Friday, January 16, 2015
Salt of the Earth
My great grandfather Victor started off life farming which at the time was the most common occupation but unusual since he came from a line of merchants. His father George owned a grocery store and his grandfather John owned a leather goods store. I don't know why Victor opted to try his hand at farming other than the adage of everyone else was doing so. My best guess however is that he was freshly back from the Great War in Europe and was looking for some peace that would last a lifetime.
Timing however, is everything and my great grandfather Victor's timing was bad. He lost his farm during the day running up to the great depression but was lucky enough to get a job as a salesman for Carey Salt. This job kept him on the road and away from his family for weeks on end which is why during Black Tuesday or the Wall Street Crash of 1929. What money he had from the sale of his farm had been invested in stocks and in late October of 1929, he was rightfully concerned that he could lose that as well. He frantically called my great grandmother Grace and told her to sell everything before they lost it all. Unfortunately for him, she was in the hospital giving birth to my grandfather and was unable to do so. They lost all their money but gained another mouth to feed.
At least my great grandfather had a job and it did pay the bills and feed his wife and two sons. Life moved on and got better. However World War II came along and all available able bodied men went over seas to fight it, including his oldest son, my great uncle whom I helped bury a couple years ago and have blogged about many times in the past. The loss of so many men, put a strain on the salt company who also needed able bodied men to mine the salt. In order to survive, they sent out an ultimatum to their sales staff. Work in the salt mine a month a year or lose your job. My great grandfather opted for the former and for several years, showed up in Hutchinson, Kansas to work the salt mine.
I knew he sold salt but this news of him actually working in the salt mines was news to me until my grandfather told me the story this past visit with him. I imagine it made my great grandfather Victor a better salesman and more appreciative of his job the other eleven months of the year but I also know that his family probably suffered greatly during his long stints at the salt mine. Out of curiosity, I typed in 'Hutchinson salt mine' into the computer and learned that the mine is still there and is now a tourist attraction and the picture above is supposedly taken from it. One of these days, I would like to go for a tour of that salt mine and get a deeper sense of the man whom now shares a name with my youngest daughter whose middle name is Victoria.