As a young person I viewed the 1930s through a mixed lens. I’d watch films and listen to music and think it was a time of top hats and tuxedos, Cole Porter’s witty lyrics and Fred and Ginger glamorously swirling across a ballroom. But there was another side to the thirties…the life of the everyman, captured here by Lewis Hine’s 1934 photo of unemployed men along NYC’s docks…in stark contrast to the jazz and cocktails of Porter’s thirties.
Hine’s photo is a reminder that life was hard throughout the land: Unemployment was rampant, the country suffered through an awful heat wave and the “Dust Bowl” drought strangled the mid-section of the country.
Interestingly, there was a lyricist who captured both sides of the thirties….Yip Harburg. He wrote a song of hope, “Over the Rainbow and the era’s song of angst, “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime.”