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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: Carefree Youth in Depression-era Oklahoma (Jun 24, 2011)

90-year-old Bob Harris grew up in Apache, Oklahoma. In 1926, his family moved in a wagon into town, where he started school that fall. Even before he was a teenager, his bicycle earned him his first job.

“I started carrying newspapers when I was about 12-years-old for my uncle,” Harris said. “At that period of time there were 13 papers in a week; seven morning papers and six evening papers. The Oklahoma City Times came in the evening, and the Daily Oklahoman in the morning. I’d get up around 5:00 or 5:30 to deliver papers. I had about 60 or 70 customers. Sometimes the paper was big enough that I had to carry two bags.”

Harris paid for his own clothing, school books, and described Depression-era Oklahoma as a time when you made your money count.

“I was blessed in having that paper route, because many of the kids I grew up with, their only income was what they did on the farm,” Harris said. “If they raised a hog or a cow, they sold it through the Future Farmers of America, or whatever cotton they might’ve picked.”

Harris brought two harmonicas with him to the StoryCorps mobile recording booth. His love of the instrument came around the same time as his paper route, when one of his friends gave him a harmonica for his birthday that cost a quarter.

“I’ve got two harmonicas with me, but I normally play the little ones the best,” Harris said. “Because that’s the kind I learned to play on. The ones that I have, this one’s not just 35 cents, these cost $10 now!”

Produced for KGOU by Brian Hardzinski, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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