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The Life of Masey Cooper
Economic Titanic -1929
Yesterday, Masey asked her dad what this ‘stock market’ deal was. Truth be told, he didn’t really know exactly what it was, but he must have understood enough to know what he was doing.
He told her that it was a share in a company that someone could buy, and get a percentage of the profit the company made. The best thing about the stock market, he told her, was that if you waited long enough to sell your stock in the company, you were able to make a profit. The stock market sounded so intriguing that she begged Father to take her to the New York Stock Exchange and see what happened there. There were crowds of people waiting in line to buy stocks. In the midst of the crowd were booths with the stock sellers inside them. It looked like a great thing to do, and everyone seemed happy.
Then Father took her to the bank and she watched how Father took a loan out of the bank, returned to the NYSE building and bought some stock.
“Father, why did you do that?”
“Oh, with the profit I make in a couple months or even years with this process of buying, waiting, then selling, called speculation, I’ll have twice as much money and can pay of my loan but still have a profit.
“”But Father, what happens when the stock market prices get lower, then you can’t pay of the loan or make profit.”
“Oh honey dear, wise words, but that is unlikely to happen and if it really does, it won’t be enough to cause great damage. A correction never hurts, now does it?”
But a correction can’t be the best when everyone thinks that it will hurt.
Masey awoke at the crack of dawn. She loved to listen to the early morning sounds of the whole world waking up to a new day. She ate breakfast with Father and spent the rest of the early morning reading in a quiet corner. A few hours later, the front door creaked open and she ran to see who it was. It was considered rude to enter into someone’s house with out knocking. So Masey hurried with a bit of a frown on her face.
“Father?” Masey was slightly taken back, “Why are you not at the factory?”
Father slowly hung his coat on the tree in the hall. His deep brown eyes had a sad tinge to them.
“Go get the rest of the family,” Then he turned into the master bedroom and closed the door forcefully. Masey rocked on her heels trying to interpret meaning from Father’s actions.
Mama, the two younger siblings, Mary and Sean, and Masey waited silently on the sofa in the family room. Father finally came out, pacing the length of the room. Mama tried to lighten the mood by teasing Father.
“Honey dear, you’ll wear out the carpet.”
Father turned sharply with a subduing look of “Silence!” Father dropped heavily into the chair farthest from the sofa. “I-I-I have no job.” Mama jumped up, her mouth gaping and her face twisted with confusion.
“No job, no money. The stock market failed us, Masey. I’m in debt a couple hundred dollars and the bank is after me. This house is up for sale so I can pay this debt. I tried selling the stocks I had, but it seemed as if everyone had the same idea. You know Masey, I can’t make a profit any more and since most businesses are closed, especially the ones I had shares in, I can’t get any money from them either.” Father’s voice turned sadder and more pathetic as he talked. “Go pack as much as you can and where as many clothes as you are able. We’re moving out. Now. Go.”
Masey began to mull about what happened. “What a big deal I and Father made about this stock market,” she sighed, “it’s a big titanic where we all thought the stock market was the unsinkable way to invest your money. Now look at us! We hit the iceberg and are sinking rapidly. I hope we can find a life line before the big grandfather clock chimes 2:30am. Before we are all destroyed.”
Life in the Ally- Winter of 1929
From dawn to dusk the Father and Mr. Walker, the Cooper’s fellow victims of the crisis, went out searching for jobs. Meanwhile, Mama and Mrs. Delaney, Masey, Holly Delaney, Mary, Louise Delaney, and Meredith Delaney cleaned their humble shelter and sat in the streets begging the wealthy people for money at the market. They worked hard in trying to survive, but their efforts were rewarded few and far between.
The Walker family used to be business partners with Father. Their company had closed down immediately after the stock market crash. Mr. Walker’s business employed female workers as well as male workers and paid them men’s wages. Meredith, the oldest daughter and 22, was a renowned flapper who was always wearing daring clothes and doing outrageous things in public. Holly, the middle child and 16, was a sweet girl and Masey’s closest friend. (They both tried to hint to Meredith once that she had gone a little too far with her so-called ‘fun’ and they put chopped up bits of Meredith’s hair in her bed. Masey and Holly amused themselves of seeing her scratch and moan all night long!) Louise was the youngest and a pretty little girl, eleven years old.
Winter was coming closer and the nights were getting colder. Father and Mr. Walker went to the soup kitchens for our supper meals, and brought home hardly enough to feed all four of the Coopers. Those cold waits with hardly enough warm clothing caused Father to get sick with tuberculosis. Now Sean and Mr. Walker took care of the evening meal. Father got worse and worse and soon started to cough up blood. Mama sat long hours at his side, nursing him and keeping him warm. But nothing could cure him, and on December 12, 1929, Father died with out ceremony.
Winter fell on New York City, full blast. The soup that came to the shelter froze on the way and had to be thawed over a scraggly fire. Occasionally a dog would pass by and Mr. Walker would leap on it and kill it for meat. Meredith would sometimes be gone for a couple days with her best friend, a flapper. She always came back with something warm like a blanket, or some good food to eat and tide both families over until our next soup meal would come. Sean would go out some nights and come back with some money, or with another pocket item. Mama got extremely upset and strictly rebuked him for stealing. He would save every item he collected and hide them away. Masey found a place as a soup kitchen maid and brought home a penny a week. She worked from dawn to dusk in horrible working conditions. It was extremely cold at the kitchen and with out proper winter clothing, she often got sick. But if she missed a day, her boss, Mrs. Kikkerman, would replace her with an equally eager girl. Pretty soon, Masey moved into the boarding house at the kitchen for free so that there would be one less mouth to feed in the ally. All day long she did the work of a scullery maid for Mrs. Kikkerman.
Still life did not improve, for a penny a week does not feed someone for a week. And with all Sean’s stealing and Meredith bringing back things occasionally, the two families struggled and struggled all winter through.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt- 1933
The day FDR was elected president was the day of a new beginning of hope in the citizens of the USA. Soon after the election, FDR provided millions more jobs for people, and Mr. Walker and Sean were able to get a job and a road construction site. With a little more income, the two families upgraded from the ally into a very small apartment room in New York. Mrs. Walker and Mama found a small job at a sewing factory. Holly found a plot of dirt to plant a little garden and she bought a roster and two hens. These were like family pets and kept in a tiny penned off place in the apartment.
Life slowly improved for these two families, but it took a long time. But with FDR in the lead, everything was going to be okay. With the small fire of hope burning in their hearts, the future was possible.