Growing Up In The Great Depression

Dec 2, 2013

Wilma Angius, world war 2,
Wilma Angius recorded her story 48 hours before she died, sharing her experience during World War 2 with her daughter.
Credit STORYCORPS / UTAH PUBLIC RADIO

Robust and healthy in appearance, 94-year-old Rockville, Utah resident Wilma Angius talked with her daughter Kate Starling, about growing up in rural Missouri during the depression. Wilma revealed an unexpected personal experience she had during World War 2.

Wilma grew up on a farm just across the Missouri river from Glasgow, Missouri. She said the town had about 2,000 people, and is where her family would go for supplies.


"Back in 1918, there was no bridge connecting the farm with Glasgow, so we had to take the ferry across the river anytime we had to go," she said. "I think I must have been at least 10-years-old when they finally got a highway bridge through there, and it made communicating a lot easier."

Her father had tractors that ran on fuel, but one of her first memories was of an older kind of travel- going to church on Sunday morning, in a horse-drawn buggy.

"It was fun, we had this real warm lap-robe that was a big soft furry thing that had an imprint of a bear on it with shiny glass eyes. But the winters of course were very cold," she said.

Travel then was different- when the snow piled up and she had places to go, she found the only solution.

"You stayed home," she said.

When Wilma began school at five-years-old, she went to a one-room schoolhouse.

Once the bridge was across the Missouri river, Wilma could reach town easier and attended Glasgow High School.

"I graduated from high school in 1936, it was the depth of the depression, there were only five collegiate nursing programs in the United States at that time, and St. Louis University was one of them. I could go there, they accepted me," Wilma said.  

In 1942  Wilma graduated from nursing school, just as World War 2 started.

"I decided I should enlist in the Nursing Corps, so I went to the recruitment office out of Denver, went through all the physical exam, and was notified that I was 4-F, because I had tuberculosis," she said.

WILMA: "The hospital owed a debt to this sanatorium in the suburbs of Denver, and so I spent three years there, with a heavy weight on my left chest, and apparently I healed."

KATE: "I remember you saying it was bed rest, which meant you had to lay there the whole time, you couldn't get up at all."  

WILMA: "There was a bedpan and everything."

KATE: "So you layed flat on your back? Could you have your head raised?"

WILMA: "I could move from side to side but I was encouraged to be flat on my back with this heavy sandbag or whatever on my chest, so that it would slow down my respiration on that side and give my lungs a chance to heal better."

While in the hospital, Wilma said she knitted scarves and gloves for those in the service, and once she was discharged spent some time recuperating.

"I stayed home for a couple months and then I went back to the hospital where I'd been in nursing school and worked for a year. At that time, World War 2 was over," she said.

within 48 hours of recording her story, Wilma died. She was renowned in southern utah for growing remarkable organic heirloom tomatoes, which were featured in area restaurants and produce stands. The day she died, she had gardened with her daughter Kate.