Wednesday, March 25, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Lessons From the Great Depression
By TED RUHIG
The Great Depression certainly had an impact on my family. I was a teenager during the Depression, and even at that young age, given the bad economic situation, I felt I needed to get a job to help my family financially.
I was just finishing high school, and the courses I took in college were dictated by the depressed conditions at the time. My parents had always dreamed of me becoming a doctor.
In my own way I responded to their dream by getting a degree in chemistry at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). However, upon graduation from college, instead of going on to medical school, I felt the best way to help my family was to get a job right away.
What kinds of jobs were available during that time when so many people were out of work? Social workers were needed, so I applied for and received a job offer from the county welfare department in Cook County, Illinois.
My job gave me the opportunity to help unemployed people obtain the help they needed from the local government, including receiving welfare. So I got a job helping those who could not find work! I must say that the economic conditions forced me to make a choice of jobs I never would have made otherwise.
I did serve in World War II. I was stationed at Rock Island Arsenal and worked as a chemist there. After the war, I returned to social work. I found out that I liked helping people. I eventually got my master’s degree at the University of Chicago in adult education — thanks to a Ford Foundation fellowship — and worked as an educator, focusing on labor education and manpower.
Much of my work in helping people has been in the area of retirement planning. My experience during the Great Depression has made me easily able to change careers whenever the opportunity presented itself.
My career took me from the Midwest to Hawaii, and then to California, where I spent 30 years. Now I live in Ohio with my daughter Rosemary and her husband. At age 92 (as of last week), I still write this weekly newspaper column for seniors, focusing on matters that concern us all, such as health issues, Medicare, Social Security and politics.
Now my interest is in encouraging my grandchildren to also take advantage of opportunities in seeking out career options. My eldest granddaughter Malia is a captain in the army, with a specialty in intelligence. My grandson Erik is an environmental specialist. My youngest grandson Matthew is an actor.
I provide them with advice (when asked!) and help them to see the possibilities that exist, even in these hard times. The experience I had in the Depression has helped me to be flexible in my own outlook and I, in turn, am encouraging my grandchildren to be the same.
— Capitol News Service