first thing that came up at the meeting of the Hamilton City Council
Thursday night was an offer by Lone Star Gas Company to refund to the
city a $10 meter deposit made by Hamilton Canning Plant in the summer of
1934. The deposit has borne interest at six percent for 45 years.
Les Hamilton asked members of the council if they would accept the
refund and interest and of course they would, possibly having visions of
how much the amount would be if the interest had been compounded each
year. Unfortunately, the interest was not compounded, so the city will
get about $27 interest in addition to the $10 deposit.
could remember 1934 all right, but I could not remember the Hamilton
Canning Plant, so I went to old newspaper files to see why the city
should fall heir to a deposit made by a canning plant. What I found was
a story of hard times that should make people who play fast and loose
with our nation’s economy sit up and take notice.
1934, Franklin Roosevelt invented the alphabet. The nation was in the
depths of its worst depression and eight million people were out of
came up with NRA, WPA, NIRA, FERA, CCC and about 50 other agencies to
deal with the problems. All went by the initials of the main words in
was in especially hard times. Besides disastrous prices for farm crops,
the county didn’t have many crops because of a drought. There were
only 16 inches of rain in 1933 and less than 25 in 1934, most of it
is about 30 inches. So the county was in line for help not only because
of the depression but also because of the drought. It was to get help
from both the state and federal governments.
canning plant was on example of federal help.
’s new Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), canneries were
established all across the nation in rural area that needed them. Hico
quickly qualified for plants, with
not much later. One of the purposes was to salvage much needed foods
that otherwise would have rotted or burned out in the fields and
to the Hamilton County News, “The average farmer does not have the
money to buy cans at this time.” Canneries would help solve the
problem and provide jobs for unemployed at the same time.
furnished canners, cans and labor.
supplied the quarters. County commissioners moved an ole plank building
to the city lot back of the city hall on
North Rice Avenue
, which established the city’s claim to the gas company refund. The
plant was to “remain the property of the community.”
was out $200 and the city of
farmer or gardener could bring his produce in and the cannery would
process and can it for him. The plant retained 50% of the canned
produce, which later was turned over to state welfare agencies for
direct distribution to people in “bread lines.” In
, this food was distributed locally, not shipped somewhere else.
was also a charge of about half a cent a can to pay for extra expenses
of canning such as gas, wood and soap. The city put up another $97.40 to
help out. Although a farmer returned home with only about half of the
produce he took to the cannery, this was a lot better than seeing the
produce rot on the fields.
were rough in
that year. During the summer of ’34, advertised retail prices in
Hamilton stores for brisket were 8 cents a pound, rump roast 10 cents a
pound and T-bone steak 12 ˝ cents a pound . Coffee was 19 cents a pound
at retail and flour $1.50 for a 48 pound sack.
of the drought, feed was needed. But livestock men could not pay for the
feed, just as farmers could not pay for cans. So cattlemen were
authorized to sell “sell cattle which they cannot feed to the
the same time, the government was shipping 40,000 pounds of canned meat
.” The county was unable to pay for storage of the canned meat and
asked FERA to do so.
became of paramount importance to everyone, even the workers in the
Hamilton Canning Plant. In August, 1934, they agreed to work for 25
percent of their day’s work output. The
says that this amounted to a daily income for each worker varying from
60 cents to $2, depending on the hours worked.
I was saying, things were tough in
in 1934 when the city or someone made a $10 meter deposit for a cannery.
The $10, itself, was a major sacrifice. Now Lone Star Gas Company, which
was then Community Natural Gas Company, wants to give it back with
request should be honored, as it was by the City Council, because the
gas company helped share the suffering. According to newspapers of the
time, “Much credit is due the gas company for its timely assistance in
installing the pipe line and gas fixtures at the plant. The company
furnished half of the materials and labor of installing 130 feet of
a gift would hardly be mentioned in the papers these days.
Shared by Roy
ACROSS THE FENCE