Before the War
  War Begins
  Going to Work
  War Comes Home
  Daily Life
  The War Ends


Before the War
By Elizabeth Reilly

When Betty was young, Staten Island had a population of 158,000, compared with 443,000 today. Photo Credit: A. Loeffler / Library of Congress

I was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on December 7, 1926. When I was 8 months old, my father, a detective on the Bayonne police force, passed away at only 28 years old. My mother and I moved back to her parents' farm in Staten Island, New York. Then she found a job and I was cared for by my grandparents and my aunt.

I had a very pleasant childhood. My aunt planted and tended beautiful flower gardens. My grandmother cared for our home and prepared wonderful dinners. At harvest time, she and my aunt preserved vegetables and fruit. Because we enjoyed many vegetables from the farm, the Great Depression did not seem as serious for our family. Still, meat was scarce, and once my grandfather thought the butcher sold my mother horsemeat instead of roast beef!

Think About It
Why would the Great Depression be harder on people living in cities rather than on people who lived on farms?