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I Lived Through The Depression And Didn't Even Know It

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 20, 2024 3:03 am

I Lived Through The Depression And Didn't Even Know It

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 20, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Donald Sturm tells his story of growing up during The Great Depression without knowing it because of the powerful influence of his parents...here's his remarkable story.

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Welcome to 500 Greatest Songs, a podcast based on Rolling Stone's hugely popular, influential, and sometimes controversial list. I'm Brittany Spanos.

And I'm Rob Sheffield. We're here to shed light on the greatest songs ever made and discover what makes them so great. From classics like Fleetwood Mac's Dreams to the Ronettes' Be My Baby, and modern day classics like The Killer's Mr. Brightside.

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Go to upfaithandfamily.com for your free trial. This is Our American Stories and one of our favorite regular segments is Our American Dreamers series. And today Alex Cortez brings us the voice of an American classic. When I grew up, the word depression entered my vocabulary and entered my consciousness. And little did I know, I lived through it.

But I didn't know it was going on because I was well taken care of by loving parents and a family environment. We're listening to Donald Sturm, whose parents were German immigrants that settled in Brooklyn, New York. My father had some securities, owned some real estate in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn or wherever it is, and lost everything and never recovered financially and wound up getting jobs in the restaurant business no longer as a manager because those jobs became few and far between and wound up being a waiter for the rest of his life. He worked hard to bring home money so that he could take care of his family and he did so in a very heroic way.

I never heard him complain. He didn't achieve much financially speaking, but he had a great family and he was a great father. Grew up in a very dense neighborhood in the sense that there was lots of people, nobody had much money. There were five of us in the building. We lived on the, I think the third or fourth floor is a walk up.

There was no elevator. We had one bedroom. I shared a room with my two sisters. They slept on a bed together. I slept on a cot. So last one in, first one out in order for people to move about. My parents had the bedroom.

We had one bath and you had to get along with everybody to get your turn in a reasonable time. Later in life, Donald wouldn't have such considerations, achieving financial success that his dad probably could have never dreamed for him. Donald helped lead the billion dollar conglomerate Kiewit, went on to own many banks and made several appearances on the Forbes 400 list. And yet he's never forgotten what life can be like for first generation immigrants like his dad. In about 1989, 1990, when I'm still in Omaha, it became apparent that there were very educated foreigners that came to this country and they were licensed, educated doctors, dentists, lawyers in a foreign country. When they come here, they're nothing because they don't have the license. They don't even have the proficiency with the language.

So they can't even sit for a test because they don't know the English language at that point in time. So that came to my attention in Omaha. So Sue and I decided that we were going to help a goodly number of these people. They will say like a hundred. I'm not sure.

I never really counted. So we started an English as a second language program so that we got these people somewhat proficient in the English language. And it worked. So people, a doctor, for instance, who was sweeping a floor in the jewelry store could take the qualifying exam in Nebraska to get his doctor's license.

The same thing with lawyers and engineers and whatever they were. It was a very successful program to help people help themselves and give them the tools to do that and succeed in life. We really felt good about it, but it was very small compared to what we did here in Denver. So after we moved here in 1991, we decided that we were going to try and do that in a much more systematic way. We signed up with the University of Denver to do that in a bigger way. So we provided money, we provided computers, we provided whatever we needed to provide, because I had the money to do that.

People were so thankful, so gracious about expressing themselves, because we helped them get started in a new country, in a new way, in their old profession. Well, there's a lot of motivation to the thought that it's always with me that my father never had that opportunity. He came over here at a very, very young age, was left with his aunt, and that's how he grew up and never had the chance of going to school. At the time of our interview, Donald was 89 years old.

He was the only woman in the family who had a child. Donald was 89 years old, and he's still coming to the office each day for a full day of work. I don't want to retire because I don't want to feel like I have nothing left in my life. I got a lot going in my life now. Mentally, I feel like I'm 40. I know physically I know that there's a termination along the way here. I'm not going to live forever, in other words, but I want to use my brain and take medication, whatever I need to stay alive and stay vital to continue to see my kids grow.

I don't mean grow physically. I'm talking about intellectually, business-wise. I need to spend time mentoring. It is so boring to be contained in your apartment, and people like me are not supposed to go to the office. You're supposed to stay home and do what?

I don't know. So I want to continue to do what I'm doing. My doctors tell me I'm chronologically a lot younger than my age. My physical being is good. Notwithstanding the fact I have to take pills.

So I have a lot to look forward to. I have a little gym in my apartment across the street there that I work out every morning. Every morning I'm on the floor for at least 30 minutes, exercising and stretching and whatever. At least four and maybe five times a week in the afternoons on the weekends during the morning, I work out. I have a bike, recumbent bike, and I have weights and I do all kinds of things like that.

That takes probably an hour and a half. So I try and keep myself in reasonably good shape. At this age, I can't go as far. And the other thing you need to do is reconcile with yourself what your new limits are and adjust to them. Adjusting to things that happen or your environment is so important. And not being pissed off at it because you can't. I can't dunk a basketball anymore. I used to. So I can't be irked.

I use that as an extreme example, by the way. So you want to continue, I want to continue to do what I used to do to the extent I can. I still want to figure out how I can get out of the house earlier in the morning.

How do I, am I wasting steps? When I was five years old, I was always concerned about how do I do things better and quicker? I still am that way. I still have to go that way. The other thing that I do is that I think when I'm sleeping. I still do that. I still get up in the middle of the night and my mind is running. Unless I have to, have to, have to, have to make a decision on something that's important, I won't. Because I know that if I, I don't want to say muddle through because it's not muddling. But if I think about something, so I'm thinking about it, most of it is I just digested without thinking about it. I don't know if you know what I mean by that.

Maybe everybody does that. I'm not sure. I come up with a better answer. And you're listening to Donald Sturm and what a unique voice and memory. Well, it runs deep and he remembers what his own father went through and his own parents went through coming to this country.

I do. It wasn't my parents, but it was my grandparents. I saw what a language barrier did to my own grandparents.

And they insisted that not happen to their own kids. A great American dreamer's voice. And in the end, a great American dreamer's story. And always so many of our American dreamers grateful and always generous.

Donald Sturm's story here on Our American Story. Welcome to 500 Greatest Songs, a podcast based on Rolling Stone's hugely popular, influential, and sometimes controversial list. I'm Brittany Spanos. And I'm Rob Sheffield. We're here to shed light on the greatest songs ever made and discover what makes them so great. From classics like Fleetwood Mac's Dreams to the Ronettes Be My Baby, and modern day classics like The Killer's Mr. Brightside. Listen to Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-20 04:32:20 / 2024-03-20 04:37:04 / 5

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