top of page

August 1929 – March 1933, The Depression

Great Depression, worldwide economic downturn that began in 1929 and lasted until about 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world, sparking fundamental changes in economic institutions, macroeconomic policy, and economic theory. Although it originated in the United States, the Great Depression caused drastic declines in output, severe unemployment, and acute deflation in almost every country of the world. Its social and cultural effects were no less staggering, especially in the United States, where the Great Depression represented the harshest adversity faced by Americans since the Civil War.

1 The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Nov_22__1931_.jpeg
1a The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Nov_22__1931_.jpeg

Clint The Life and Legend

By Patrick McGilligan - 2002:

Although the Depression was scarcely a lark for 'the Piedmont set', it was not as much of a factor in daily lives. Piedmont was a posh area, really an elite suburb of Oakland, so elite that it was rigidly segregated against blacks, Jews and Asians, until a Supreme Court ruling in 1948. If the Depression put a dent in Piedmont bank accounts, many kept up their expensive hobbies and country club memberships. For forty years Clint's publicity stated - he himself emphasized in
interviews – that his hometown was Oakland, whose working man's image added lustre to his archetypal triumphs. Probably, Clint said on one occasion, the reason why he called people asshole' so often in his films was because of his Oakland background.


For the first time, in his biography of Clint, Richard Schickel relocated Clint as a Piedmont citizen. The 1996 book conceded that the Eastwoods resided in a ‘modestly shingled house' in Piedmont
during the World War II years, although Schickel hastened to add the qualification that the house was close to the Oakland line, and it was that blue-collar port and industrial city, always invidiously compared to glamorous San Francisco across the bay, not conservative Piedmont,
that would eventually claim his loyalty'.


Actually, when Clinton Eastwood Sr married Ruth Runner in 1927, both of their families were established Piedmonters. At first, the newly- marrieds lived at the Beacon, an apartment house one block off Lakeshore Avenue, a proper and sought-after address, about three-quarters of a mile away from – not quite inside the borders of – Piedmont. And later the Eastwoods moved to Woodhaven Way, a few blocks north of Piedmont limits. So it is true that Clint's childhood was lived on the fringes of Piedmont, and his earliest memories were mixed up with Oakland locales.

Do the Movies Have a Future?

By David Denby - 2012:

He was born big-Bunyanesque big-at eleven pounds, six ounces, in 1930, and grew up mostly in Piedmont, California, a middle-class enclave surrounded by Oakland on most of its borders. During the Depression, his father found and lost many jobs—at various times, he pumped gas, sold refrigerators, sold bonds. During the war, he worked in a shipping yard, and after it as a sales manager at a corrugated box company. Richard Schickel has suggested that the family's moving around may be one cause of Eastwood's lifelong restlessness and also his habit of appearing in movies out of nowhere and disappearing, at the end, into an equally baffling nowhere. The constant in Eastwood's early life was his mother, Ruth, who collected jazz records and got her son excited about music. As a late teenager, hanging around clubs in Oakland and Los Angeles (he and friends would drive down there for a weekend), Eastwood heard such icons of the new West Coast cool style in jazz as Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and the bebop geniuses in their early days, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. As Eastwood has said, his notion of cool-slightly aloof, giving only the central satisfaction and withholding everything else—is derived from those musicians. That's the picture of the onstage Charlie Parker that emerged in the pained love letter to the frantically disorganized musician, Bird (1988), which Eastwood created forty years after first seeing him. 


The San Francisco Examiner - Fri - Nov. 20, 1931

1 The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Nov_13__1932_.jpeg

The Living and the Dead Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War

By Paul Hendrickson - 2015:

...miles of privilege, looking down (in more ways than one) on a city that is trying hard to keep from rotting. In the Depression, Oakland wasn't rotting, although the distinction between the two towns was nearly as marked. The higher you climbed on the twisting streets of Piedmont, the cooler the air on your skin, the finer the view of the sea, the grander the Tudors and Mediterraneans with their red-tile roofs and jacket-and-tie gardeners. Piedmonters at the top were steamship and supermarket and coffee barons. Up there nearly every millionaire had a Chinese manservant living in the basement or in one of the back rooms. Up there the Depression was an inconvenience. Today the groomed gardeners of Piedmont wear muffs on their ears to shut out the noise of their power trimmers. The community's population is roughly what it was—10,000. The tax base remains residential—there's almost no tawdry retail, never has been. Retail's for Oakland.

Lower Annerly Road—which is really the city of Oakland, at least the McNamara part of the street—was and is a transition zone of houses set close together with well-tended yards. It's not quite one place or the other. You can still stand on the walk at 1036 Annerly and look upward to raw class advantage.

So: McNamara went to Piedmont; he was never of Piedmont. He once said, “As a boy my home was in Oakland, California, but I went to school in Piedmont, where the rich kids lived. Those children didn't have anything I wanted my children to have.” He earned twenty-six A's and seven B's at Piedmont High; that's the legacy he wanted for his children.

The San Francisco Examiner -

Sun - Nov. 13, 1932

The Miller and Simmons families genealogy and history documents,

Volumes 1 & 2 By William Shurtleff - 1993:

Nancy Lee Shurtleff was born on 7 August 1919 in San Mateo, California. Her name at birth was actually Suzanne Shurtleff, but she was renamed when she was about 4 months old. From 1926–31 she attended Miss Ransom's, a private girls' school in Piedmont, from grades 1-6. There she met five or six close friends, all girls, who became her lifelong close friends. As the Depression worsened, in about 1931, her parents, Roy and Hazle Shurtleff, took her out of private school and sent her to Frank C. Havens School, where she met Willard. In 1934 her parents felt she was getting too close to Willard. So during her freshman year at Piedmont High, after she had been there for only 6 months, they sent her to Castilleja, a private girls' school in Palo Alto. She hated it and ran away, but was eventually caught by the cops and sent back. She stayed there for only 6 months." In late 1934 she began to keep a detailed daily diary.

In January 1936 Nancy went with her parents to live in New York, leaving all her friends in the Bay Area. For two years, she attended Miss Porter's school (also called Farmington), a pre-college boarding and finishing school in Hartford, Connecticut. She hated it, especially being away from Willard, so again she ran away. But again she was caught by the authorities and returned. In the summer of 1937 she took her first trip to Europe, with her parents and brother Gene. She met Willard in Paris and got a diamond ring from her parents on her 18th birthday in Holland.

The True Tails of Baker and Taylor- The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town

From the first day I started working at the library and even more so after the cats arrived on the scene, it felt like I had stepped right back into my childhood: I was surrounded by books and animals. The two had provided me with stability and comfort for as long as I could remember.

I was born on August 19, 1931, and grew up in the Piedmont section of Oakland, California. My maternal grandmother lost everything in the crash of 1929, and the only thing left was a Craftsman-style home designed by the renowned architect Bernard Maybeck. Several generations lived together in the house perched on a hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. One of my earliest memories is watching the original Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco being built.


Despite the fact that I grew up during the Depression and World War II, my childhood was a very happy one. My family on both sides was an intriguing collection of go-getters and misfits, some of quite famous lineage, but eccentrics all. On my mother's side, my uncle Harry Cobden had played an instrumental role in inventing the Quonset hut, helped preserve an eight-hundred-acre parcel in Big Sur from development, and spent various stints as a rodeo cowboy, spy, and Golden Gloves boxer. On my father's side, my paternal great-grandfather Henry H. Haight served as governor of California from 1867 to 1871, and is generally regarded to be the namesake “Haight” in Haight-Ashbury. My father was also a direct descendant of Commodore John Paty, who helped to  discover the northern Hawaiian Islands and served as a confidant of King Kamehameha in the mid-1800s.

1b The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Nov_22__1931_.jpeg
1b The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Nov_22__1931_.jpeg

The San Francisco Examiner - Sun - Nov. 22, 1931

1 The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Sun__Jan_17__1932_.jpeg

The San Francisco Examiner -

Sun - Jan. 17, 1932

bottom of page