90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Ted Gup on the Trail of Great Depression Secrets

Sam Stone, known as B. Virdot, sent checks to destitute families during the Great Depression. (Courtesy of The Penguin Press)

Investigative journalist and Emerson College professor Ted Gup joined On Point Friday and told the story of how he uncovered a stirring act of quiet charity buried in his own family history.

It all began with an old tattered suitcase his mother gave him that contained letters from the Depression Era. Gup found requests for help and records of gifts sent in return. They were threads of a story set in a time and place marked by deep poverty and desperation.

Gup told On Point host Tom Ashbrook:

If you went back in ’33 in my hometown [Canton, Ohio], you would’ve seen a town that had unemployment approaching 50 percent…You would’ve seen children in patched coats stooped over the railroad track, picking up, scavenging, little pieces of coal that had fallen from passing trains, and [using] them…to heat their homes that night.

Gup discovered that his grandfather, Sam Stone, had helped many such Ohio residents through anonymous donations.

Those acts of giving are part of an intriguing and until-now lost history. Tom Ashbrook also spoke with the sole surviving recipient of Stone’s generosity, 90-year-old Helen Palm of Canton, Ohio. She wrote to Stone when she was 14 years old. Back then, Palm used to make shoe soles for herself by cutting out the cardboard from an empty shredded wheat box.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter she wrote in 1933:

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

Gup’s book on his discovery is called “A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • CaryLee

    What would have even been more moving were to hear the stories of those CHILDREN who survived on the cast off coal and the little girl who was begging for money.

    THESE are the true survivors who’s stories are worth making headlines and reading about, and more so BOOKS of worthy attention.

  • Richard D. Krall

    All About Agate Semi Valuable Beads

    Semi valuable beads as a result of their Red
    Beads unique appear are employed widely in ornamentals and
    decorative. With all the raise in overall competition, the number of suppliers
    providing wholesale gemstone beads at extremely economical costs is escalating
    day by day. Among the quite well-known Semi Valuable Gemstone Beads, Agate is 1
    very well-known sort.

    Properties of Agate

    Agate is amongst probably the most beads charms
    creatively striped Semi Precious Beads with bands crystallized to
    concentric layers that stick to the cavity shape. It comes inside a selection of
    colors and textures. Each agate is formed by filling the host rock cavity, as a
    result agate is located as a round nodule, the bands resemble eyes or fanciful
    scallops or perhaps a landscape with trees. It features a glassy luster and
    distinct gravity of 2.60. Agate is often a semiprecious silica mineral that has
    discovered its usage as Semi Valuable Beads to get a long time. It can be
    essentially the most frequent sort of chalcedony- a form of quartz.

    Agate- Origin and Existence

    Agate has been used extended as a talisman or amulet.Silver
    Charms Although this stone is widely distributed it isn’t quite
    popular. Agate is believed to possess been very first found in France at
    20,000-16,000 BC and also the Egyptians applied this stone prior to 3000 BC. The
    agate mining in Nahe River valley at Germany in 1497 gave rise towards the
    Idar-Oberstein cutting-centre. After the agate deposit finished here, the
    cutters started creating agate deposits of Brazil. Exactly the same led for the
    detection of other gemstones for example amethyst, tourmaline, citrine, topaz,
    and so on. which are sold as wholesale Gemstone Beads by suppliers. Nonetheless
    now Idar-Oberstein is world-known for finest agate carving though it imports a
    large quantities of other gem supplies; the same is then cut also as carved in
    Germany and Asia into Gemstone Beads

    Agate Availability

    Agate is supplied by suppliers mainly in India, Brazil, China, Madagascar,
    Arizona, Russia as well as Australia. Arizona is well-known for supplying
    petrified wood agate as a result of Petrified Forest National Park. The Park is
    known to possess most colorful examples of silicified logs. Agate is among the
    gemstone beads that are now becoming extensively applied for ornamental
    purposes. Now Montana agate is becoming increasingly utilised in jewelry too at
    the same time cut stones. Agate is fairly low-cost; therefore it comes beneath
    Semi Valuable Beads. In addition using the coming up of far more suppliers;
    wholesale Gemstone Beads is supplied at considerably lowered rates.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

Apr 23, 2014
Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

RECENT
SHOWS
Apr 22, 2014
This undated handout photo, taken in 2001, provided by the Museum of the Rockies shows a bronze cast of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as the Wankel T.rex, in front of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. (AP)

As a new Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives at the Smithsonian, we’ll look at its home – pre-historic Montana – and the age when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

 
Apr 22, 2014
Security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in the town of Suwayrah, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 21, 2014. Suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed and wounded dozens on Monday, officials said, the latest in an uptick in violence as the country counts down to crucial parliament elections later this month. (AP)

We look at Iraq now, two years after Americans boots marched out. New elections next week, and the country on the verge of all-out civil war.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Week In Seven Soundbites: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Holy week with an unholy shooter. South Koreans scramble to save hundreds. Putin plays to the crowd in questioning. Seven days gave us seven sounds.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Space moon oceans, Gabriel García Márquez and the problems with depressing weeks in the news. Also: important / unnecessary infographics that help explain everyone’s favorite 1980′s power ballad.

More »
Comment
 
Some Tools And Tricks For College Financial Aid
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Some helpful links and tools for navigating FAFSA and other college financial aid tools.

More »
Comment