What Was It Like Growing up in the South During the 1930s?

Poverty colored the experience of growing up in the southern United States during the 1930s, as did poor education and hard work. Many children couldn’t afford clothes, and those that could only had a couple changes of clothes at best. The education system was also poorly funded.

Lack of funding caused many southern schools to close during the Great Depression. By 1934, nearly 20,000 schools had been closed in the rural South due to lack of financial support. However, many children were unable to attend school in the first place because of their families’ need to earn a living. As unemployment rose, business and factory owners began to hire children. During 1930, an estimated 2.25 million children, ages 10 to 18, were employed in factories and farms; the majority of these children were paid a substandard wage.

Birth rates also drastically decreased as the living conditions of the 1930s became increasingly worse. For example, utilities like running water and electricity deteriorated. Children living in rural Georgia during the 1930s generally lived in houses that had no electricity, running water or indoor bathrooms.

Parties and gatherings were also scarce due to the lack of extra time and money. However, when they did take place, guests would sometimes bring a cup of sugar and use it to make candy and baked goods as a special treat for the few children who attended.