The years of 1932 and 1933 were difficult for Sedalia. Several Pettis County banks and two Sedalia banks had failed during the 1920s, long before the stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the Great Depression. Although the banks and press tried to assure Sedalians that the economy was stable, the facts showed just the opposite. Bank failures cost many their savings. Job layoffs plunged many into a poverty they had not known before.
As winter approached, the situation became grim for many families. Cold weather increased the need for heating fuel and warm clothing. In December 1932, several organizations worked to assist the poor with fuel, food, clothing and Christmas gifts.
Government-managed welfare programs, other than county poor farms, did not exist. President Herbert Hoover believed the Great Depression would resolve itself and that the government should not intervene to help the poor. President Franklin Roosevelt’s programs such as Social Security and the Works Progress Administration, along with Worker’s Compensation and Medicare/Medicaid, did not exist.
Still, Sedalia had a long history of working to help the poor. Yearly charity drives, held each winter since the late 1860s, helped. Later, the county established a welfare office to identify those truly in need. In 1932, Mrs. Connor held the post of county welfare officer. She helped identify needy families for the charity drives and Christmas aid.
Local Boy Scouts set up a workplace at Harry Collins’ paint shop. Under Collins’ supervision and with the help of May and Leo Noland and Scout executive Glenn Custer, the Scouts refurbished donated used toys. Local businesses helped the Scouts by donating supplies. Montgomery Ward provided paint and dime stores Kresge’s and Scott’s gave bolts, screws and other hardware. J. C. Penney donated toys and supplies.
The Scouts were particularly proud of a large pedal car they repainted it until it looked like new, according to the Sedalia Democrat, which praised their work. They were also proud of the 50 dolls dressed by several young Sedalia girls. The Scouts planned to distribute the gifts where they are most needed.
In addition to the toys, the Boy Scouts had gathered 500 pairs of shoes. Some shoes were gathered when Vogel Gettier, manager of the Liberty Theater, held a matinee and asked people to bring old but usable shoes to be prepared by the Scouts for distribution. The Scouts also went door-to-door soliciting shoes. They cleaned and polished the shoes and replaced laces to make them ready for use. They turned the shoes over to Mrs. Connor for distribution.
The Sedalia Elks lodge prepared 130 food baskets. They hoped to help the people who were most in need, so their baskets contained nonperishable staple items that would last beyond the holiday meal. Each basket contained two cans of corn, two cans of hominy, two cans of tomatoes, two boxes of macaroni, five pounds of rice, six pounds of beans, five pounds of oatmeal, five pounds of cornmeal, a pound of coffee, two loaves of bread, and a quart of apple butter. While the basket perhaps held too many starchy items and not enough fruit and vegetables, they did offer basic, filling food.
Members of the Business and Professional Women ‘s Club met at the home of Mrs. Connor and Miss Mamie Shipley to make popcorn balls for parties for the children at Melita Day Nursery.
The Kiwanis Club had taken gifts to several families, as had many of the churches. The Red Cross continued its regular distribution of food, clothing and fuel. The Salvation Army also distributed Christmas baskets and announced it would serve Christmas dinner.
Local people had arranged events for children. Melita Day Nursery, which cared for children of women who worked outside the home, planned a party complete with the appearance of Santa Claus. The Addalla Grotto Temple invited 250 children to a Christmas party that featured Christmas stories and gifts of candy, nuts and fruits. Mrs. Pat Warren had planned to entertain 50 needy children in her home and provide useful gifts as well as toys and candy. When she became ill, she made plans for the gifts to be distributed so the children would not be disappointed.
The Democrat assured its readers that if anyone in need was not receiving help, it was only because the charitable agencies had not learned of their plight.?