She is almost 100 years old. I pray that I have half the mental capacity that she has if I should be so blessed to arrive at her age in one piece. One of the most interesting things in the world is to ask someone about the events of history who has lived through them. And she is one of those.
We ticked through some of the ordinary things like place of birth and family. But then I got specific. From her age I estimated the time of her childhood and adolescence and asked about those epochs. “Tell me about your memory of the great depression and F.D.R.,” I said.
She said she remembered it vividly, that and rising to WWII. They were bleak times, she said, but memorable. When Roosevelt came in with the New Deal it brought hope to a nation in despair. Her income at the time moved from $4.00 a day to $16.00 a day through the minimum wage initiative. Employers said they couldn’t say in business, but they did and the quality of workers’ lives improved.
“When Social Security first came out it was resisted mightily. It barely squeaked through. The opposition was screaming that it would bankrupt us and our whole economy would collapse, we could never afford it. I remember reading all kinds of articles in the papers of the time written by end times preachers who opposed Social Security. They said that at the end we would all be assigned a number – the number of the beast – and that was your Social Security number. Of course that never happened, but at the time it alarmed me as a young person, which is what they wanted to happen. This kind of thing happened all through my life. Whenever a big initiative was made to move forward, to correct or improve things, whether it was Medicare or civil rights, there was always great acrimony. I guess that’s what it took, a big political storm. But at the end of the day the good things prevailed.”