A Great Depression Christmas: 'I Don't Want to Read; I Want to Skate'

Editor's Note: The following story, photo and caption originally appeared in Saturday Shelby in 2016.


Stories of the Great Depression exist only in textbooks for most Shelby County residents, but not Lois Snyder. Born in 1924, she recalls one Depression-era Christmas like it was yesterday.

After her family lost a house outside of Waldron, they moved to Connersville, where her dad painted automobiles at the Cord factory. Eventually, they returned to Shelby County.

Snyder remembers her dad shooting, cleaning, and selling rabbits in downtown Waldron.

“He would come home and throw that quarter on the table,” Snyder recalls. “Times were hard.”

Her family only traveled to Shelbyville once or twice a year and Christmas provided the perfect opportunity for her parents to take the Model T into town to buy each child one gift.

Snyder knew exactly what to request.

“The girls (in the neighborhood) were all skating on the sidewalks in Waldron,” she said. “But I didn’t have any skates.”

Instead, she took spare pieces from old skates and constructed her own.

“But I lost parts all the time,” Snyder said. “I told my mother, 'There’s one thing I want for Christmas: a pair of skates.'”

The skates cost $1.98 and with a glum face, her mother returned from Shelbyville to break the news: they only had a dollar, so there wasn’t enough for the skates.

“I was just sick,” Snyder remembers.

Her parents and two sisters prepared for the holiday in their living room the night before Christmas. A tiny live tree with only popcorn decorations reminded them of the festive time, regardless of the hardships faced.

“(Mom) said, ‘Lois, where do you want your Christmas gift? We got you a book,’” Snyder said. “I thought, 'I don’t want to read; I want to skate.' I didn’t want to tell the other girls I couldn’t get skates.”

Instead, Snyder said, “Just put it over there in that chair.”

On Christmas, her mother finally asked, “Lois, aren’t you going to open your gift?”

Snyder went toward the chair. Instead of wrapping paper, all gifts were placed in brown grocery sacks.

“When I (picked the sack up), a wheel came through,” Snyder said. “I started screaming and crying. She had my skates! She told me a big ol’ fib.”

For Snyder, it was a bright spot in the midst of terrible times. As she prepares to turn 92 years old this July, she still tells the story with fondness.

“Can you imagine the thrill for a child?” she asked. “I never forgot that.”