On Nov. 21, 1931, when The Union Democrat ran the pre-Thanksgiving editorial below, debate over whether the stock market crash of 1929 had spurred a slump, a recession or a depression had long since been resolved. The Great Depression was grinding on the nation in earnest, and the Mother Lode was hardly immune.
Among "Notes and Comments" on the paper's editorial page:
• If you want to know whether there is a depression or not, try borrowing $100.
• Famous last words: The depression is only psychological.
• Even an honest man can't pay his debts if he has no money.
• There may be a depression in this country, but thousands of
the depresssed are able to attend the big football games every week.
The paper remained upbeat in the face of gloom, gleefully telling
of how the Sonora Elks are paying "Old Man Depression" no mind in
planning a gala Thanksgiving-night party and - in a postscript to the
words below - reminding readers they still have much for which to be
In light of the present-day economic uncertainty, a look back at
these dire times - and at the optimism which nevertheless persisted -
Back in 1928, when the speculators were merrily blowing up their
bubbles of rainbow-tinted hues, much was said to the effect that the
United States had entered a new era of prosperity, and that never again
could it sink back to the same old level. Under the inflation of this
excitement, stocks sold as a rule for double and perhaps triple what
they were really worth.
Feeling that they had made great profits by speculation, people
threw money around lavishly. This extravagance spread to all classes of
society. Most people lived beyond their means. A great balloon of hot
air and gas simply had to blow up. The least spark was sufficient to
set it going, and it disappeared into thin air with a grand bang.
From the explosion thence resulting, many were injured and some
have never recovered. Many others are still suffering from the wounds
they received. But such experiences, while tragic for some and
distressing for others, always bring benefits.
One great benefit which comes from such and experience is having
its reviving effects already. People are learning that the old
principles of earnest work and careful prudence are those upon which
the human race makes its gains.
Millions of people who were neglecting their business and work in
order that they might speculate, and in order that they might spend
time and money in foolish dissipations, have quit such ways, and have
settled down to their own jobs.
They are working hard, producing more than ever before and saving
money. Many of them are saving too much for the public good and could
well spend more, and if they did it would help business.
But at least all this energy and thrift is building a new and very
solid foundation for a more real era of prosperity than we ever had
And the postscript: Thanksgiving was a wonderful old holiday. Even
in the old Puritan times when it originated, it brought laughter and
merriment into the most solemn home. It was from the beginning a day of
sunshine. It should be today. Its message is that people should cheer
up, see the bright side, have faith in life and their own powers, and
recognize their debt to the giver of all good.