‘Anyplace’, California, 1936- Depression Times

Jim and Hope Alexander in 1930's (California)

Jim and Hope Shelley Alexander in California

Today, let’s look at a hand-written letter from 1936.  It was the Great Depression and so we can assume the letter-writer and letter-recipient were experiencing its economic effects.

The letter’s author is James (Jim) Alexander, who started life in Texas, but after marrying, moved to Wyoming with his new wife, Hope.  They homesteaded there in a dwelling that my mom recalls as a lean-to shack.  When they could no longer stand the cold, they moved to California, where their daughter, Jeanette, was born.

Jim and baby Jeannette Alexander in about 1923

Jim (James) and baby Jeanette Alexander in about 1923

Here is the text of the letter:

1051 Basye St

El Monte Calif.

Sept 16- 1936

Dear Dad-

Am about caught up with myself so must write some letters (sic)think I owe all of the family one or two.  all are well with us, we have been in our new house 2 month (sic)  and have about all the painting done  sure is a job to give everything 2 or 3 coats.  I built a chicken house labor day (sic) large enough to house about 100 chickens and will have that many before long.  Jeanette takes a great intrest (sic) in things out here in the country

she started back to school last Monday and likes the new school very well.  said tonight she got in the glee club today she likes to try to sing.

We see Holland often, he joined navy for another four years he has a used Ford which he drives when he comes ashore and when goes away for a while he leaves it with us, it is here now and has to stand out as I have not built a garage yet.

The aunties are well and we see them often

We will take some pictures now and send you some so you can see our new house

all join in much love to you and all the Kin.


Here is the address on the envelope:

Mr. R. M. Alexander

922 Belvin St.

San Marcos


Please notice that all work to improve the property was accomplished by the homeowner, presumably after-hours from his job!

Holland Russell in Navy uniform

Holland Russell in Navy uniform (He owned the Ford.)

Holland’s mother, Hasseltine (Hassie Alexander) Russell, was the letter-writer’s sister.  Hassie and husband, Johnny, lived in Arizona, where Holland grew up.  Here is a picture of Hassie and her children:

Hassie Russell with her children in Arizona

Margaret, Cecil, Hassie, and Holland Russell at home in Arizona in the 1920's

Relatives of Rufus McCormick Alexander

Augusta ('Gus') and Amelia are two of the 'Aunties' mentioned in the letter.

And for good measure, here is the ‘Dad’, recipient of the letter from his son.

Rufus McCormick Alexander

My mom recalls that Rufus McCormick, her granddad, never wore a tie, but always put this $1 dollar gold piece in his top shirt button hole.