Reverend Raymond Brown and others hand out packages of food to the jobless outside St. Peter's Mission in New York City during the Depression.

We've overcome hard times before

Updated 8:49 AM ET, Thu May 7, 2020

(CNN)A sudden crisis turns the world upside down. Millions are thrown out of work. People despair and dread the future.

That was the grim scenario many Americans faced almost a century ago after the 1929 stock market crash triggered the Great Depression. And many people are experiencing it today as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the US and the rest of the world.
Commentators have drawn parallels between our current time and the 1930s, saying the pandemic could trigger the same type of economic and political upheaval that marked the Depression. But there's another part of that era that can illuminate the present: Lessons from those who somehow managed to emerge from the Depression with their optimism -- and in some cases, their finances -- intact.
These survivor stories are collected in a classic book, "Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression," by Studs Terkel, the late, legendary journalist. It's filled with bruising but inspirational stories from impoverished farmers, businessmen, hustlers, politicians, housewives and others. One reviewer described Terkel's book as "a huge anthem in praise of the American spirit."
Unemployed workers demonstrate outside government offices to demand jobs during the Depression.
As one person recalled in the book, the Great Depression left an "invisible scar" on many survivors. But it also made some people more resilient and grateful. Survivors talked years later about finding hidden blessings -- even when their world seemed to be collapsing.
Here, in their own words, are some of the reasons why they beat hard times.