Shelby woman, 102, recalls bad — and good — during Depression

Published 2:59 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

Mayme Miller Horn admits she had it better than most.

As a new Auburn graduate in 1929, Horn was one of the fortunate ones who had a job at the onset of the Great Depression.

The Great Depression, thought by many to have been triggered by the collapse of the U.S. stock market on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, was a 10-year period of dwindling profits, prices, personal income and tax revenues.

Horn recalls the difficult economic times — widespread unemployment, no money to buy clothes or food or anything else.

Horn, 102, of Columbiana, worked for a time during the Depression as a social worker and part of her job was meeting with families in need and “certifying” them for state assistance.

Despite those hardships, she remembers the era as one of good times, too, when families came together, when neighbors helped neighbors.

Horn is the sixth of nine children born to Alonzo and Lavenia Miller. Her father thought education was the key to success and insisted all of his children earn a college education. He even put one of her mother’s brothers through college and medical school.

“He moved us to Auburn in 1927 so the last children could go to college,” she said.

Horn, who went her first two years to Montevallo and graduated from Auburn, taught school in West Alabama in 1930 and 1931. However, Alabama didn’t have the money to pay teachers. Instead of U.S. currency, Alabama paid their teachers in vouchers, good for use in select stores.

“They paid us in script, which we could only use in certain places. Not everyone would take it,” she said. Often, her father would buy the script from her and use it to pay her siblings’ fees and tuition at Auburn University, which would accept the state’s vouchers.

In 1932, she was married to Yeager Horn, a 1924 Auburn grad, who moved her to Columbiana, where he operated an automobile and appliance dealership in the location where Dr. Stancil Handley now practices optometry. Later, Horn owned and operated a quick-freeze meat processing plant.

It was in Columbiana that Horn was a social worker.

“The mines were on strike and families were hit hard. I had to go visit the families and see what they had and what they needed,” she said.

Horn said fathers, who typically were the breadwinners during the Depression era, had to travel out of the area to find work. It was often up to extended family members to care for those left behind.

“Many families took in kinfolks. One of my mother’s sisters and her family moved in with us,” she said.