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A listener holiday story: Christmas in Evanston during the Great Depression

A sepia photograph of a woman in a coat holding a horse. Four small children sit on the horse's back.
Connie Owen
Ruth Hartzell Trout, second from the right, on a horse with three of her brothers and her mother Edna Hartzell. The photograph was taken around the same time as Trout’s story of a Christmas in Evanston during the Great Depression.

Jackson resident Connie Owen answered Wyoming Public Radio’s open call for holiday stories with a tale of Christmas past. Owen’s mother Ruth Hartzell Trout, who was born in 1923 and passed away in 2022, wrote this story on an old recipe card years ago.

According to Owen, the story “gives a clear picture of what life was like in Wyoming and our country during the Depression.” This is Trout’s story about the Christmas of 1929 in Evanston, where she lived for most of her life.

“My father was out of work as there were no jobs to be found during the Depression in 1929. It was tough times for everyone in our nation, and our town of Evanston was no exception. Even the town's top employer, the Union Pacific Railroad, had drastically cut their workforce.

I was the middle child, two older brothers and two younger brothers. I remember how worried we all were that Santa would never find us that year.

Two days before Christmas, our dad received a call on the phone from a local lumberyard to come and help unload a freight car that had just arrived filled with lumber.

Christmas morning, we rose to a wondrous sight. In addition to a small gift for each one of us, we beheld a beautiful two-wheeled bike. We gathered around to read the names of all five children written on the card from Santa. We lived two miles from town and we literally wrote the wheels right off that bike.”

Owen was the director of the Senior Center of Jackson Hole for 26 years and now writes a weekly column called “Circling the Square” for the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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