The fact that the people who lived through the Great Depression never forgot it tells much of the desperation of the times. They remained frugal until their last moments, saving such small items as sacks or anything that could be reused. Always they talked of how certain foods were unavailable, and if they did have something, they made it last for days. Of course, there were the long lines that people so patiently waited in to get bread or soup. And, worse, there were people who jumped from windows in their despair over fortunes lost.
One needs only read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath that tells of the plight of the tenant farmers in the Dust Bowl and Of Mice and Men to learn how alienated people were in this time, how mistrustful they were of others. Woody Guthrie traveled in boxcars on trains and sang of the desperation of the time. Numbers of workers were drawn to Socialism and Communism and waged strikes in the hopes that they could attain a better life.
Dorothea Lange, a phographer of the Depression era, is known for her realistic and haunting images. Her 1935 shapshot of a migrant worker with her children bespeaks volumes of the poverty and destitution that people of this era lived in. Once proud people were dependent upon the government to provide for them, and they were ashamed. But, they had to work and the WPA provided jobs. Or, they were too proud, like Mr. Cunningham of To Kill a Mockingbird. Still others turned to illegal activity such as bootlegging. "People did what they had to do," remarks one octegenarian. Still, the "picture shows" thrived during this time period as people were delighted to enter the theatre and forget the misery outside. Nearly every Depression-era movie had a happy, positive end.
The Great Depression followed by World War II is what made those that Tom Brokraw calls "The Greatest Generation." As Elie Kazan, the famous director remarked, "Only when people endure a great struggle in their lives do they truly become a person of worth." Certainly, the Depression and WWII were trying times that made people worth their mettle.