Sept. 1931: Teachers start new school year, prepare to go without salary for four months


Local teachers started a new school in 1931 with the knowledge that they may not receive a paycheck until 1932.

"Because of the State's continued unsettled financial condition, it now seems probable that funds for the payment of teachers' salaries will not be available until January 1932. This information is given that you may understand the situation which the Board deeply deplores and which it is helpless to remedy," Dr. J. Alex Moore of the Walker County Board of Education wrote to teachers.

The Depression also prevented the school system from extending transportation further.

Essentially, the teachers were asked to do the best they could and report to work on Sept. 14 for a one-day institute. The first day of school was Sept. 15.

"In these times which try men's souls, it behooves each of us to gird ourselves and go forward with stout hearts in the path of duty and service," Moore wrote.

The Mountain Eagle reported that the county's schools had stronger faculties in 1931 than they had in previous years. 

The board of education was said to be making every effort to get the teachers paid as quickly as possible and to make arrangements for their housing and other necessities to be covered.

"After all the teachers will fare better than millions of other Americans who are out of employment of any kind and have nothing to look forward to from a financial viewpoint in the immediate future," according to the paper.

The lives of farmers were also being disrupted by the Depression. The Mountain Eagle reported on Sept. 2, 1931, that a Farmers' Day held on Aug. 28 had been both enjoyable and educational.

The purpose of the program was to "encourage the farmers to grow more legumes, reduce fertilizer bills, grow a better grade of cotton and to encourage a closer and more cordial relation between farmers and businessmen."

Dr. Bradford Knapp, president of Auburn's Alabama Polytechnic Institute urged farmers to "dethrone King Cotton" and grow other crops to make a living, keeping cotton as a surplus crop.

By the end of the growing season, Knapp estimated that there would be enough cotton to supply the world for over two years. Still, he opposed plans such as the one proposed by Sen. John Bankhead a week later that called for farmers to stop growing cotton for a year.

"India, Russia and Egypt are growing cotton and it might encourage them to grow more and give them a better hold on the market if America should cut out cotton one year," the Eagle reported.

Out of curiosity, I researched where Alabama's cotton production is today. In 2018, farmers planted 510,000 acres and harvested 497,000 acres.

Cotton is grown in 59 of the state's 67 counties, and the state ranks in the top 10 of cotton producing states each year, according to Alabama Cotton Producers. 

In other news, local barbers almost put each other out of business with a price war. 

Apparently they had set the price at 20 cents and profits disappeared. The barbers then got together and agreed to cut hair for 40 cents, provide a shave for 20 cents and shine shoes for 10 cents.

The Eagle also reported on two local buyers who had made treks to New York so that customers who could afford to buy merchandise would get the best available. Myer Weinstein reported that he had purchased a complete line of winter clothing for the whole family. 

Benny Engle, who had just graduated from Walker County High School, was making his first buying trip for his father's store, Engle's Department Store. 

Another young man, Eli Merchant, was in Chicago attending a training for insurance agents. In a spare moment, he took in a ballgame between the White Sox and New York Yankees. Merchant saw Babe Ruth hit one of the 46 home runs that he would hit during the 1931 season.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.