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119 Stewart Udall Introduction Former U.S. secretary of the interior Stewart Udall was a child when the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday in 1929. He lived on the family farm in St. Johns, Arizona, within a hundred miles of the Continental Divide. The family subsisted largely on what they grew, raised, and hunted. Stewart’s father became a judge and thus earned a modest income. They survived well enough in a community where neighbor shared with neighbor, and every youth was trained to accept great responsibility as part of life’s heritage. I have been deeply fortunate to know the Udall family for four decades. Lee, Stewart’s wife, was my last boss back in the 1960s, when she was the director of the Center for Arts of Indian America and employed me to wander Navajo country as the curator of a traveling exhibition designed to reinvigorate among Navajo youths some interest and pride in their own culture. Lee was indeed one of the greatest friends of my lifetime, and I honor her memory daily. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with my friend Stewart on countless occasions and even to record him recounting aspects of his amazing life. In the spring of 2006, his daughter Lori and I sat with Stewart in the kitchen of his beautiful home in Santa Fe and urged him to talk about his recollections of the Great Depression. Stewart Udall, photo by author 120 / Economic Depression in the Land of Clear Light Stewart Udall JL: Stewart, I’d like you to characterize your family in St. Johns, Arizona, back when you born and through the 1920s, and what life was like in rural Arizona in that time, because you were nine when the Great Depression hit. You were shaped by that rural atmosphere. So could you talk about that? SU: Well, Jack, when I was a congressman in the 1950s and then secretary of interior, I was deeply involved in the history of this period. I had to study it for the book I wrote, which is The Quiet Crisis [1964]. But my personal memories are on top of that and provide an immediacy that I’m sure you’re interested in. I went to school beginning in 1926, and I remember Lindbergh’s flight and the impact that had. I remember the first time I listened to the radio. The radio became a very important part of the lives of all Americans, but I first heard radio the night of the 1928 election—Herbert Hoover against Al Smith. Of course, Hoover smashed him. I went with my father to the druggist in town, who had a battery radio system, and that was the first time I heard the radio. So I have memories of the impact of the Great Depression. We didn’t have electricity. In these rural areas, and this is true in the Intermountain West to a large degree, there were a few large cities. I happened to see them while I was a youngster. Salt Lake City. Mormons made pilgrimages there. Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver—I had brief contacts with all of these different cities. Of course, the main lines of the railroads were in. The Santa Fe line had been there since the 1880s, and there were railroad towns. The culture was different because you did have that contact with the outside world. But you were living in the rural area, which is most of New Mexico and most of Arizona—St. Johns was a farming town, a ranching town. The main economic impacts came from raising cattle, and they’d drive the cattle down to the railroad near Gallup [New Mexico], and the cattle buyers would Stewart Udall / 121 ship them, I guess, to Kansas City, to Chicago and so on. So that was part of the economic system. St. Johns had irrigation farming. Our community had what in New Mexico is called an acequia system, and you had your turn for the water, and you had a watermaster, and they’d give you a little slip of paper that said, “You take the water at 2:30 in the morning.” Well, if you were a kid ten or eleven or twelve, and you were the oldest boy, you were the one that went to the head gate, took the head gate down, and the water came, and you watered the garden, which you had also helped plant. The children had the responsibility...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826344410
Print ISBN
9780826344397
MARC Record
OCLC
609165678
Pages
285
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-21
Language
English
Open Access
N
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