Sara Caruloff on the Great Depression

This clip relates to numerous content standards from the Ohio Department of Education curriculum for Social Studies education, including:

  • American History Content Statement #20: The Great Depression was caused, in part, by the federal government’s monetary policies, stock market speculation and increasing consumer debt. The role of the federal government expanded as a result of the Great Depression.



Sara Caruloff was a member of the community of Lorain, Ohio for most of her life. She moved to the area with her family when she was very young and experienced several national and local historical events during her lifetime, including the Great Depression and World War II. She owned her own business for more than two decades, in addition to working in other local capacities and business, such as a health food store. In this interview from 2013, Ms. Caruloff discusses her experiences in living through the Great Depression, as her family was oftentimes very poor. She also discusses that her situation was compounded by the fact that her mother did not speak English, and that she had to translate for her mother to keep their utilities on when the family could not afford to pay their bills.

Potential Classroom Applications:

Educators can use this interview clip to introduce a lesson on the Great Depression. The firsthand account of the poverty and hardship experienced during this point in history can help students truly understand how families suffered without the proper financial means. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has provided a series of lesson plans and activities to help high school students understand the factors that caused the Great Depression, in addition to primary sources that further contextualize the event and understand the personal stories behind the crisis. These resources, combined with the clip above, can help students better understand the gravity of the national financial catastrophe that began in 1929, and the measures by which families and individuals survived without financial income.

Another way in which this clip can be integrated into the classroom is by teaching students about poverty and its impact on the history of the United States. Many young students do not understand that poverty is still a devastating issue for a portion of the national population, affecting even their closest friends and neighbors. SPENT is an online game that helps players understand the reality of poverty in America by presenting them with difficult financial choices and a low-income employment opportunity. Each player has to “make it” through 30 days of buying groceries, providing for children, and caring for their individual health without running out of money or losing their job in order to have completed the game successfully. This game, combined with the interview clip above, help students understand the ongoing legacy of poverty in the United States and give them an appreciation for the difficulty many families face in providing for basic needs every month.