The Years of Famine

by Joseph Ikhenoba


During the Great Depression, Marlow and his family migrated to Missouri to seek greener pastures. He became relieved when he found work as a railway worker but it was soon short lived. Hence, he joined the American Army to fight the Second World War until the enemies were defeated. Thereafter, he returned to start another phase of life.

A Black Thursday. It was announced that the Wall Street Stock market had crashed. People ran to the banks to withdraw their monies. It was an endless queue but the bank was suffering from money shortages, hence, prevented customers from withdrawing. Prior to that day, there had been early indications. The farmers had warned about poor harvest due to the Dust Bowl. Many were forced to relocate to cities. Those who collected loans couldn’t repay with a rippling effect on the banks. The banks clamped down on the debtors. Those who have shares were in search of buyers but no one was willing to buy at this condition. For several days, the Wall Street was filled with uncertainty as many were laid off their jobs and committed suicide. There were no jobs. Those who found jobs were being underpaid.

Marlow had just been laid off as a railway worker. He has three children and a wife to feed. He had tried for months getting another job. None was forthcoming. He became so depressed and thought of suicide. Hannah, his wife re assured everything would be alright. Every day, he and his family queue on endless breadlines for food. For him, this was a dent on his pride.

“How can he not be able to provide for his family?” He often becomes depressed.

To stay away from the depression, he plays Monopoly games with his neighbours or watch T.V shows. Sometimes, he goes to watch Polo games. However, his biggest regret was retrieving his children from school. He wished the Early Twenties could resurface.

One morning, he received a letter from a friend to come to Missouri for a railway job. Without hesitating, the next morning he prepared to travel with his family. They packed their luggage before being evicted by their landlord, who had been on his neck. On their way, they met other families whom they share their anguishes.

“You know those people who caused this anguishes will be repaid for their wickedness.” A chubby man said.

“I lost my crops and farmlands since I couldn’t repay my loans.” Another man added.

“Don’t think I will live the next day. The sufferings is much.” Said an old woman.

They arrived in Missouri but the cost of housing was exorbitant so they stayed in Hoverville with other families. Ever in his life, does he think he would stay in such squalor condition? They managed the little money he earns but maintained a small garden, where he grew potato and vegetables. It was the best way to cope. His wife supported by picking cotton.

One morning, there was uprising by some Blacks over segregation and being under paid. They formed Black Union to protest against it. The money could only feed their families for a day. Marlow felt pitied. Everyone was into this hopeless situation. He returned home tired and worn out. He drank a cup of cold water and ate boiled potatoes with stew.

“Dad, what are you thinking?” Asked his daughter.

“A lot dear! But I will be fine.” He assured.

“We are all in this. Soon everything will end.” She encouraged.

“We all hope so.” He replied swiftly.

The railway contract ended and he was soon left unemployed again. The little relieved moment was soon returning to disaster. Just at that moment, the Second World War broke out and the Americans were summoned to join the war by Europe with the hope of gaining from it. Many unemployed men were drafted. Marlow was fortunate to be chosen. Before departing for the war, he hugged his wife and children with the promise of returning alive. Other men also hugged their families. It was so emotional but the war must be won.

Marlow was deployed to Carentan, in France to fight against the German Wehrmacht. They fought for days and nights and so many soldiers were killed. He lost one of his friends, a memory that still haunts. After defeating the enemy, he was deployed to Aachen. The war was so intense that it seems unending. Lieutenant Mark restrategized, penetrated into the hinterland until German troops were captured. In other places, the Axis powers were losing grounds as well. Few months later, the war was won. Many Jewish prisoners were freed from Auschwitz and other labour camps. Marlow returned home to his family. He was happy to see them again. They hugged and had a little party. For Marlow, it was a time of rebuilding America.

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