Countless families forced to live almost at starvation level

English: (The Depression) The Single Men's Une...
English: (The Depression) The Single Men’s Unemployed Association parading to Bathurst Street United Church. Toronto, Canada Français : (La Dépression) Membres de la Single Men’s Unemployed Association se dirigeant vers l’Église unie de la rue Bathurst. Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 29, 1929, Canada experienced one of its most depressing days in history: the great market crash! Black Tuesday.

Prices suddenly crashed on the world’s stock markets, and Canada was plunged into ten years of poverty. One year after the crash, a whopping 400,000 were unemployed, and many people who did have jobs were earning less than subsistence pay. Thousands looking for work travelled through the country by hiding in freight cars. Countless families forced to live almost at starvation level for several years, were held together only by courage, character, and much self-sacrifice of parents and children.

Many families who could not find work went “on relief.” Across the country this varied from place to place. For instance, in Toronto, Ontario, a family of seven received food vouchers worth $7 a week; in Saskatchewan, a family of five was given $10 a month, along with a 98-pound sack of flour. Scarce money was usually spent on potatoes and dried beans instead of fruits.

On the morning of October 29, people who were rich in terms of stocks and shares, suddenly found that they were broke and worthless by evening.

Conditions were so bad that hotel clerks would (jokingly) ask a man registering for a room, “Sleeping or jumping, sir?”

The economic conditions did not really begin to improve until 1937. And that was mostly due to the war in 1939, when factories and farms went into full productions, providing employment at better wages.

If you want to read more about the market crash, I can certainly suggest a few sites, such as Canada History, the Investigating Answers website, and the Torontoist, and the Financial Post, and finally the Visa Journey Forum.

15 comments

      • I wish it were so but we’re now having to sell our flat and live heaven knows where or in what as our disability benefits have been cut by two-thirds! It is comforting, however, to read excellently written blog posts about something historically fascinating.

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  1. Very interesting post. Funny that I had four grandparents live through the depression and none of them ever spoke of it. I wonder if it is was one of those things you just didn’t talk about; they would have ranged from age 14 to 24 at the time of the crash. Now you have given me something to really think about.

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  2. A time in Canadian history that is so intriguing, yet dark and sad. Many families were split up, children were shipped to work on family farms, while their parents found odd jobs across Canada. Women who lost their husbands opened up boarding houses, and sewed just to make ends meet. It makes you appreciate our lives today!

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  3. Black Tuesday became Black Monday in my lifetime. I remember the market fell and I was in Hawaii at the time. My investments never recovered and I also lost my job. I remember some people took their lives. Good post, Tk.

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  4. The Great Depression lead to jobless and homeless men hitching rides on passing trains to get to other parts of the US to try to find work or just exist as best one could. Was there a similar movement of unemployed through Canada?

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