For nearly four years, they lived apart from their mother. Richard thought of running away. Margaret grew withdrawn.
Long after the Depression, Richard said, his uncle reached out and they slowly developed a friendship. Richard, after raising his own family and facing his own worries, came to understand his uncle's words.
"A lot of his abrasiveness was this constant on edge of 'How am I going to provide for this family?' " said Richard, 82. "He gave me a roof to live under and enabled my mother to work."
That was worth forgiveness, he figured.
After years of the Depression, the hardships gradually began to ease as federal spending boomed, factory jobs grew and prices slowly rose.
The changes, however, were hard to notice on the farm outside Jonesville, Mich., where Judy Kyser grew up.
She was an avid reader, sneaking away from the battered metal washtub to curl up on her feather bed with a stack of movie magazines about faraway Hollywood. At dusk, when the wagonload of hay had been harvested, she sat next to the family's oil lamp with murder mysteries and dreamed of solving crimes.
But as the Depression wore on, she set aside the books and magazines from the school library once the sun set. Coal oil was too expensive to waste.
She was left to her own imagination at night. "I can remember as a teen going to bed early because then I could dream," said Judy, now 84. "I dreamed about the movie stars and the different lives and how it would be to meet these people."
In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act, which promised to install electrical distribution systems to rural areas. It was one of many government efforts to pump cash and technology into the country.
It took two more years for electricians to arrive at Judy's family farm. On a summer day, they came with rolls of cabling the size of a tractor and began planting wooden poles along the road.
Judy was the youngest of seven and the only girl. Her father had passed away. Her mother and two brothers were running the farm. Crop sales were rising. So was the price of milk.
That first night, after the workmen left, she raced to her bedroom. There it was: a light fixture, with a single bulb. She tugged on its metal chain and a warm light bathed the room.
Within months, the family bought an electric iron, a washing machine and a radio. "It was all the things that made life easier," she said.
World War II was coming, and the country's impending burst of production would eventually catapult the U.S. out of its economic malaise.
But at that first moment, a light bulb was enough for Judy. The dark days of her childhood would never seem so dark again.