Kooskia Letter, 1936
Personal letters from the past are always of interest; but those that comment directly or indirectly on current events are particularly useful to researchers. Bill Kiele's penciled letter, written from above Kooskia (pronounced KOOS-KEY), Idaho, in 1936, reflects on the impact of depression and the federal relief efforts.
Jobs were scarce; he writes, "now days a man has to be a C[ivilian] C[onservation Corps] or a prisoner to get a job." In an earlier letter he noted: "The CCC camps took the forest work over. That makes it bad for the home people." And machinery, he adds, have eliminated jobs as well.
On the Selway forest now days, trails are things of the past. Uncle [Sam] has roads. They have machinery. What they call Bull Dozers that complete [an] average eleven hundred feet a day of road. Roads are all over the forest now days. Three foremen hog it [i.e., the work] all.
But, he adds, "I have a promise of a job pretty soon in a saw mill for dollar and 1/2 a day." Previously he had worked in the forest building roads and working on the new concrete bridge at Kooskia. They are getting by raising potatoes, beans, and vegetables. Meat (aside from a cow and chickens) comes from elk and deer ("all I have to do is jump over the fence").
The depression hit people in cities differently than those in rural areas. Even if you could raise your own vegetables, cash was necessary to buy flour and other goods. Bill wrote: "We have t[w]o hundred quarts put up fruit & vegetables. I bought t[w]o barrels of flour." He also notes, "We are fifty dollars behind," at a time when he was hoping to earn $1.50 a day at the saw mill.
In just a few lines, Bill Kiele has written of his part in the national experience; first, to Mr. Hart, and second to posterity.
Letter: Bill Kiele, October 14, 1936, Kooskia, ID to Mr. Hart. MG 5061. University of Idaho Library.