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StoryCorps Flint: 95-year-old city resident recalls growing up during Great Depression

headshot of mother and daughter
Dorothy Maxine Keely McClanahan spoke to her daughter JoAnn McClanahan at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint.

Dorothy Maxine Keely McClanahan is 95 years old. At the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint, she and her daughter, JoAnn McClanahan, talked about her memories of growing up in a large family in the city during the Great Depression.

Dorothy Maxine Keely McClanahan: I came from a family of 13. There were so many kids to play with. It was a fun time then. We could wander all over the neighborhood and never have to worry about being harmed or being somewhere where we shouldn't be.

JoAnn McClanahan: You used to actually walk across town didn't you? From Pierson Road to downtown?

DMKM: Yes. We would save our five cents, which was used to ride the streetcar or trolley and we would walk downtown and go to the movies and eat and then walk back home. And we also walked to school. We never had a ride, even in the winter. We had to walk.

JM: Uphill both ways in the snow? [laughs]

DMKM: Yes. Yes. Somebody said that was because we were shorter. [laughs]

JM: You were telling me one story the other day about somebody buying you a midi.

DMKM: It was a long top like a sailor would use only it was more feminine. One of our teachers, Miss Chapel, she brought one of hers to school and gave it to me. It fit me perfect as a dress. And I remember her standing me on the windowsill of the school and calling the other teachers in to see how cute I was.

JM: And why did she want to give it to you?

DMKM: Because we were very poor and I'm sure that she realized that I probably didn't have very many nice things.

JM: Great-grandmother Hunter sewed you some clothes out of ... 

DKM: Feed sacks. Yes. I loved to go up to Grandma Hunter’s. I remember taking the train. The conductor got so disgusted because my mother, not knowing it, sat down in the smoker's coach. Women and children weren’t supposed to be there at all. He came in there and he was very rough. "What are you doing in this car?" And then he moved us to another car. Now I remember we’d go to Grayling. We'd get off the train downtown and then we'd walk to Grandma Hunter's house. [My sister] Marianne and I always used to get so mad because she always gave us bread and milk for breakfast. Chunks of bread cut up put in milk.

JM: Yuck. [laughs]

DMKM: I know. When we grew up, it was the worst of times because it was the Depression, but I don't think any of us kids realized how bad times were.

JM: Well, I'm so glad we did this because you told me some stories that I've never heard before.

DKM: Well, I probably have a lot of stories to tell.

This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Michigan Radio is featuring conversations recorded at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint every Friday on Morning Edition during the month of September.

Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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