Chicago bank to withdraw her $50 in savings -- and coming away with just $2.

Emerson Colaw recalls his family losing the farm in Kansas when the bank closed, leaving his father with no seed money to plant next year's crops.

As millions were pitched out of work in the Great Depression that followed, Carl Oles remembers having to stand in line for stale bread in Baltimore.

"We weren't able to afford fresh bread, and there was a bakery right across the street. The best we could do was get bread that was a week old, bring it home and warm it up," Oles said.

U.S. lawmakers are locked in a debate this week over a $700 billion bailout for investment banks to head off what some say could be the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

While most Americans have felt little effect from the turmoil on Wall Street, talk of financial crisis stirs memories of the credit crunch eight decades ago that drove a generation of workers off their farms, out of their jobs, and brought many to the brink of starvation.

Haas, at 94, is a snowy haired senior living in a Phoenix retirement home. She recalls how her mother took in boarders at the family's west Chicago apartment in the 1930s to help make ends meet, while outside on the streets jobless workers faced hunger.

"People were starving. There were lines of people standing in line just to get an apple. It was pathetic," she said.   Continued...