Interview with Children of People Who Went through the Depression


Terkel, Studs




Studs Terkel is a radio broadcast personality and author who hosted the award-winning radio program, "The Studs Terkel Program" every weekday from 1952 to 1997. In these 1971 interviews, Terkel talks with children of people who went through the Great Depression about their experience with their parents' frugality, fear, and economic striving. This montage of interviews offers an opportunity to think critically about poverty, wealth, need, and the way that economic hardship shapes people's lives and is passed down from generation to generation.

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Crisis and ConflictMoney and WealthPoverty and NeedWork and Vocation

Big Questions

How should we respond to crisis?What is the relationship between money and power?What are the causes of poverty?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. The second interviewee remarks that he doesn't think his generation can comprehend what the Great Depression meant for his older family members. Do you think that younger generations can ever understand previous generations' hardships? If so, how? If not, why not?
  2. Why do some people react to hard times with shame, while others react to them with pride? How have the people in your life reacted? How do you react yourself?
  3. The third interviewee talks about the concept of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and the question: “Why can't other people just do what I did?” Has anyone asked this question of you? Have you asked this question of anyone else? How do you feel when you hear this question?
  4. Did your parents talk about money with you when you were a child or were they more guarded and protective? How does this impact your relationship with money today?
  5. Did any of the lessons that the interviewees discussed learning from their parents or the recession resonate with you? If so, which ones?
  6. Do you agree with the third interviewee's conclusion that “you have to have money to make it?” What do you think “making it” means?
  7. Do you agree with the interviewee who claims that at some point, most people have to give up what they believe in in order to stay alive and face the pressures of economic reality? If so, why? If not, why not?
  8. In what ways have you seen fear emerge from economic hardship? Who have you seen become afraid and why?
  9. What parts of the recording most stuck out to you and why?
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