Origins: The Great Depression
Barry Broadfoot's 1973 Ten Lost Years is a collection of personal reminiscences of Canadians who lived through the Dirty Thirties. Told in their own words, it's a look back to a decade filled with heartbreak. Even so, many of the stories make us laugh, for humor is an integral part of the human spirit.
It's to one of those "I have to laugh so I don't cry" stories that I now direct your attention:
There was this advertisement in a lot of the papers, the (Winnipeg Free Press) Prairie Farmer, the (Saskatoon) Western Producer, the farm papers and some of the
Well, there wasn't a farmer who couldn't scrape up a dollar and a half to save his crop, and until the papers got wise and stopped their advertising they must have sold thousands, more than thousands. When it came, it was two pieces of wood, about half an inch thick and about the size of a pack of cigaret papers. About five cents worth of wood, I'd say. The instructions were simple too. Just go out into the potato patch, pick up a potato bug, put it on one piece of wood and slam the other piece of wood down hard. Goodbye, spud bug. They were right, of course, because it was deadly and sure-fire and even a kid could handle one, but somehow that wasn't the point.
They sold an awful lot of them and it got to be a joke, even in the post office, where the postmaster, if a parcel was about the right size, would say, "Okay, Joe, here's your sure-fire and deadly potato bug killer."
Hell, in some ways it was worth a dollar and a half to get a laugh in those days.
So he sent his five dollars, and pretty soon he got a package with the Mexican coat hanger. It was a rusty old nail.
Last updated: 16 January 2012
Broadfoot, Barry. Ten Lost Years 1929-39. Toronto: Doubleday, 1973. ISBN 0-7737-7094-1. Paredes, Americo. Uncle Remus con Chile. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1993 (p. 108).