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.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 1, 2015
In this June 26, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. The Obama administration will propose requiring overtime pay for workers who earn nearly $1,000 per week, three individuals familiar with the plan said Monday, June 29. (AP)

Five million workers may qualify for overtime pay. We’ll look at the plan and the pushback.

Jul 1, 2015
In this file photo, a statue stands at the entrance to the women-only Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, N.Y., Wednesday, March 28, 2012.  (AP)

Babies born in prison. The numbers are growing. What’s best for baby? We’ll take a closer look.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jun 30, 2015
In this image provided by NASA/JSC, astronauts Steven L. Smith and John M. Grunsfeld are photographed during an extravehicular activity (EVA) during the December 1999 Hubble servicing mission of STS-103, flown by Discovery. The Hubble Space Telescope, one of NASA'S crowning glories, marks its 25th anniversary on Friday, April 24, 2015.

Global plans for outer space. We’ll look around the world at who has what agendas for out there.

 
Jun 30, 2015
People stand in a queue to use an ATM outside a closed bank, next to a sign on the plant, bottom right, reading ''NO'' in Athens, Tuesday. It's crunch time for Greece, with the European part of its international bailout expiring Tuesday. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Greece closes its banks as debt negotiations reach a crisis point. We hear the latest on the debt crisis and its threat to the Eurozone.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Election 2016: Who Exactly Is Running For President?
Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015

Who is running for President, anyway? We attempt to help you figure it out.

More »
4 Comments
 
Our Week In The Web: June 19, 2015
Friday, Jun 19, 2015

Why our broadcast changed in different markets this week, and a closer look at a puppet theatre vandalism in rural Norway. (Really).

More »
Comment
 
Quick Note On Rebroadcasting Today
Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

A quick note regarding today’s shifting schedule of broadcasts.

More »
2 Comments