A whole lot of things Ted Gup said: Last weekend, in the middle of the night, we caught a pretty good chunk of a book event on C-Span 3. It struck us as right for the season.
We won’t do much posting until December 28. Here’s the C-Span synopsis of the year-old event, which featured author Ted Gup and his book, "A Secret Gift:"
A Secret GiftEven in the early hours, Tep Gup kept us watching as he discussed the people who received those $5 gifts.
December 5, 2010
Ted Gup talked about his grandfather, Sam Stone, and the anonymous $5 checks he gave to 150 residents of Canton, Ohio, just before Christmas 1933, during the height of the Great Depression. Mr. Stone, writing under the pseudonym B. Virdot, placed an ad in a Canton newspaper on December 18, 1933, asking people affected by the Depression to write to him and describe the difficulties they were experiencing.
Soon after, he sent out 150 checks with the promise that the recipients would not be identified. After coming into possession of the letters decades later, Mr. Gup went back to Canton to find out who these unknown recipients were and what ended up happening to them. He responded to questions from members of the audience at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.
Here’s part of Robert McElvaine’s review of “A Secret Gift.” The review appeared last Christmas Eve in the Washington Post:
MCELVAINE (12/24/10): While there are significant parallels between the 1930s and today, the differences are striking. The Great Depression tended to unite the United States; the so-called Great Recession has tended to divide us. Americans during the Depression were much more familiar with hardship, more reticent about their personal problems, less greedy and more compassionate than we are today. And, terrible as conditions are now for many of our citizens, they were far worse in 1933. This book reminds us that the main reason people are not as bad off in the wake of the 2008 collapse as they were after that of 1929 is precisely because of government intervention in the economy that Republicans have just won an election by deriding.Or not! We were struck by Gup’s calm, knowing tone—by his recollections of the struggling people who received those $5 gifts, recollections he sometimes assembled by speaking to the recipients' children. If you’re looking for something to watch this season, you could do much worse than this.
...Sam Stone had a checkered past, which he frequently altered to suit his current needs. In 1933, he owned a chain of clothing stores and thought he was in a position to assist others who had fallen on hard times, as he had in the past.
"Enough," Gup rightly notes, "was a byword of the Depression." It is a word that nearly vanished from the American lexicon in recent decades, as the national anthem could appropriately have been changed to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." "A Secret Gift" speaks to us eloquently of how similar are the consequences of economic folly in both times and how sobering are the differences between us as people today from what we were eight decades ago.
Coming next week: Highlights! The year in review!