Bill Barrons: Tough Winter of 1931-32

As an author of  five detective/mystery books, one might think I’d have a tough time recalling real events of my past.  Not so; at the tender age of eighty nine, my memory is still good.
The small city of Cadillac, Michigan, was reputed to be one of the coldest places in that state.  It seems to be in a geologic bowl where cold air settles in and doesn’t seem to leave.  But it was a prosperous city until 1929.
The Great Depression was firmly in place in the exceedingly cold winter of 1931-1932.   Before that financial calamity spread from the crooked stock markets to the whole nation and indeed, to the entire world, my father had a good job on a railroad.  He owned an almost new Cadillac automobile and had just bought a nice new house when the stuff hit the fan.  As were millions of other men, he was laid off.  Incredibly, the railroad yard where he worked actually shut right down.  The furniture factories in town closed. The sewing machine factory with all its fascinating belt-driven machines, that I as a kid, enjoyed peeking through the windows at, laid everyone off.  In fact, our dad had no real employment for five years – much like millions of other men then.
William Frederick Barrons had by 1931 had a very nice wife, four daughters and two sons to support.  He lost his new house to a bank and we moved from one house to another.  Apparently, he could somehow scrape up or borrow enough rent money for a short time but then, with no income to pay out, the landlord would insist my dad should move his family out.
That dinky four room cottage on Burlingame Street we lived in during that terrible winter of 1931-1932 had no insulation.  The single pane windows became frosted on the inside to half an inch thickness!  No kidding!  Heat, such as it was, came from a wood and coal-burning kitchen stove.  My older sisters and I picked up little pieces of coal along the railroad tracks to help fuel it.
All of us kids got sick with the measles or chicken pox or mumps or worst, the whooping cough.  Some of us caught more than one disease.  We can pity our mom, trying to care for all her seven children.  She eventually had fourteen of us!
We had a genuine perfect angel among us.  That was little Marian.  She was about three when I turned six that winter and to this day, I can still see that beautiful child convulsing with whooping cough.  She was taken to a hospital where she died, the doctor said, literally of a broken heart, from all that coughing. It is such a blessing that medical science – after thousands of years of ignorance – finally found ways to conquer such diseases.
In 2002, I drove to Cadillac from San Diego and found all eight of the houses we had lived in (one of them twice) from 1926 to 1935.  I was happily amazed that I could remember all those houses of my early childhood all by myself after the sixty seven years since we had moved from that city.

William Barrons

About William Barrons

Born 1926, in Cadillac, Michigan, the oldest boy of fourteen kids. Survived the Great Depression and joined the Marines the day after I turned 17. Could hardly wait to go fight those nasty Nazis and Japanese. Served 2½ war years in the Marines. Got married, went to college, had kids, re-joined the Marines in 1949 - in time for the Korean War. Became a Marine Second Lieutenant but was a Platoon Commander only for a short while as my sick wife nearly died and I had to resign to care for my family. Became a Telephone equipment engineer with AT&T in Chicago. Then was a kitchen and home remodeling designer for 22 years. Retired at age 69 and began to research and write novels. At age 89, I’m still at it!