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My father William Walter Sharp was 14 years old in the Thanksgiving of 1933, and he was living with my grandfather Walter Eddins Sharp in a large cow barn within the city limits of Cleveland.  Living in a cow barn may not be your idea of a home, but it made my father feel fortunate on many levels.  For one thing, the cow farm had all the milk he could ever want to drink for free, and he discovered that he could feel quite normal just drinking milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another fortunate thing was that my father’s two sisters were safely boarded with capable extended family members, and they were not in need any more during these early years of the Great Depression.

Also Cleveland was not entirely urbanized in 1933, so you could find a cow barn in the vicinity if you could not afford any place else to sleep.  Plus the cows graciously made room for their new roommates in the persons of my father and my grandfather.

Plus the owner of the cow farm had been friends with my grandfather long before the latter lost his hardware store in the vortex of the Great Depression.  So my dad and grandfather were able to sleep in their friend’s barn for free.  Since my grandfather like most others in my Sharp/Baird family was a proud Scot, my guess is he turned down  sleeping in the farmhouse because he did not want to be more of a burden on his friend than he could help.

But my grandfather was also finding it especially hard to recover his bearings, because just before the Depression hit, his wife – my grandmother Kate Baird– had passed away.  My guess is that my father wanted to stay with his dad to help him keep the bearings he had left – and in fact my father took care of his dad for the rest of his life.

It was not generally a very cheerful life for my 14-year-old father, living in a barn with his father who was practically in a state of perpetual loss.  Not just a loss of a home, and not just a loss for a mother, but my father and grandfather also felt the loss of the two lively little sisters who were now living much more cheerfully with extended family members.

During Thanksgiving – among their key days during the year -- the two sisters and their guardians took in my father and grandfather for a day of thankfulness.  It turns out that on that day, they could relive the mother who had passed, relive the home they once owned, and relive the hardware store that had been their bread and butter.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the nearly one out of four Americans who were unemployed from the total labor force were almost entirely fitting the profile of hardware store customers – people who used hardware tools for their home improvements,  But it was this smaller-income people who lost the means to buy any more hardware from my grandfather’s store. And there were certainly no banks around then that had the financial security to help start up any more hardware stores

My father remembered that in these years he was a little embarrassed by living in a barn to share the experience with any school friends.  So he lost himself in the school library and read and read.  He thinks he ended up reading most of the books in his school library.  His favorite book of all time turned out to be Moby Dick – my dad was fascinated by the chase with all its navigation for a whale over vast unchartered waters,

When World War 11 came, my dad even thought  it could have been the Moby Dick reading experience that led him to become a navigator in the Army/Air Force over the vast Pacific, and eventually becoming a career Air Force officer.

Belatedly, there did come things to be thankful for after all.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.