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The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

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The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush by Susan Wittig Albert
Mass Market Paperback
Sep 01, 2015 | 304 Pages
*This format is not eligible to earn points towards the Reader Rewards program
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  • Mass Market Paperback $7.99

    Sep 01, 2015 | 304 Pages

    *This format is not eligible to earn points towards the Reader Rewards program
  • Ebook $7.99

    Sep 02, 2014 | 304 Pages

Product Details

Praise

“Albert once again tells a sweet story laced with personable characters and a strong sense of time and place.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Albert is a wonderful author…I would recommend The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush to any cozy reader, garden lover, and anyone interested in life in the thirties.”
Open Book Society

“Albert…does such a wonderful job of making the people in her stories come alive…Her characters are real and dealt with real issues.”
Debbie’s Book Bag

Author Essay

Author’s Note

If you’ve been following this series, you know that it is set in the 1930s, during the dark years of the Depression. The previous book, The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star, took place in July 1932, when the newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was squaring off against the incumbent Republican president, Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt, then the governor of the state of New York, was not widely known, and people weren’t sure what direction he might take to solve the nation’s economic woes.

But as many historians have pointed out, it didn’t matter much whose name was on the ballot, because folks were voting for A.B.H.—Anybody but Hoover. With unemployment above 20 percent and rising, Hoover didn’t have any strategies to turn the economy around. Roosevelt won with 57 percent of the vote, while the Democrats took control of the Senate and expanded their control of the House. Around the country, the jaunty tune “Happy Days Are Here Again”—FDR’s campaign song—could be heard everywhere.

Those “happy days” were years in the future, however, and the four bleak months between the election and Roosevelt’s March 4 inaugural witnessed the worst banking panic in American history. Fearing that their local banks would close and their funds would suddenly vanish, people rushed to withdraw their money and stash it under their mattresses or in coffee cans buried in the backyard. Before the end of February 1933, so much money had drained out of the banking system that banks couldn’t cover the losses and a dozen state governors had either frozen withdrawals or declared a “bank holiday.” By the final weeks of Hoover’s presidency, some 5,500 banks in thirty-one states were on “holiday,” their windows shuttered and CLOSED signs hung on their front doors.

And for many communities, this was a tragedy. As far as commercial businesses and individuals were concerned, the closing of the local bank meant that there was simply no money. Companies couldn’t meet their payrolls. Stores couldn’t stock their shelves. People couldn’t buy milk or bread or put gasoline in their flivvers.

But Americans are resourceful, and if the banks weren’t handing out enough cash to keep the wheels of commerce turning, by golly, the citizens themselves would make some. Thus was born the concept of Depression “scrip”: paper currency that was produced locally—by merchants, by merchant associations, or by municipalities—to solve local money problems. It wasn’t the solution to the banking crisis, but it did help businesses meet their payrolls, put groceries on the shelves of local stores, and enabled mothers to buy a quart of milk for their babies and baloney for their husbands’ sandwiches.

And when it came to scrip, even the funnyman Will Rogers found something to chuckle about. “Everybody is all excited over ‘scrip,’” he wrote on March 6, 1933. “We are all for it. The way it sounds all you need is a fountain pen and a prescription blank. That’s what we been looking for for years, a substitute for money.” So bring on the scrip, he added. It might not be money but it spent like money, which was going to make everybody want to buy something.

And that, of course, was exactly what the economy needed: lots of people buying lots of stuff—except that in little Darling, Alabama, things didn’t quite work out that way. And thereby hangs a tale: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush.

* * *

A word about words. Writing about the rural South in the 1930s requires the use of images and language that may be offensive to some readers, especially words that refer to African Americans, such as “colored,” “colored folk,” and “Negro.” Thank you for understanding that I mean no offense.

Susan Wittig Albert

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