Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tough Times on Linwood Avenue During the Great Depression

Harold Wilkens (1904-1976) and Ellen Smolley (1908-1964) eloped in 1930 and kept their marriage a secret for two years. They lived separately, but eventually in 1932 they formally announced to their families that they had wed. Mr. Wilkens found a job as a pharmacist with Henry Silver, who ran a drug store along Michigan Street near Bosart Avenue. In 1934, the couple had a daughter, Diana. With little money and in the middle of the Great Depression, the couple leased a double at 727 North Linwood Avenue. It was a small one-bed apartment and became even smaller when Carrie Gardner, the mother of Ellen Wilkens, moved in with them. Mrs. Gardner and the baby shared the bedroom while Harold and Ellen moved the dining room table each night and pulled down the Murphy Bed built into the wall. They remained in the small double for thirteen years before moving into a larger place in Irvington.

Young Diana had many friends along Linwood Avenue and attended School #58 nearby. She used to play in the woods and meadow in what would later become the Linwood Square shopping area. She recalled a fruit stand along East 10th Street near Linwood Avenue.  Diana remembered that times were tough for her family during those days.  In 1947, their landlord asked them to leave so that he could move in family members of his own. While initially this caused chaos in their lives, they would soon lease a beautiful double at 5120 East Washington Street.  

Diana Wilkens posed for her mother in front of 727-29 North Linwood Avenue in 1938.

Diana Wilkens in the front and backyard of 727 North Linwood Avenue in 1938

Christmas in 1940:  Diana Wilkens enjoyed Christmas Day in her home at 727 North Linwood Avenue. In the upper right photo, you can see Ed and Thelma Sheets who stopped by for a visit. Snowball the cat is visible in some photos.

Diana Wilkens and a friend posed for this shot in 1940 in her yard at 727 North Linwood Avenue. Behind the girls, you can see the tree-lined street and the homes in the 700 block of that street.  
The small double at 727-29 North Linwood Avenue looks much the same as it did when the Wilkens family dwelled here from 1934 to 1947. (Photo taken in the summer of 2015)  

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