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Journeys in America
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A glimpse of Chicago and America from the perspective of a 1930s immigrant
A glimpse of Chicago and America from the perspective of a 1930s immigrant

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In a new letter, George writes to his son Noel in Chicago: "I can quite appreciate your desire to see as much of America as you possibly can, although frankly, boy, I do not like the idea of you spending your Sundays just on the move from place to place ... . While that may be a very interesting experience ... you should become connected with the Christian Church and carry your share in the work of the Church."

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25 August 1932: This letter is full of examples of how the Great Depression is affecting everyone. The Chicago YMCA College is seeing a drop-off in students and having trouble placing those who did graduate. Big Brother Keith is still having difficulty finding work. YMCAs throughout Australia are shuffling things around to make ends meet. Even George's local church is having to get creative to raise money. The good news: the family is healthy.

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15 Aug 1932, George writes from Australia about the Republican and Democratic conventions in Chicago: "We had quite a number of lengthy cables concerning the convention held in Chicago in connection with the political situation. Evidently, the affairs were of the brass band type and quite a lot of “bally hoo” went on."

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3 Aug 1932: The filter drops a bit in this letter and we get some strong emotion from George about the board at the Melbourne YMCA, calling them "a lot of whipped puppies". We also learn that George has placed his job on the line, telling the board that he would be willing to “drop out”.  This letter is different because he hand-wrote it instead of dictating it to a YMCA typist. I've done my best to do an accurate transcription, but part of the writing is lost in the book’s binding, so I've had to make a few minor guesses in places. The letter is short and sweet and full of love and longing for his son.

http://afathersletters.blogspot.com/2014/03/no-42-3-august-1932.html

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Really cool video footage of Chicago in the 1940s. Color and narrated. Made by the Chicago Public Schools. Make the city look really pretty.

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29 July 1932: The Great Depression, the YMCA's finances and the welfare of his children continue to weigh heavily on George in his most recent letter. "Conditions in America, according to the cables in our papers, are not improving at all. They seem to be more bewildering than ever. I think there is a better spirit abroad in business circles in Melbourne, but we are still a long way from solving our difficulties. ... the time back to prosperity will be a very long, drawnout struggle, and changes for the better cannot come quickly." 

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18 July 1932: The Great Depression is ever-present in George's most current letter. He is still worried about Noel's ability to get a job and make money during his summer break from college in Chicago. And he continues to worry about the Melbourne YMCA's finances, saying they are "hard up against it". 

"We are still having serious difficulties with finance and I cannot see much change for the better for some time to come. Frankly, we are really getting to the position where we are hard up against it. It looks as if we shall have to get further accommodation from our Bank to enable us to carry on."

http://afathersletters.blogspot.com/2014/03/no-40-18-july-1932.html

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The solvency of the Melbourne YMCA is weighing heavily on George in this letter from 6 July 1932. He describes their financial position as "sick": "At the Association we are having a Membership Campaign this month and are hoping by this means to secure a lift both in members and in finance. ... We have reached the position at the Commercial Band which is full of difficulty, and unless our membership effort this month is successful, we will have hard work to find the needed money to meet our immediate needs."

Read further at: http://afathersletters.blogspot.com/2014/02/no-39-6-july-1932.html

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A new letter from George. He writes: "I am sorry that the outlook for work is so bad, and sincerely hope that your prophesies will not be fulfilled. It is a safe policy to think in terms of the most difficult situation likely to arise and I commend you for doing that. ... I enclose a cutting from yesterday’s paper which helps us to realise how desperate conditions in Chicago must be. In addition we have had letters from Laurie Bowen which paint a doleful picture of the frightful straits to which the unemployed in Chicago are reduced."

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George sends more news from home, plus a monetary gift. Noel's situation must truly be desperate for George to send money, given his own tax bills he is facing. "Today I sent you 25 dollars in American money as requested in your letter. The unfortunate part of it is that to send what would be normally equal to £5, cost £8:16:5. There is the difference in the English sterling plus the difference in exchange between Australia and America. These two things combined, make sending money a ruinous matter." 
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