Marriage, the Banks and Starting Out During the Depression

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It’s hard enough just making ends meet when you are just starting out on your own today. My grandparents were young newlyweds in 1930, in the height of the Great Depression when money and jobs were very scarce and everyone was nervous about the future.

—In this story, my grandfather, J. V. Gallegos writes about marrying the prettiest girl in town, how they barely made ends meet, and a Tucumcari banker who put his own house on the line to save the hometown bank.—

While I was teaching in Campana, I heard from others about a girl by the name of Mary Letcher.

Mary Letcher, photo taken around 1929-30. (Click to view larger image.)

I knew she was pretty. Everyone said so. I had been told she lived with her elderly mother and cared for her. She was a secretary for the Southern Pacific Agent in Tucumcari, New Mexico. She was also paymaster for the railroad employees.

I was preparing to leave for St. Louis, Missouri. I left the ranch (Isidor, N.M) for Tucumcari to take the train from Tucumcari to St. Louis. St. Louis, of course, is where I planned to attend law school.

The night before my train left for St. Louis, I attended a dance in Tucumcari. Mary was there. I asked her to dance, but she could not as she had promised several dances to some other fellows. She was booked up!

Jake and Mary on a date just on the outskirts of Tucumcari around 1929-30. (Click to view larger image.)
Mary and Jake on a date around 1929-30. (Click to view larger image.)

I left the next morning for St. Louis. I did not return to Tucumcari for two years. (Editors note: They did write each other while he was going to school in St. Louis.)

When I returned to Tucumcari, after completing law school, I rented a room at the local hotel there. Later, I found an apartment.

Mary and I were married in 1930 (Images: Wedding Photo and Newspaper Announcements). I started my law practice that same year.

Mary and Jake around 1929-30 around Tucumcari, NM. (Click to view larger image.)
Oct. 17, 1930 wedding photo of Jacob V. Gallegos and Mary Letcher. (Click to view larger image.)
1930 Newspaper announcement of Jake and Mary’s wedding. (Click to view larger image.)

Two years after we married, we bought a house with a $500 down payment. The payments were $25 a month and we could barely make them. I went to see H. B. Jones, the president of the First National Bank and requested a loan for $50. Mr. Jones refused to lend me the money. He told me, “We don’t have it.” I did not believe him and I withdrew the $60 I had in my checking
account and opened an account with another bank, the American National Bank.

Roosevelt closed all the banks. The point was to reinforce the economy of the banks. The banks were closed only about two weeks. Then after that, many people were able to borrow from the banks because of an infusion of government money.

I later learned Mr. Jones had mortgaged his own home to save the bank. After I heard this, I reopened my account with the First National Bank. It has remained there to this day.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration passed many national recovery acts beneficial to the general public. The economic recovery commenced. The recovery came shortly before the Second World War.







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