"He never talked about the business to the kids or when we were present," said Bertha, the youngest of seven. "He would say, 'Well, we'll have to look for something else to do.' "
Every couple of weeks, as customers' debts grew, her father sent her to collect. She would crisscross the neighborhood, climb flights of stairs and politely ask for the lady of the house. Everyone recognized her as the baker's daughter.
She loved to walk -- to school, to basketball games, on dates strolling through Central Park. She found jobs along the way -- tutoring children, selling paper flowers, folding bolts of cloth in a fabric store.
There was a beauty to never standing still, even though it was hard on her shoes.
When holes in her soles grew to the size of quarters, she cut off a chunk of the tan cake boxes in her father's bakery and slipped them inside her shoes, over and over again.
"If the cardboard was thin, we'd put two layers in," said Bertha, 90, who still arches her tiny feet when she walks on a cold day, as if trying to get away from the memory of wet snow.
LEMUEL ARTHUR LEWIE JR.
It took time for the Depression to settle into the minds of children whose parents had jobs, a precious commodity at a time when the national unemployment rate would eventually hit 25%.
Arthur Lewie's father, Dr. Lemuel Lewie Sr., was the only African American dentist on Main Street in Columbia, S.C. For years, patients -- black and white -- came to him with aching jaws and throbbing teeth.
Arthur began to notice that things were different when patients stopped paying cash. "They'd bring hams, chickens, things like that, for us," he said.
Arthur was 10 at the time, the eldest of three, and he had never known hard times. Unlike many of their neighbors, the Lewies owned their wood-frame home, with a wraparound porch so wide that the children could race their tricycles on it. It sat on 4 acres of rich soil with corn, flowers and grapevines running along the side of the house.
His mother, Ophelia, heard the news of banks collapsing in the North. She suggested to her husband that they pull their money out of the black-owned bank in Columbia and invest in postal bonds. "My father left all his money in the bank and, of course, he lost it all," Arthur said.
He realized that life was changing. Trips to buy clothes became less frequent. There were fewer visits to family in other parts of the South.
He began spending more time with his parents, turning the land into a working farm. Sections of lawn were replaced with rows of tomato plants, cabbage and collard greens. Pits were dug into the ground to store potato slips and vegetable seeds.
His father, who had a passion for automobiles, worked on his own car to save money. He showed Arthur how to fit piston rings, adjust valves and replace crankshaft bearings.
Each vegetable picked and engine repaired impressed the boy with the importance of self-reliance. "I knew the value of being able to make things, and do things yourself," said Arthur, 89. "I could be self-sufficient. . . . I could live off the land.
"I wouldn't ever have to beg," he said.