Surviving the Great Depression: Fred J. Fisher

Published 9:52 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015


By Robin A. Edgar

Fred J. Fisher was born in 1925, the second eldest of four siblings. His father’s family came from Germany in the late 1800s and settled in Inman and Fred grew up in Arcadia on the Mayfair Mill Hill west of Spartanburg. His family lived in a four-room house furnished by the cotton mill for a dollar per room, which they took out of his father’s paycheck for working third shift at the mill. As the family grew larger, they rented a house on the Woodfin’s farm in Gremlin.

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 COLUMNPersonalLegacies11.13 FredFisher

“We were able to survive the hard times because we lived on the farm and worked hard for our food. I remember we had a cow and chickens and we had a mule named Daisy. Funds were tight, so there wasn’t much left for pocket money and us kids had to find ways to earn some spending money on their own.


“As a teenager I bought Grit magazine and sold it door to door in the mill village to my regular customers. For every ten cents I collected, I made a nickel. To get rid of what I had left, I took them to the company mill store where people bought all of their groceries, shoes and all. I also ordered flower and vegetable seed to sell in the spring and sold door to door and made even more pocket money. I sold on Mill Hill number one and another boy sold on Mill Hill number two. We didn’t sell on each other’s turf, especially since the other boy was bigger than me!


“For fun, we had all kinds of things to do that didn’t cost us a penny like shooting marbles. On Sundays there was nothing open except the churches — the ice cream truck didn’t even run. We would play catch and hide and seek after Sunday dinner. Sometimes, we would go to the picture show at the State Theatre on Main Street in Spartanburg. There was also the Carolina Theatre. Every so often they would have someone like Hop-along Cassidy or Gene Autry come to the theater.


“My mother’s parents lived in Landrum during the Depression and we would visit them for Christmas. I remember that Grandmother Dixon was the best cook and that Granddaddy had an old T model Ford. (I got myself a Roadster when I finished school.) One Christmas, I got a new pair of Anvil overalls, a pair of broken in shoes, and a pocketknife.


“The Work Progress Administration (WPA) helped some people who were really down and out during the Depression. We used to say WPA stood for “We Poke Along.” People helped one another, too. Whenever there was a death in the community, they had volunteers to dig the grave and women would cook and bring in food. We lived near railroad track and hobos came to our back door frequently for food. They sat on back steps and we gave them what ever we had.”


Drafted into the US Army in 1943 when he was 18, Fred went to Spartanburg after his discharge and married Inez Brady, two weeks later. After graduating from Clemson College with a mechanical engineering degree, he worked at the Lockwood-Greene branch in Spartanburg until he followed his parents to Landrum to help run his uncle’s business, B. D. Fisher’s Welding Shop, on Hwy. 176, just one mile south of Landrum city limits. After the Fisher’s twin daughters, Connie Faye and Donnie Mae, were born, Fred started working for AID Design Services in Greenville, S.C. before becoming a mechanical engineer contractor. He recently “retired” from the Landrum Hardware Store in February 2015 at the age of 90.


A charter member of the Hilltop Raritan, Spartanburg, S.C., Fred is also a member of First Baptist Church and past president of the Woodman of the World Camp #186 in Landrum. A 33rd Mason for many years at the Masonic Lodge 278 in Landrum, he is also Past Wise Master of the Spartanburg Chapter Rose Croix of the Spartanburg Scottish Rite Bodies, and a Shriner.


Keys to survival: We lived on the farm and worked hard for our food.

Advice for future generations: Keep your nose clean, love the Lord, and know Him.