Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Summer/105/Section 08/Clara Garber

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CLARA GARBER[edit | edit source]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Home Life[1][edit | edit source]

Clara Garber was a Tennessee Bootlegger. She was interviewed in 1938. She owned a five bedroom bungalow with her 24 year old paralytic son, Sonny Boy, and her ex husband, Shin Badgett. She’d been married twice but Shin is not the father of her son, but her first husband, whom she “feels sorry for,” so she “just takes care of him.” Her son, Sonny Boy, developed infantile paralysis, better known as polio, when he was two years old and cannot read. She is the only one able to understand him and bootlegging is the “only job she can do and be home for him.” Clara Garber had never been on “relief” and would “just about die before I’d take government help.” Her refrigerator, car, and furniture were all paid for and she had “a few hundred dollars in the bank.” She was religious but didn't go to church; however, she was a firm believer in taking a day of rest.

Career life[2][edit | edit source]

In the 1920’s America passed the 18th amendment known as the prohibition amendment. This amendment made the making, consuming, possessing, and drinking of alcohol illegal. In response to the new law, illegal sales of alcohol spiked and “bootleggin’” began. Clara Garber began her bootlegging business in 1929 but had never been caught by the police despite being raided by the police six or seven times a year. Clara Garber made sure to never had more than a pitcher of liquor in her house at a time to limit the risk of being caught. She had her own set of rules which her clients were aware of, in order to keep her business open. She was only open until 10pm during the week and 12am on Saturdays. She never sold bottles; so each customer brought either their own cup, container, or jar to retrieve the liquor. She never let a drunk man in her house, and lastly, each of her customers knew to use the back door. Clara had a well-thoughtout system including a padlock door, which would take two minutes to break through, and a limited supply of liquor on hand which took 20 seconds to dispose of leaving zero evidence left behind. She would buy a gallon for $2 and sell it for 50 cents a pint. A gallon brought in $4, and more if she sold it by the drink. She sold about 2.5 gallons per day and made about $5 a day. On Saturdays her profit would double to around $10; and she was always closed on Sunday’s “because everybody needs one rest day.”

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Infantile Paralysis[edit | edit source]

“Polio, or infantile paralysis, is a contagious oral-fecal viral disease that can cause paralysis of the limbs and, in severe cases, respiratory muscles."[3] Polio spreads through the ingestion of fecal matter. It has been discovered that decreasing rates of Polio throughout the 1900’s were directly correlated to increased standards when it comes to sanitation. “It hit without warning. It killed some victims and marked others for life, leaving behind vivid reminders for all to see: wheelchairs, crutches, leg braces and deformed limbs."[4] This put a lasting fear into Americans minds for multiple years. Because of the unfamiliarity and lack of a vaccine at the time there was a constant feeling of distress across the country. Parents and adults “gave their children a daily “polio test.” Did the neck swivel? Did the toes wiggle? Could the chin reach the chest?[yale]” Over the course of 50 years, vaccination trials were in full swing but continued to be unsuccessful and fatal. It was not until 1953, when Dr. Jonas Salk developed a successful polio vaccine.[5]

Prohibition[edit | edit source]

Prohibition was a law that was created during the early 1900’s that made the production, possession, and selling of alcohol illegal. With the hope and confidence that Prohibition would be a great improvement to society, activists believed “the law would turn the habitual drunkard into a sober, hardworking, devoted family man.”[6] Legislation tended to be very supportive of the 18th Amendment; however, this did not stop a lot of the American people from consuming alcohol illegally. Prohibition was the start to a rise in criminal activity during that time.

Single working Mothers[edit | edit source]

Starting in the 1920’s, a surplus of women chose to remain single. The depression provided opportunities for these young women to become self-reliant.[7]“Prevalence of women in the workforce rose 25 percent during this time.” This was the beginning of women taking on jobs outside of the stereotypical household chores and making a significant income. Single women were a rarity, but single mothers were even more infrequently seen during this time. “While mothers could keep their children, the stigma and difficulties of supporting the infants”[8] led to the expectation of relinquishing their children for adoption by more suitable couples. Women began to get recognition in society during this time.[9]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Burnham, J. C. "New Perspectives on the Prohibition "Experiment" of the 1920's." Journal of Social History 2, no. 1 (1968): 51-68. Accessed July 15, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3786620.

MAWDSLEY, STEPHEN E. ""Dancing on Eggs": Charles H. Bynum, Racial Politics, and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, 1938–1954." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 84, no. 2 (2010): 217-47. Accessed July 15, 2021. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44451875.

Richthofen, Ted. “Women During Prohibition.” Articles | Colorado Encyclopedia, June 10, 2020. https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/women-during-prohibition.

Roberts, Jonathan. “100 Years Later, Prohibition's Legacy Lives on in Tennessee.” Johnson City Press, July 4, 2020. https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/news/business/100-years-later-prohibitions-legacy-lives-on-in-tennessee/article_50e6a823-1323-5f7d-85ec-5a473988605c.html.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Folder 977: Yoe, Della, Aswell, and Lipscomb (Interviewers): Clara Garber in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  2. Folder 977: Yoe, Della, Aswell, and Lipscomb (Interviewers): Clara Garber in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  3. Renshaw, Eric. “In 1948 Polio Epidemic, S.D. Had Highest per Capita Rate in U.S.” Argus Leader. Argus Leader, October 20, 2016. https://www.argusleader.com/story/life/2016/10/20/1948-polio-epidemic-sd-had-highest-per-capita-rate-us/92369028/.
  4. Oshinsky, David M. “‘Breaking the Back of Polio.’” Yale School of Medicine, 2005. https://medicine.yale.edu/news/yale-medicine-magazine/breaking-the-back-of-polio/.
  5. Sowards, Will. “Will Sowards.” Passport Health, June 1, 2019. https://www.passporthealthusa.com/2019/06/how-was-the-polio-vaccine-developed/#:~:text=It%20took%20almost%2050%20years,findings%20in%201840%20on%20poliomyelitis.
  6. Funderburg, J. Anne. Bootleggers and Beer Barons of the Prohibition Era. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014.
  7. “Women in the 1930s & 1940s.” Women in the 1930s & 1940s: HIST18.2: History of Women in the United States Since 1877: Section 0972: Donegan A, 2017. https://canvas.santarosa.edu/courses/24761/pages/women-in-the-1930s-and-1940s.
  8. Evans, Caroline. Families, 2006. https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/F/Families.htm.
  9. Meleen, Michele. “Family Life in the 1920s.” LoveToKnow. LoveToKnow Corp. Accessed July 18, 2021. https://family.lovetoknow.com/about-family-values/family-life-1920s.