No. 293

The American humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910) once said, “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain.” This reminds me of something I heard the late Dr. Ken McFarland say in regard to talking to his banker about a loan. Ken said, “there was only one vote and he had it.” I guess most of us have faced this situation at one time or another.
This is not to say for one moment that bankers and banking are not important the world over because they are. We depend on them to lend us money, manage and organize our financial affairs and they also contribute to the health and welfare of every community. There was a time however in the history of our nation when most banks were powerless to do any of these things. This was during the years between 1930 and 1933 when over 9,000 banks failed, which is to say closed their doors.
Most Americans know this as the time of “The Great Depression” which was precipitated by the Stock Market Crash in October of 1929. This was a very dark period in the history of our nation. As they say, this was a time when hitchhikers were going either way. The depressed economy would last until the beginning off W.W.II and paying jobs returned to provide military armament to support our armed forces during the war. In contrast, during the year of 1945 no bank in our nation failed.
Because of space limitations I won’t go into the causes of a depression but if you want to know more, you may reference it listed under business cycles in the appropriate encyclopedia. A business cycle is defined as “the irregular alternations of business activity from peaks of prosperity to low points of depressions.” In 1933 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was founded and the renamed Board Of Governors for the Federal Reserve System was given broader powers to control the rate of cash flow by raising or lowering interest rates.
Granted, this is not my field and I couldn’t get technical even if I wanted to, but my purpose in sharing this background information was to highlight what actually happened to people during the Great Depression. I was born in 1938 which was near the end of this greatest of all the depressions in our nation’s history so as a small child my family may have done without but I didn’t know it. If you are old enough to have lived through these lean times, then you know exactly what I am saying. There was no money and no jobs and a family just had to scratch out a living anyway they could.
While I would never wish these conditions on anyone, there are millions of Americans who believe if the young people of today had to go through a great depression, their attitudes in many areas would be much different. They too would have a “Depression Era” mentality. There is a great example in my own family that will support what I have been saying. My mother is the oldest of seven children and five are still living. Most of her siblings were still very small when the depression hit and my grandparents had seven kids to raise during this terrible time.
The family didn’t have much but they got by and they ALL worked. As a result, today my grandparents are gone but the surviving siblings are all financially secure and I have never heard of a bill collector or someone garnisheeing their wages or filing for bankruptcy or being in trouble with the law in any of their lives. This is what happens when you truly know the value of a dollar. The people of America right now are swimming in a sea of credit card debt and who, but God, knows what the future holds. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)