Today's selection — from The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James. In 1933, American teenagers — at least those lucky enough to have escaped the maws of the Depression and embark on a path to college — smoked cigarettes and pipes for their health, watched King Kong, wore cardigan sweaters and tried top stave of worries of their own fragile futures: “It was the fourth year of the Great Depression. One in four working Americans — ten million people — had no job and no prospects of finding one, and only a quarter of them were receiving any kind of relief. Industrial production had fallen by half in those four years. At least one million, and perhaps as many as two million, were homeless, living on the streets or in shantytowns. … In many American towns, it was impossible to find a bank whose doors weren't permanently shuttered; behind those doors the savings of countless American families had disappeared forever. …
“In March an oddly appropriate movie had come out and quickly become a smash hit: King Kong. Long lines formed in front of movie theaters around the country, people of all ages shelling out precious quarters and dimes to see the story of a huge, irrational beast that had invaded the civilized world, taken its inhabitants into its clutches, and left them dangling over the abyss. …”[In 1933], dozens of … American newspapers had run a single-frame, half-page cartoon. Dark, drawn in charcoal, chiaroscuro in style, it depicted a man in a derby sitting dejectedly on a sidewalk by his candy stand with his wife, behind him, dressed in rags and his son, beside him, holding some newspapers. The caption read 'Ah don't give up, Pop. Maybe ya didn't make a sale all week, but it ain't as if I didn't have my paper route.' But it was the expression on the man's face that was most arresting. Haunted, haggard, somewhere beyond hopeless, it suggested starkly that he no longer believed in himself. For many of the millions of Americans who read the American Weekly every Sunday, it was an all too familiar expression — one they saw every morning when they glanced in the mirror.