What My Grandfather Did in the GREAT DEPRESSION . . . and How It Saved His House

Industry Observer with RETIRED / State License is Inactive Inactive License Oregon

What my Grandfather Did in the Great Depression . . . and How It Saved his House!

This is a photo I have in my heirlooms.  It's a photo taken before my Mother was born, when my Grandpa was "courting" my Grandma.

I guess they "courted" in wheelbarrows in those days . . .

My Great-Grandmother sits on her front porch, and the two "kids" are having fun.  I think my Great-Grandfather snapped the photo.

My Grandpa was born in 1888.  Not sure about Grandma, I didn't know her, she passed away when my Mother was only 11-years old.

My Grandfather married my Grandmother and they bought a house, in Massachusetts, on Surrey Road, in Arlington.  I remember, for some reason.

The GREAT DEPRESSION hit when my Mother was about 2 or 3.  My Grandfather was about 42 or 43 at that time . . . and had saved and saved to buy a home.  But, when my Grandfather became unemployed, everything that he had ever worked for . . . was about to be lost.  A proud, hardworking man, he had to muster the strength and do the only thing he could do.  He had to go into the bank and tell them he was going to be unable to pay on the mortgage.  He was out of work, and his savings was being depleted rapidly.  No social security benefits, no unemployment compensation, no welfare, no food stamps -- they hadn't been "invented" yet.

My Grandfather told me it was hard for him to do.  He was a proud man, and this wasn't his proudest moments.  The GREAT DEPRESSION hit hard, work was very tough to find.  He had to go in and tell them . . . he was not going to be able to pay the mortgage for awhile.  He knew what that meant.  He knew what his obligations were, and not paying on your mortgage meant one thing:  FORECLOSURE.

The Bank Manager told my Grandfather that because my Grandfather had always paid on time, and he knew my Grandfather, he understood.  He told my Grandfather that they WOULD NOT FORECLOSURE, and they worked out payments, etc. until the time my Grandfather was financially able.  My Grandfather was fortunate.

It was just the two of them . . . my Grandfather and the Bank Manager.  They worked it out.

No Government, No Asset Managers, No MERS, No Barney Franks, No "Servicers" 

My Grandfather was a Civil Engineer.  He was skilled, and a brilliant draftsmen.  However, in order to support his family he took a job, in Vermont.  He worked on a dairy farm for awhile. 



[This post was inspired by a comment by Tammy Lankford]

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Carla Muss-Jacobs has RETIRED effective May 1, 2018

Representing Buyers in the Portland Metro Real Estate Market | Clackamas Multnomah and Washington Counties | Since 1999

Carla Muss-Jacobs, REALTOR®, ABR, CEBA, ePro
Principal Broker/Owner ~~ INACTIVE

Carla Muss-Jacobs' retirement became effective May 1, 2018

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Bob & Leilani Souza 10/09/2010 11:00 AM
  2. Leslie Ebersole 10/10/2010 11:34 AM
  3. Andi Grant 10/11/2010 06:15 AM
Diary of a Realtor
Cosmic Cow Pie...The Rome Way
WeBlog Anything (almost)!
i love my grandpa

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Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

There's something to be said for being able to walk in and see the decision maker face to face.

Oct 10, 2010 02:53 PM #45
Simon Mills
Mills Realty - Toluca Lake, CA

I saw this after Leslie rebloged and it is a great story of survival.  Unfortunately the personal relationship has gone by the wayside and even if a borrower today was as humble as your grandfather it would difficult for him to find a person at his lender for him to talk to and work out a plan.

Oct 10, 2010 03:02 PM #46
Scott Hayes
(512) 786-8300 - Austin, TX
Realty Austin, Broker Associate



I'm sure this experience gives you a unique perspective on owners, banks and the foreclosure process. It comes out on your writing, and I would imagine it does with clients as well.

Oct 10, 2010 03:52 PM #47
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Yes Carla, I predict we will have lots of wheelbarrow photos soon.  I'll have to show my mom this post when I see her this week too.  And tell her... her dead car on vacation in the mountains inspired it.  I remember telling her... "Mom it's 8 at night, I can't call the bank VP".  She wouldn't want me to use her exact words here, but she assured me that I better make the call and he better be happy to help.

Oct 10, 2010 03:56 PM #48
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Carla -- I love this post and it is also very humbling to read.  It does make one wonder the wisdom of today (or lack thereof) when it comes to how the current paradigms were designed and regulated. 

My paternal grandfather was a mailman in the great depression, so he had a steady paycheck and it was a coveted job.  So much so that he was far to kind and he gave way too much to his extended family, neighbors and friends in need so much so his own family was not well provided for -- according to verbal history.

Oct 10, 2010 04:56 PM #49
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY


It's a great story. Sadly, I can't see that happening today. Could anyone imagine  someone  at BOA  saying "we know you'll pay us when you can."????

During the depression - my Grandfather kept tobacco shops supplied with his cigars even if they couldn't pay him.   A lot of small business owners credited him with saving their lives.  When he died - many of the condolences spoke of how he helped their families survive the Great Depression.  But it is different today - our world is more complex and impersonal. We live in an "I've got mine" and "let them eat cake" society.

Oct 10, 2010 05:27 PM #50
Russell Benson
Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices/Anderson Properties - Moore, OK

What a great story.  Back then folks worked hard to be able to have the few possessions they had.  How cool it would be if that home and/or land was still in your family.

Thanks for sharing such a neat story.

Oct 10, 2010 05:51 PM #51
George Bennett
Inactive - Port Orford, OR
Inactive Principal Broker, GRI

Great story. Thanks for sharing. I really admire your grandfather's initiative and the honorable and responsible way he conducted his business. I appreciate the bankmanager's open door policy and the way he responded to your grandfather's needs. There's a good lesson here and it is worth sharing.

Oct 10, 2010 05:58 PM #52
Rossman Realty Group - Cape Coral, FL

Times have changed. Today, one can lose his home even if he's current on payments...

Oct 10, 2010 08:42 PM #53
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Government intervention has grown so much over the years, that "plain folks" can't do what comes naturally any more - i.e., work together to solve problems.  I love family stories and photos, and I thank you for this reminder of what was, and could be again, if only government would get out of the way.  With the best of intentions, bureaucrats just cause more problems than they solve.

Oct 11, 2010 12:47 AM #54
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
Re/max Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

It's amazing how self-sufficient people can be.  And working things out is just plain common-sense. Great post, love the photo!

Oct 11, 2010 01:30 AM #55
Rhonda Burgess Howse
Your Rutherford County Real Estate Expert - Smyrna, TN

Great picture Carla.  A world without mortgage serviciers?  Who would have thought that up.

Oct 11, 2010 03:06 AM #56
Ann Hayden
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri - Chesterfield, MO


My grandma said it was better for the bank to have someone in the property than to have it vacant.

Great post.

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Oct 11, 2010 03:09 AM #57
Dee Neal
Palmer House Properties - Alpharetta, GA
Atlanta Area Real Estate

this is great and wouldn't it be something if this could work today. picture small banks with personal relationships with their clients and they know their client's worthiness without the use of numbers on a screen called credit score...aaaahhhh the good days.

Oct 11, 2010 03:28 AM #58
Oo I love this Carla! We've been living off the laurels of THAT great America. Awesome photo and the sentiment behind it. :)
Oct 11, 2010 03:36 AM #59
Margaret Kees
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers - Acworth, GA

In the late 1980's the Oil Bust hit Oklahoma and other states.  I remember learning that people were just having to pack up and move to where they could find employment.  The home owners would very often go to the local bank who held the mortgage and turn in the keys.  The lender, to their great credit, did not foreclose and report it on the owners credit.  They simply took the keys.  If you were a buyer at that time, you could go to a bank and find that you would be given a list of properties and told basically 'if you find one you like, move in and then we'll talk'. 

It was a different time.  People understood that sometimes there's not much else to be done.  We should probably take a harder look at this lesson.


Oct 11, 2010 05:49 AM #60
Andi Grant
310-508-4354 | FirstTimeHomeBuyerRealEstate.com - Los Angeles, CA
Helping 1st time buyers and home sellers in LA!

Carla, I didn't realize I wasn't signed in.  I'm comment #59.  LOVELY story.  LOVELY photo. 

Oct 11, 2010 06:13 AM #61
Kathy Amorin
Realty Pro, Vancouver, Washington - Vancouver, WA
Managing Broker

Carla, it is of survival...It has been told in many a family...thank you for sharing yours.

Oct 11, 2010 09:48 AM #62
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I agree that the banks are making it more difficult than it needs to be for the current homeowners that are trying to find a way to keep their homes.  I wish it was the simple everywhere.  Fortunately, I have heard that some of the local banks and credit unions are doing this same type of process, one on one, working on a payment plan for their home owners that have always been good clients.  That is the way that it should be.

Oct 12, 2010 09:42 AM #63
Jim Hale
Eugene Oregon's Best Home Search Website

The reason the Chinese are outdistancing us in this generation is because, though their standard of living still does not match ours, the individual Chinese saves at an average of 13% of personal income.....putting it into the bank -- giving the bank money to invest in the economy.

The Chinese do this because the old Communist safety net is gone....and no new one has been "invented yet".


The Chinese have learned a lot about capitalism from us.  Too bad we have forgotten most of what we knew.

Jan 02, 2011 09:00 PM #64
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