I believe that I am justifiably proud of my father, Conrad Ross Frieze, who was a part of the greatest generation and probably representative of those who grew up during the Great Depression or "Hard Times" as it was called in the Missouri Ozarks of his youth, those who fought during WWII, and who came home to build the most powerful country in the world.
I am fortunate in that he left an autobiography which he self-published for his family and which I want to share. To that end I am inputting his manuscript into 21st century technology since he wrote it just after retiring and with an obsolete word program saved to a long ago lost floppy disk.
My father passed away in 2002 at the age of 80 and did not live to meet his now twelve year old great-grandson who saw me busily typing and asked what I was doing. I told him how amazing I thought my father was and he said, "Why don't you post the manuscript at little at a time in installments and then, when you get to the end, you can publish it." I don't often take advice from my grandchildren, but this sounded like it would make manageable chunks out of what is a large work, give me an incentive to sit down and work every day, and also maybe some feedback on how interesting others think my father's life was. The pleasure in the entire endeavor is to spend time reading my father's words and bringing his voice to life in my head once more.
My childhood was greatly impacted by my father and the overarching aspects were a belief from a young age that a nuclear war would prevent me from growing up (because of his involvement in atomic testing our family had a plan should the Soviet Union launch missiles) and that it was routine for daddies to go to war, save the world, and have a family. Most of the daddies of the '50s had. Those opposing ideas managed to live in my head until I became a junior in high school and realized I had better make some plans for an adult life and when my own sons became the age my father was on December 7th, 1941, the day he said he left boyhood behind.
So come now, from my home on a Tacoma alley to the Missouri Ozarks post WWI and to paradise. I hope you stay for the journey. I would love to have you come along and let me know how you enjoy the ride.
The Great Depression and the long drought of the 1930s were simultaneous disasters that produced an unprecedented period of hardship for the people of the United States. Unemployment soared to an all-time high. Breadlines and soup kitchen became commonplace in every city of the nation. Freight trains were transportation for thousands of hoboes who roamed the country restlessly following the sun and rumors of work.
Prices in the early thirties, including those of farm produce, fell to unparalleled lows. A breakfast of ham, eggs, fried potatoes, toast, and coffee could be bought for twenty cents. A prime steak dinner was less than a dollar. A new pair of shoes cost less than three dollars. Laborers worked for less than a dollar a day.
The economic chaos of the 1930s was a particularly depressing time for the adults who had weathered World War I and who had enjoyed the exceptional prosperity of the Roaring Twenties prior to the crash of the stock market in 1929. Prosperous families were suddenly deep in debt. Compounding the problem, starting in the early 1930s, the nation was suddenly subjected to the most extended drought in the history of the country.
Month after month and year after year between 1932 and 1938, rains failed to come to the parched earth of the Midwest. Crops failed entirely or were minimal. Market prices dropped. Eggs, for instance, fell to ten cents a dozen. Farmers were reduced to subsistence living. Extreme poverty resulted in the National Recovery Administration (NRA) of newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The NRA included a program of federal relief and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which were designed to alleviate suffering with free food, clothing, and government sponsored jobs.
It was an era of hard times in America; however, even the worst of difficulties can have aspects of advantage. The benefit of the Depression and drought was to the children born after World War I and reared to maturity during the decade of the 1930s. It was the crucible of the Great Depression that tempered the generation of Americans who would face the carnage of World War II and who would defeat the Axis powers to keep the Western world free.
A minimum of luxury and a lack of money was a normal way of life to the Depression children of America. They would enter maturity with ingenuity, strength of character, and respect for money unequalled by any other generation before or since. They would look back on a childhood that was not one of hardship but was one of wonder—a childhood that made the most of natural resources and ingenuity. It was a time that bred self-sufficiency and confidence.
It is my understanding that I came into this world on a cold blustery night on 3 March 1922 in the downstairs bedroom of the old Frieze home place in Bona, Missouri, a village in the foothills of the Ozarks. My debut was attended by Dr. T. J. Drisdel of Dadeville by the light of a coal oil lamp. I do not know if Doc Drisdel came the five miles by buggy or by Model T. Ford. I assume he was reasonably sober, but I note that on my original birth certificate he listed my father’s name as “Earnest Frieze” instead of Ernest Frieze. Oh well, they did not get our forbearer, old Jacob Fries name right when he arrived in 1738 either. At any rate, Doc Drisdel did note on the certificate that I was legitimate.