Note: I am working to gradually tell my dad’s life story, 1926-2019. This is the first section.
Gene Foster got his start in the world on October 26, 1926, in a rural community. The world that welcomed Ferrell Eugene Foster into the world represented an in-between time. The “war to end all wars” rested eight years in the past, and no one knew that Europe would boil into another war in just thirteen years, with the United States following two years later.
Everett and Gert Foster gave birth to Gene in the Roaring Twenties, but not much was roaring in their part–the sharecropper part–of the world. While the Twenties roared, no one knew that the Great Depression would soon wipe away fortunes of the rich and make it hard for regular folks to survive.
In this pre-Depression, pre-World War II world, much else happened. Henry Ford announced the 40-hour work week. Route 66 was created, connecting Chicago, Texas, California, and points in between. John Logie Baird provided a public demonstration of a television. National Broadcasting Co. (NBC) was launched. Fighting increased among gangsters as they sought to control illegal alcohol sales.
Probably the most lasting legacy of the 1920s is the novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. “The Great Gatsby is the defining novel of the Twenties,” wrote Matthew J. Bruccoli in 1992. [Source: Matthew J. Bruccoli, “Preface,” The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald] And, because of the novel and movie, we can be tempted to think of the 1920s as lavish parties, drunkenness, organized crime, and uninhibited sex. This was not Gene Foster’s world, but he would connect with the aftermath of this giant cultural party back East — the Depression. The stock market collapse of 1929 ended what F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the most expensive orgy in history.” Gene Foster’s family did not experience the orgy; they did live the Depression.
Before the Depression, “most Texans lived on farms or ranches or in small towns,” says Carlyn Hammons.
“Though the previous decade saw successes in oil, the economy was still dominated by agriculture — cotton in the north, livestock in the west and a growing citrus industry in the south. When the stock market crashed in 1929, many Texans believed the state’s rural nature would insulate the region from the worst of the financial crisis. As the nation’s economy collapsed, it became clear that Texas would suffer, too. Across the state, agriculture and the new industries of oil and lumber fell victim to the growing economic depression.” [Source: Carlyn Hammons, “The Great Depression and World War II 1930-1945,” http://texasourtexas.texaspbs.org/the-eras-of-texas/great-depression-ww2/%5D
Gene’s birth, of course, was not the only one of 1926. Some other babies arrived that year that would go to be widely known–civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy (March 11), comedian Jerry Lewis (March 16), novelist Harper Lee (April 28), actor Andy Griffith (June 1), actress Marilyn Monroe (June 1), and rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry (October 18).
Copyright © 2020 Ferrell Foster