Saturday, December 27, 2014

Enjoying life during the Depression in Four Corners

Here are a couple stories of Boston from my friend Charlie Sandler, who was born in 1932 and grew up in the Depression-era Four Corners section of Dorchester.  He and his buddies learned how to be frugal and get by and make a bit of money on the side.

At age 11, he obtained a job selling refreshments during the dance nights at the Greenwood Youth Center.  During a break in the active dancing, the girls would come over to the refreshment stand and order Cokes.  Before they had finished them, the music would start up again and they would run over to the dance floor.  Charlie and his partners in crime would quickly refill the empty bottles with the leftovers, pop the tops back on, and then sell the "new" bottles during the next break.  "Five cents, pure profit!" he gloated 71 years later.

Another activity was to pick up used cigarette butts from the street and carefully collect the unburned tobacco.  Meanwhile, the boys would also find discarded soft drink bottles and take them back to the local store to collect the two cent deposit.  (Sometimes, too, they'd sneak into the back of the store and "recycle" some of the bottles that they had returned, collecting another refund.)

When they had enough money, ten cents, they could purchase a pack of 100 cigarette papers.  Using a rolling machine, they'd produce "new" cigarettes and sell them on the street for one penny each.

As Charlie summarized these and other activities, he admitted, "I was not a good boy."  Something changed though, and he later devoted decades of his life to teaching vocational education. Maybe he figured if he had had a mentor like himself, he wouldn't have been quite so mischievous.  Although I doubt it.


Minivet said...

Good story, worth sharing, but Depression? Come on. By 1943 we were in full-on war economy, and almost everyone had a job.

I don't mean this purely to nitpick, but to caution against it being used as a right-wing-tending inspirational "anybody can make money no matter how bad the economy is, if they have pluck and creativity!" tale.

Paul Levy said...

They grew up during the Depression and adopted certain tricks of the trade that became habitual for them. (I know people from that era who STILL use them!)

As for right-wing inspirational, it's a story about naughty 11 year-old-boys, for goodness sake.