90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Good Deeds in Hard Times

How one man’s small, secret gifts of charity during the Great Depression kept a world afloat.

Some of the 11,000 jobless in Cleveland register for temporary work, Nov. 13, 1930, during the Great Depression. (AP)

In the deepest depths of the Great Depression – December, 1933 – a little note appeared in an Ohio newspaper: If you’re in trouble, write me.

And many, many did. For shoes. A coat. For mercy. For food. To save their family from despair. And back came checks, under a pseudonym.

Investigative journalist Ted Gup saw the desperate letters and figured out that the benefactor was his grandad.

It’s a remarkable story of giving in hard times. It is relevant right now. A national story, a personal story, and a secret gift. Plus, we look at what’s up with billionaire philanthropy today.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Ted Gup, longtime investigative journalist for the Washington Post and Time. He’s now chair of the Department of Journalism at Emerson College. His new book is “A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression.” Link here to an audio excerpt.

Helen Palm, a 90-year-old woman from Canton, Ohio, whose letter written as a young girl (see below) during the Great Depression found its way to writer Ted Gup and became part of the story in “A Secret Gift.”

Stephanie Strom, reporter for the New York Times. Read her article, “Pledge to Give Away Fortunes Stirs Debate.”

Here’s Helen Palm’s letter:

Dear Sir,

When we went over at the neighbors to borrow the paper I read your article. I am a girl of fourteen. I am writing this because I need clothing. And sometimes we run out of food.

My father does not want to ask for charity. But us children would like to have some clothing for Christmas. When he had a job us children used to have nice things.

I also have brothers and sisters.

If you should send me Te[n] Dollars I would buy clothing and buy the Christmas dinner and supper.

I thank you.

HELEN PALM

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 20, 2014
A statue of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on New York City's Roosevelt Island. (Flickr / Alexisrael)

Greatness and the American Presidency. Aaron David Miller says aim for good. Really good.

Oct 20, 2014
In this Oct. 2, 2014 photo, patrons line up for “Nightmare: New York,” a haunted house attraction in New York. (AP)

Afraid of snakes? Heights? Ebola? We’ll unpack the science of fear.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 17, 2014
Jazz violinist Regina Carter. (Courtesy of the Artist)

Regina Carter turns her jazz violin down home with her new album “Southern Comfort.”

 
Oct 17, 2014
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) Ky., center, and Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, rehearsed with host Bill Goodman before their appearance on "Kentucky Tonight" television broadcast live from KET studios in Lexington, Ky.,Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP)

The CDC in the hot seat on Ebola. Markets reeling. Mid-term fireworks. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment