Monday, June 12, 2017

Salt and Pep

While visiting my grandparents recently, they handed me another stack of photos that they found, most being in the really old range of 100 or more years old. I've been scanning them and when I have a chance to go back and process everything, I hope to post some of them on here. Among them however was a much more recent 15 page pamphlet entitled Salt and Pep with my great grandfather on the cover. He was the son of a merchant who worked in the grocery store business and the grandson of this line's immigrant ancestor who was a merchant in the leather goods business. Somehow, my great grandfather opted to step out of the merchant lifestyle and became a farmer after his return from World War I. He bought a series of farms, each one leveraged by the previous one, which even in good times is a house of cards just waiting to fall.

While the Roaring 20's was so named for the economic boom times going on, it was a period of falling farm prices followed by the huge stock market crash in 1929. My great uncle was born in 1922 at the start of the farmland price decline and my great grandfather was so leveraged that he soon lost everything, including all the farms. For the next seven years, he led a nomadic lifestyle at best trying to find and hold down various jobs mostly as a traveling salesperson. Eventually he found a stable career working for the Carey Salt company as a traveling salesperson and in 1929, my grandfather was born.

My grandfather has often told me he was born right as the stock market crashed and that his father, my great grandfather, had called from on the road urging my great grandmother to sell all their stocks before they became worthless. However she was in the hospital giving birth to my grandfather at the time and they lost everything for a second time. While it may be true that they lost everything for a second time, my grandfather was born a full month and a half before the stock market crash.

Regardless of the truth of the details, my grandfather insists (and I believe) that the reason my great grandparents only had two children at a time when many had a dozen, was due to them losing everything they had not once but twice.

Salt and Pep is apparently a pamphlet put out by the Carey Salt company as a safety reminder slash company bulletin board.  It was interesting to read the pamphlet and all the antidotes on safety for a pretty hazardous occupation (mining salt) liberally scattered throughout. It is even evident on the cover description which reads as follows:

On this month's cover is pictures [Vic], Territory Salesman for the Carey Salt Company in the Omaha District. Vic is pictured here landing a 20-pound fighting northern pike from the Canadian waters. Vic took no chance on this big one getting away as the big hand hook through the pike's mouth indicates. Yes, he played it safe, but the big fish was a "sucker" for an unsafe condition. You, too, have a choice when on the water, or in the water - either play it safe, or end up like this 20-pound pike did. Nice going, Vic. Is this a record?


Kelly said...

What an interesting post! How neat that you g-grandfather appeared on the cover of that pamphlet. (I thought that looked like a Pike and I was right!) What a clever way they worded everything in the caption to make it fun, yet informational/educational.

Ed said...

Kelly - After I scanned the cover and wrote this post, I have since found the actual photograph used for it which is better in quality. I have some old photos of the salt mine and someday I am planning on doing a post about it with those.

sage said...

I like the photo of the cover shot. Interesting history!

Ed said...

Sage - Thanks!

Bob said...

You are "mining" (pun intended) quite a bit of history here. It's great your grandfather has been able to fill in blanks for you.

Susan said...

I can't imagine working in a salt mine! And I love how they tied that picture into a safety lecture. It's great that you have such wonderful stories from your family's history - everyone in ours was tight-lipped, with very few exceptions.

Ed said...

Bob - I have definitely been taking advantage of what time we have left!

Susan - My great grandfather was mostly a salt salesman though according to family lore which hasn't been all that reliable, he did do a stint down in the salt mine during WWII when all the able bodied miners were off fighting the war.