Retro-Depression Thursday: Big Rock Candy Mountain

In the big rock-candy mountain, you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come trickling down the rocks. . .

I’m going to stay where they sleep all day, and they hung the jerk that invented work . . . in the big rock-candy mountain.

Howdy!  Now that my hat-eating is all done, my day job calls.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that great Cohen brothers movie, O Brother Where Art Thou.  Fratguy loves to quote it around this time of year:  “They’ve got the midget, they’ve got the broom–it’s a well-run campaign!”  So here’s a hopeful little hobo song that should put a smile on your face. 

Since our Great Recession seems to be settling into a Lost Decade, I’ve been considering running an occasional series of posts featuring art, music, and ephemera from the Great Depression.  What do you think?

0 thoughts on “Retro-Depression Thursday: Big Rock Candy Mountain

  1. What maketh this not qualify as “fluff,” which, in truth, we need a not small quantity of at the end of this week? I’d say, post away on the Depression. Once when I decommissioned and sold a house and an estate, I was both mystified and delighted to learn from an auctioneer that there was a whole category of glass bric-a-brac that was denominated simply “Depression glass.” Which my family turned out to have a good deal of, whatever that may signifieth, or not.

    Just can’t stop using these ancient locutions today!


  2. Funny you should mention Depression glass, Indyanna. I just had an e-mail from a friend who’s interested in maybe doing some Great Depression co-blogging, and he mentioned specifically a collection of Depression glass he’d like to write about.

    And GayProf–we’ll have to rope you into a discussion of comic superheroes of the Depression, for sure!

    Sorry I missed the fluff tag. I’ll go hit that now. I think I’m just sobered by the prospect of hobo camps and soup lines.


  3. Hey! I used to use a popular book about the Depression era on the southern high plains as the text for an environmental change class! Among other things, we watched “The Plow That Broke the Plains” and talked a lot about the idea of courage. I’m all for new insights into this era.


  4. Sure! as long as you’re willing to give a tip of the hat to 1873, “the Other Great Depression (TM)”!

    Depression photography would be great too!


  5. Thanks, Historiann. I’m always looking out for fluff, even at the end of a soft week, much less a hard week!

    I wooshed I’d of saved some of that glass, but the auctioneer said there was a hot market for it. Maybe I did save a piece or two, in which case I’ll send along some pics.


  6. I’d love to read a series on the 1930s. Bettina Friedl‘s American-studies undergrad course on the documentary impulse in the 1930s changed my life. We watched The Plow That Broke the Plains, critiqued Margaret Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange’s work, talked about Hallie Flanagan and the Federal Theater Project, read The Grapes of Wrath and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. A career-change and most of a Ph.D. later, I still like to use cultural history as a way to teach politics and social history.

    In recent TV, the very historically-detailed HBO series Carnivale, set in a Depression-era traveling circus in the West, is a delight to watch if you know 1930s US culture at all. (The series-long plot is not for the faint of heart, courtesy of a truly diabolical Father-Coughlin-like character, but the visual detailing and characterization is very sharp.)


  7. Happy to help out, Historiann. I spent the last year researching the Great Depression and New Deal in Ohio. Can send along some great stuff.


  8. Don’t forget to throw in some Depression-era kitchen material culture like an iceless refrigerator, utility wagons made from old children’s buggys, and a feather duster made from nylon stockings. Here is a poem I found during my research on Depression-era farm women and their kitchens which illustrates the ingenuity of rural women to come up with innovative labor-saving devices and kitchen utensils to save on money as well as create a more efficient home:

    At home it seems to be the rule
    Pa never has “the proper tool”
    Or knack to fix things. For the stunt
    That stumps Ma, tho, you’ll have to hunt.

    The caster on the table leg
    Fell out. Pa said a wooden peg
    Would fix it up. But Ma kep’ mum
    And fixed it with a wad of gum.

    He scare could open our front door
    It stuck so tight. And Pa, he swore
    He’d “buy a plane” as big as life-
    Ma fixed it with a carving knife.

    The Bureau drawer got stuck one day
    An’ push or pull, ‘twas there to stay,
    Says Pa, “Some day ‘twill shrink I hope.”
    Ma fixed it with a bar of soap…

    So when my things get out of fix
    Do I ask Pa to mend ‘em? Nix!
    But Ma just grabs what’s near at hand
    And tags things up to beat the band.

    More verses and odd kitchen equipment available if you’d like!


  9. Well now, it sounds like there are a lot of you who should be doing the guest- and co-blogging on this! The Depression is at least 150 years away from my field of expertise, so I’ll certainly welcome any contributions or informed commentary any of you might offer.

    Love the poetry about the utility of kitchen tools/items that women were familiar with versus the specialized tools that men know, Rachel. You know I love those iceboxes and utility wagons!


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