America, the day after Christmas, 1929

My mother is the dark-haired girl sitting between her father and her older sister. They’re on the steps of her grandparents’ house in Hext, Texas. Said grandparents were probably the source of presents, the dolls, the baseball bat, a stiff new pair of overalls for the oldest boy. My great-grandfather ran a general store and while hardly well-off, at least had enough to spare. His daughter, my grandmother, on the right, isn’t even 30 in this picture. You can’t see the sunglasses underneath my grandfather’s hat. He’d been gassed in World War I and barely survived, living the rest of his life nearly blind and plagued by a slowly deteriorating cardiopulmonary system. By later standards, he would have been declared fully disabled on discharge but full benefits for WWI veterans, even the non-wounded and able-bodied, were a very, very, long time in coming.

My grandparents’ existence at this point, at the beginning of The Depression, swung between the places and times my grandather was able to work, assuming there was paying work to find, and the eventuality that his health would fail, if the job didn’t end first, or the weather would turn too harsh. They traveled back and forth between the Gulf Coast, where the warm winters were easier, and the Hill Country where they could stay with family during the lean times. A lot of the time in between was spent camping or living out of a truck.


7 thoughts on “America, the day after Christmas, 1929

  1. Great post. My Great Grandfather was also gassed during WWI, apparently several times. He eventually sued the US Congress/Dept of War in a case that went to the Supreme Court to get health benefits for WWI soldiers. He was too sickly to be in the Bonus Army, but was there with them in spirit and died a year later. They named to Armory in Ardmore Oklahoma for him.

  2. I knew five or six families that the fathers had been gassed in WWI. Not a single one of them did not have marked genetic defects.
    One family had eight boys and a girl. Not a single one of the children were allowed to enlist in the military during WWII because of their health problems or their physiques.
    The family that I knew best got a $16 a month pension in the 1960s for the widow.

  3. My grandfather came out of the army at 23 with the health of an elderly man. His pension and relief was adjusted upward a number of times, but didn’tstart at all till 20-25 yrs after the war

  4. I knew five or six families that the fathers had been gassed in WWI. Not a single one of them did not have marked genetic defects.
    There’s a reason even Hitler didn’t use WWI-style poison gas on anybody. He could have pissed on the ban, like he pissed on all the other treaty provisions of the same era, but he didn’t. Evenhe thought that shit was too evil to use, but he’d been accidentally mustard-gassed during WWI himself. And yeah, I just Godwinned…against gas warfare.

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