Column – Community and business partner up

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

As the calendar turned to 1933, it proved to be a big year nationwide and locally, as it was the turning point of the Great Depression and saw improvement in the economy. Unemployment was down, family income was up and alcohol was back. Suffolk saw much building and economic growth. With this growth came increased charity and community participation. 

Local headlines provide a brief look at what life was like here in Suffolk.

Bears roamed the Dismal Swamp then as they do now. Twenty-five of them had been hunted as of Jan. 21, proving to many skeptical that the bear population was still healthy in the swamp. 

Email newsletter signup

A Feb. 1 story, “Start Suffolk Hour over radio station,” announced that WGH Newport News had an hour-long Suffolk program sponsored by local merchants and manufacturers three times a week at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Local talent was to be featured on the show.

In March, President Roosevelt, in an attempt to revive citizens’ trust in the banking system, shut banks down for four days. No transactions were completed, not even payroll. However, it seems based on the multiple stories over the four days that Suffolk was largely unaffected and business went on as per normal. One story even mentions that the city charity group was prepared to assist any needing it. Once reopened, banks were instructed to “prepare a list of hoarders of gold and gold certificates in this community so that Uncle Sam can publicly point his long index finger at them in the same scornful manner as slackers were pointed out during the late hostilities.” 

On March 16, Amedeo Obici was nominated as Rotary president. The Suffolk Rotary has long served as a community organization. 

Every day, a new front-page story appeared about Hitler and his Third Reich. On March 24, a large banner headline claimed, “Denies Jews are being persecuted.” The story goes on to talk about the inquiries and investigation into rumors of thousands being killed. While Suffolk and the rest of the United States enjoyed a rebound from some dark days, worse times were building overseas. 

On June 22, the Suffolk News-Herald began the Milk and Ice Fund. The fund was supported by donations from citizens of Suffolk allowing milk — as well as ice, to keep the milk cold — to be delivered to families of babies who were in financial distress. The milk came from a local dairy, and the ice was from a local ice plant. The decision to start the fund came after the discovery of 50-100 homes of infants unable to afford the needed milk. The Milk and Ice Fund was based off of a similar program ran in New York by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst. This fund, one of many started by the paper over the years, was the definition of community, supported by citizens to help citizens. The Suffolk News-Herald is proud to continue the tradition of community to this day with our Cheer Fund and multiple other community relations projects. 

I would love to hear from anyone who may have been involved with the Milk and Ice Fund or has heard of it through family stories. 

On Sept. 1, two momentous stories bannered the front page. The council approved a $10 tax per year on beer retailers. The return of alcohol to the country was greeted with a money-making opportunity for the city. The other headline read: Child labor ended today in America. Meanwhile, listed in the building permits issued for that week was a permit for an outhouse to be built on West Washington Street. Estimated cost: $28. 

In late October, the Suffolk Retail Merchants Association, formed by 72 leading retail firms in the city, participated in a window display arrangement to promote the purchase of local products. The movement was to encourage consumerism and boost the local economy in the months leading up to Christmas. 

On Dec. 5, Prohibition ends. Alcohol is back. 

On Dec. 16, the Milk and Ice Fund got a substantial boost as the Pitts Amusement Co. agreed to donate all profit from the showing of “Berkeley Square” for two days at the Chadwick Theater. The plea was made for all citizens to attend to see a show and give extra for the children for Christmas. The show brought in $66.70. 

The Suffolk Production Credit Association formed Dec. 28. It covered five counties, providing loans to eligible farmers. P.A. Goodwyn stated at the organizational meeting that loans were to be made with sufficient collateral. It did not make crop production loans or unsecured loans, nor was it a charity organization. 

Business and community were growing at exponential levels. Peanuts were the dominating product, but other agriculture and manufacturing of all sorts were starting up in Suffolk. With a city on the rebound and growing, the future looked bright.