Migration and homelessness Some people sought escape from the Depression by hopping freight trains to the South and West. On one railroad line alone, hobos living in boxcars increased from 13,000 in 1929 to 200,000 in 1931.
The Car Craze Continues People sought a variety of ways to escape the dire conditions of the Depression, but the car was the ultimate escape machine. Owning an automobile continued to serve as a status symbol. Despite economic hardship, many Americans still drove cars. They took to the roads for many reasons–to find jobs, to search for adventure, or to take a vacation.
Tourism n During the 1930s tourism grew to be the nations third largest industry. The automobile industry itself kept growing, with the number of registered cars in the United States jumping from 24 million in 1933 to 32 million in 1940.
Escape from drudgery The appliance revolution that began in the 1920s continued into the 1930s. As more and more houses were wired with electricity, the market for new household appliances grew. n The refrigerator was, by far, the most sought after of the new appliances. However, the spread of electrification also allowed people to own washing machines, electric irons, and more.
For some people, especially in rural areas, the arrival of electricity and the transformation that it brought to daily life seemed nothing less than miraculous.
Escape Through Entertainment The rise of talkies, or movies with sound, and color-film technology added new and exciting dimensions to movies. During an average week in the mid-1930s, between 60 million and 90 million people flocked to the movie palace. For a brief time, the movies provided an escape to a faraway, exciting place.
Radio For daily entertainment, most people turned on the radio. Although more than 10 million people owned radios in 1929, a decade later that number had almost tripled. Sponsored by big-name corporations, radio programs tended to avoid controversial issues. Audiences of the mass media–movies, radio, and other large networks of communication– were most often seeking a means of escape.
Critical voices Not all Americans tried to escape the Depression. Serious writers, painters, photographers, and playwrights sought to inspire a social awareness of the problems people faced in the Depression. Writers John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos stressed the struggles of individuals in society and evaluated the effectives of society in upholding the rights of people from different classes.
Destitute pea pickers in California... (Often referred to as "Migrant Mother"). 1936. Photographer: Dorothea Lange
Farmer and sons...dust storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma. 1936. Photographer : Arthur Rothstein