Sally Seidler: Surviving the Depression in Winnipeg
Date:Friday, September 9, 2011
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20.11-15
AW: And just also I’m interested, were your parents very involved in the Jewish community in Winnipeg?
SS: I would say yes and their friends were Jewish but life changed when you suddenly went from being prosperous to not having a telephone in the house and leaving your house on 337 Church Avenue. My older brother had to quit university in his second year. He had come out here when he quit university, took some machines from my father’s factory and came out to Vancouver. We came out a year later. He started a little storefront factory making taxi drivers’ caps and things like that. And then we came out a year later. To what I was told we just walked out of the house and dad couldn’t even pay the mortgage.
AW: What year was that?
SS: That would have been the ‘30s, mid ‘30s. I was finished high school and I was out of high school one year. So I was about 17 or 18, because I started at five and went only to Grade 11. I would have loved to have gone to Grade 12 but you had to pay a hundred dollars to go to Grade 12 and I wouldn’t even dream of asking my parents for that hundred dollars, things were so bad.
Also I remember going back to earlier years there was an epidemic in Vancouver of infantile paralysis. That was polio. And I remember standing in our front garden and a lady screaming across the street carrying a child. People were so worried. There was no vaccine. It came after that. One lady that I knew or played with her kids, she said, “I even washed the tomatoes.” I remember her saying, “I even take the skin off the tomatoes.” It was terrible. It was two items, the epidemic and the Depression. That was in the ‘30s. It started earlier, it started in the late ‘20s. We used to wait for my dad. My mother was quite ill, a neglected diabetic. There were doctors but they didn’t know it.
I remember waiting for dad to bring, there was no such thing as food…there was something like food stamps. I remember he’d make us cream of wheat pancakes. He had to feed us this and it wasn’t terrible for a kid to have this experience. I became very creative, I had lots of friends and I didn’t know too much what was going on with my parents, never. Busy, you know when you’re a teenager, it’s your friends, and there was a YMHA in Winnipeg so there used to be parties and things for teenagers. I wanted red shoes so I got a bottle of red nail polish and painted my shoes. Things like that. I think it helped me to be broke. I became very creative.