Like so many other
families, the Melnicks had a difficult time during the depression. However,
it seems from the evidence available that the Melnicks did not suffer quite
so bad as the others.
Up to this time, the boys of the family worked at the Steel Plant. However,
when the plant, the major source of employment, shut down for several months
during the 1930’s, it caused many workers to be laid off. Jobs were scarce
and many families were forced to obtain welfare. The Melnicks, like the
others, collected the welfare cheques, but luck was in their path.
At this time in order to obtain welfare, work had to be put in for the city
– cleaning streets and eviction gangs. It was much the same story as today
(1979) with our local city grants.
Nick became the one who worked for the welfare cheque. Not approving of the
social welfare-work situation, he learned how to cheat the system. Nick
would get a bottle of rum from his mother and give it to his foreman, thus,
being excused from actual work for the day. The Melnicks did not remain on
welfare for a very long time, possibly only several months.
The two oldest boys, Joe and Stone, were able to acquire work at a local
bakery as delivery boys. Stone was in charge of the Sydney route and used a
horse and wagon to make his deliveries. Joe was in charge of the Glace
Bay-New Waterford route and drove the bread truck. After a few weeks work,
Stone became ill and Joe had to take over both jobs.
Besides bringing home a pay cheque, Joe was also able to help out the family
in the following way. When he finished the Glace Bay-New Waterford route,
Joe would wait at the bridge near Dominion Beach for the “meat wagon” to
pass by. Here, the boys on the meat wagon would give Joe several rings of
sausage for several loaves of bread in return. Thus, supper for every night
was supplied, free of charge.
It was also from this job that Joe learned of the injustice practiced by the
city toward the common workingman. Joe was in charge of delivering the
welfare orders from the local stores. On several occasions, the proposed
seven-dollar order was, in fact, only a three or four dollar order. However,
an order for a magistrate totalled fifteen dollars. Injustices as these were
carried out in many communities in all parts of the country. In fact, it
wasn’t until the end of the depression that Sydney received the minimum
welfare standard set by the province.