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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Pantagraph's Man in the Street Interviews -- Elliott

The Pantagraph reporter took his camera to Elliott in April 1937 to find out what the citizens thought about the rise in consumer prices at that time, and whether the prices meant a return to the prosperity of the 1920s. After seven years of the depression, people were anxious to know what any change meant, and a change in consumer prices touched everyone.

The Lutheran pastor in Elliott, J.M. Wick, was concerned that uneven rises between different commodities could be dangerous. He also observed that wages never seemed to rise at the same rate as prices. He felt that the current rise could mean another economic crisis.

Peter Skaar, the postmaster, did not want to see a return to 1929, which he felt was comparable to the current prices. He said "The big fellows get the benefit and and a crash follows." He observed that the big labor unions had made big gains, but as the "big men" boosted the prices, the gains of the unions were rubbed out. The number of brooms behind Mr. Skaar seem to indicate his postoffice was a general store as well. I wonder what was in the icebox behind him???

Gene Baxter was a lumber man, and he felt that when prices got so high that men could not buy the things they needed, there was no advantage to the merchant. In that case everyone suffered from the high prices.

The local railway station agent, Harry Dahl, felt that moderate prices were desirable. Like these working people, he noted the strange way prices always rose higher than wages. Apparently there was a LOT of paperwork for station agents to deal with!

Lily Barton was emphatic that high prices did NOT mean prosperity. She found that invaribly the things one needed to buy were higher than the things one had to sell. She was willing to give her opinion, but refused to have her photo taken because she was not looking her best.

John M. Hatteburg was a grain elevator assistant was a very thoughtful man. He observed that high prices meant the expansion of credit. He noted that over expansion of credit had led to the depression. "This action and reaction can be shown by studying price indices and figures on credit. When a person has a higher income merchants and salespeople of all sorts are willing to give him more credit. In the illusion of prosperity the average man buries himself in debts which close in on him when things tighten up. Continued rising prices can easily be the cause of another and worse depression."

W.A. Kreitzer, a general store owner in Elliott, stated: "I do not. Continued rising prices will leave too big a spread between wages and cost of living and then there is something about higher prices that gives a false sense of prosperity, causing people to spend more than they can afford."

Arthur Noland was a very prosperous looking farmer in Elliott. He said: "Well, yes and no. So far . . . so good. Extremely high prices are bad. Even now many commodities are going proportionately higher than farm products. They are also going higher than wages. Things are produced -- I've always thought -- for consumption. When prices get so high consumption is lessened somethings just wrong."

Nearly every person interviewed considered the effect of prices on a wage earning person, and not from a mercantile point of view. The people of McLean County were in the depression together, and they were, for the most part, all wage earners with a limited ability to buy the necessities of life. Any opinions based on the profits to be gained from rising prices probably would not be aired in the newspaper.

This man's name and photo were not printed in the paper, but he was reading the paper with his adorable little dog. Does anyone know who he was??

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