Through the years, people have taken in boarders to help make ends meet. These days, people might have a roommate to share the financial load when buying a house or renting an apartment, but that didn’t happen often in years gone by. When it became necessary to find a way to make ends meet, people took in boarders…usually people they didn’t know. They might be people who were working in the area, or in college towns, maybe students. For my grandmother, I think it must have been men working in the area. I’m sure she didn’t know the men prior to renting them a room, but they quickly became like family. She wanted to get a picture that included the boarders, and one of the men even held my Uncle Bill on his shoulder. Times were just different then, and most people were decent and trustworthy. There was, for the most part, a moral code that was followed.
I’m sure the men helped out with things around the place while they lived at my grandmother’s home, and I’m also sure they ate some of their meals with the family. I also seriously doubt that the rent charged was very much, because in the 1930’s, times were hard and people couldn’t afford to pay very much. These men were grateful, I’m sure, for the opportunity to have a place to live, and a nice family to live with. Many of those men were far from home, trying to make a living for their families who were waiting for their return. It was quite a lonely way to support your family, but you did what you had to do.
I’m not sure how long or how many times my grandmother had boarders living in her home, but I know she was a kindhearted woman who would have had a hard time thinking about some man sleeping in the freezing cold winter weather when her home had a spare room that he could have. And having a little help around the place wasn’t a bad thing either, because my grandfather worked on the railroad, and my dad and Uncle Bill were just little boys, so they couldn’t help much. The reasons that people take in boarders or roommates vary, but it usually boils down to need, either the need of the family to have an extra income, or the need of the boarder to have a place to live. It’s as simple as that.