The squadron moves to Hornchurch shortly after, and Park sets a good schedule: fighter drills in the morning, servicing in the afternoon, and night-flying practice in the evening, working with searchlights and AA batteries. 111 Squadron wins the coveted Sassoon Cup Race, presented by former Under Secretary of State for Air Sir Philip Sassoon, on May 24, 1928.
On June 28, 1928, 10 Italian aircraft under General Italo Balbo land at Hornchurch, flying in non-stop from Rome. They are a highlight for the Hendon display on the 30th, in which Park himself flies in the grand finale – 111 Squadron’s defense of an “oil refinery” from enemy bombers. Park wins the mock battle. He is promoted Wing Commander on New Year’s Day, 1929, after eight years as a Squadron Leader. In March, he leaves 111 Squadron. His logbooks shows 148 hours in the air in 1928. He later says that his days leading “Treble One” are among the happiest of his life. He spends 1929 on staff duties back at Usbridge.
Other New Zealanders are having a quiet time in the 1920s. Howard Kippenberger practices farm and conveyance law in Rangiora. In his spare time, he reads Australian and British official histories of World War I, the writings of Captain Basil Liddell Hart on mobile warfare, books on the American Civil War, and biographies of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Marshal Foch. He also reads the letters of Australia’s Field Marshal Monash, whose author has the odd and homely quality of listing all the contents of his pockets in each letter. He also serves on the local borough council.
In Westport, eight-year-old Alan Deere and his brothers break up their marbles game when a biplane drones overhead, and lands on the sandy beach near their home. Deere and his brothers stare at the machine, and get to look inside the cockpit, and touch the joystick, while the pilot repairs his plane. For Al Deere it is a turning point – all he wants to do now is fly a plane.
Another South Islander, teenage Jack Hinton, earns 10/- a week herding sheep on a farm near Arrowtown. Keith Elliott attends primary lessons at Lytton Street School in Feilding, while Evan Mackie is at Waihi East Primary School. Charles Hazlitt Upham graduates from Christ’s College in Christchurch in 1928, and moves up to Lincoln College to study farming.
In 1929, Germany still faces an annual foreign debt of $7 billion. And the economy is heavily dependent on American loans and investments. But if the money keeps coming in, Germany can continue to prosper. It’s a delicate latticework, but so far, it’s a success. After all, on October 15, Yale political economist Irving Fisher announces for the ages, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
Reality smashes Germany and the rest of the world in the face on Thursday, October 24th, 1929. With Winston Churchill sitting in the visitors’ gallery on his American lecture tour, the New York Stock Exchange loses $6 billion in a single morning. Some 12.89 million shares change hands in 974 different stocks. Acting Stock Exchange President Richard Whitney, who will end up imprisoned for embezzlement, stems the tide by buying Steel not at the quoted 195 but at 205. Wild cheering ensues on the exchange floor.
At the end of the day, the largest wire houses in Wall Street issue a joint statement saying the market is “fundamentally sound” and “technically in better condition than it has been in months.” The statement concludes, “The worst has passed.” President Herbert Hoover echoes that statement by saying that “The fundamental business of the country – that is, the production and distribution of goods and services – is on a sound and prosperous basis.”
With that quip in hand, the market starts to recover, and financial experts and writers also proclaim the worst has passed.
The worst hits on Tuesday, October 29th. Shortly after John J. Raskob and Al Smith agree to top out the planned Empire State Building with a zeppelin mooring mast, the New York Stock Exchange opens amid a continuing drizzle, both outside and inside.
As rain pours down on Broad and Wall Streets, Exchange Superintendent William Crawford bangs the opening gong at 10 a.m. In three minutes 650,000 US Steel shares are dumped on the market, falling from $186 to $179. By 10:20 a.m., the ticker is six minutes late. By 10:30 a.m., 3.2 million shares have been traded. By noon, 8 million shares have changed hands.
Newspapers and newsreel agencies send their reporters to cover the chaos, which starts to hammer the United States, setting off numerous private tragedies. Husbands discover their wives have been playing the stock market with grocery money. Business owners find their bookkeepers have been embezzling funds for the same purpose. Bankers learn that their fellow directors have been using the institution’s deposits to play the market as well, defrauding and ruining the depositors.
Pandemonium rages on the New York Stock Exchange floor and many others as prices tumble. Men swear, scream, and claw each other. One broker, screaming that he has been ruined, won’t let a messenger boy go. The messenger breaks free, leaving tufts of hair behind, which never re-grow. Brokers, jammed together, lose shoes, glasses, and false teeth. Witnesses on the floor, which include 17-year-old coupon clerk Art Linkletter, report the sound as being like the roar of lions, tigers, and hyenas in a zoo.
By 1:30 p.m., the first afternoon papers are on the streets of New York, telling readers chewing on sandwiches in Automats that 12.6 million shares have been traded, with prices continuing to collapse. A group of Bowery bums, reading that stocks are selling for a nickel a share, pool their funds, descend on Wall Street, hoping to invest in long-term futures, and instead are shooed off by grim-faced cops. On the other hand, with White Sewing Machine stock having dropped from 48 to 11 and now to pennies, a messenger boy working at the exchange offers $1 a share, and is immediately given a chance to purchase 10,000 shares.
Allegheny Steel falls from 28 to 24 on a block sale of 50,000 shares. After steel collapses, so does radio. Then American Can. Anaconda Copper plummets…then General Motors…Timken Roller Bearing falls $19.75. Blue Ridge opens at $10 and falls to $3. The Stock Exchange’s governors consider closing the exchange, but decide that would only make things worse.
Instead, the reigning powers try to restore calm. Mayor Jimmy Walker, cummerbund as perfect as ever, tells a meeting of film exhibitors to “show pictures which will reinstate courage and hope in the hearts of people.” John J. Raskob, hot off his Empire State Building deal, buys stocks at bargain prices. Acting Stock Exchange President Richard Whitney walks onto the exchange floor, smiling, and gets pushed aside by the roiling crowd. He doesn’t even try to purchase stocks.
Warner Brothers…Safeway…Simmons Mattresses…Paramount…Fox, all the familiar names of American business crumble. In half an hour, 3.2 million shares are sold for a combined loss of more than $2 billion.
By 2:10 p.m., 13.8 million shares have been sold, and the traders on the floor can’t keep track of the situation. One customer is sold out twice. In the days before laptop computers, pocket calculators, personal data assistants, Palm Pilots, cell phones, and video conferencing, communications and calculations break down. Clerks are two hours behind in processing orders by hand, with piles of paper stacking up on desks. Stock brokerage houses hire boys off the Lower East Side’s streets to untangle phone cords. Some female workers faint and are sent home.
The greatest stock collapse in history sets off the greatest communications jam in history. Undersea cable and phone lines to Europe can’t handle the load. Western Union hires a fleet of taxis to help deliver telegrams – all margin calls – which sends hordes of people across America charging out of homes to banks or brokerage offices with their certificates. Insurance companies are flooded with calls from people asking to cash in or borrow on their policies.
All across the nation, people crowd into brokerage houses to watch the tickers spill out the continuing disaster. With the tape two hours behind actual sales, nobody knows how bad the disaster is – just that they’re wiped out.
There are few suicides that day, contrary to popular belief. A coal dealer in Providence, Rhode Island, suffers a fatal heart attack. A Kansas City insurance man shouts, “Tell the boys I can’t pay what I owe them!” Then he puts two bullets into his chest.
A Milwaukee man’s note leaves his body to science, his soul to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, and his sympathy to his creditors. A New York commission merchant hurls himself into the Hudson River. The cops find his pockets jammed with margin calls and $9.40 in change. Comedian Eddie Cantor gets a laugh by impersonating a hotel clerk, asking if the broker guest wants the room for sleeping or jumping.
On the other hand, at Little America in Antarctica, a member of Commander Richard Byrd’s expedition tells his pals that while he’s bankrupt, he can’t think of a better place to be without money.
By closing time at 3 p.m., nearly all of the 751 investment trusts have been wiped out. So are Groucho Marx, Irving Berlin, and Clarence Darrow, aged 73. Rex Stout, hard up for money, needs a quick hit to stay solvent. He starts whipping out a series of detective novels about a fantastic sleuth named Nero Wolfe.
Financier Joseph Kennedy, however, having sold his stock before the crash, avoids damage. So does Charlie Chaplin, who also dumped his stocks in 1928.
Others are simply unaffected because the stock exchange does not enter their world. A 25-year-old physicist named J. Robert Oppenheimer, studying in Gottingen, Germany, is busy publishing the last of 16 papers that win him an immense reputation as a theoretical physicist. Harvard, Berkeley, and California Institute of Technology in Pasadena all offer him jobs. He takes jobs at Berkeley and Cal Tech, lecturing on quantum physics.
Men are crying on the Exchange floor. Nearly 10,000 people gather in the rain on Broad and Wall Streets. People of all religions flood up Wall Street to find solace in Trinity Church. The tickers are still two hours behind the floor when the bell rings to close trading at 3 p.m.
At 5:32 p.m., the final quotation clatters across the Trans-Lux tickers, spelling the end of the Roaring 20s, “Total Sales Today 16,383,700. Good night.” The share loss value in New York alone is $10 billion. The worldwide losses are estimated at $50 billion. Later estimates of losses are as high as $74 billion. The Dow Jones average has dropped 48 points.
That evening, Churchill dines with Bernard Baruch at his 5th Avenue mansion, joined by other bankers and financiers. Baruch offers a toast to his distinguished guest, and Churchill cheerily responds, “My friends and former millionaires.”
Names large and small are battered by the crash. Edwin S. Porter, who helped Thomas A. Edison invent the movie camera and produced his first films, is bankrupted. Charles Schwab loses millions. Even Col. George C. Marshall, now commanding an infantry regiment in Kansas, is hard hit.
Polly Adler, who owns New York’s most famous house of ill repute, is vacationing in Canada, and fears her operation will be out of business. She’s wrong. The now-broke brokers still shuffle into her bordello. Instead of hiring a girl, they pony up $1 a pop for a stein of illegal beer (or $30 for a bottle of champagne), and drink themselves under the table. One customer, noted for gentlemanly behavior, summons a particular girl, and beats her savagely. Next day he goes to his office and shoots himself.
That same morning, Churchill hears shouts below his Savoy-Plaza Hotel apartment, and peers out. “Under my windows a gentleman had cast himself down 15 stories and was dashed to pieces, causing a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade.” Churchill returns to the Stock Exchange to find an odd calm and orderliness. He doesn’t know that brokers are not allowed to run on the floor, and anyway, the big sell-off is over – the survivors are picking up the pieces, selling stocks at a fraction of their old value. Churchill writes, “No one who has gazed on such a scene could doubt that this financial disaster, cruel as it is to thousands, is only a passing episode in the march of a valiant man, and serviceable people who by fierce experiment are hewing new paths for man, and showing to all nations much that they should attempt and much that they should avoid.”
With that, Churchill heads home, to discover that he too is among the victims of the Great Crash – his investments in Simmons mattresses and other American stocks on the advice of his friend Bernard Baruch are eliminated. Churchill must now survive on a combination of his Parliamentary salary and his writing ability. He starts work on the life of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.
As millions of Americans face the sudden loss of jobs, savings, and homes, the crash starts to whip around the world. The London and Paris stock markets collapse next. Then the major banks and brokerage houses of Europe.
One of the early victims is German aircraft designer Willy Messerschmidt. The young designer is planning to invade the American market through Rhode Island’s Eastern Aircraft Corporation, but that outfit is bankrupt. With it go Messerschmidt’s hopes of finding money to finance the secret air force Germany is building. He needs another source of money to turn the aircraft on his drawing board into reality.
But the Weimar government, still obeying the orders of the Army, makes up the gap with subsidies. Messerschmidt gives up his American plans and returns to his drawing board and his new design – the Bf 109 fighter.
Next victim is BMW. Hard-hit by the crash, they cancel one of their projects: designing a four-engine bomber for the Reichswehr.
The German economy, dependent on American and British loans and support, collapses. When foreign loans and investment dry up and Ausländer investors scream for German interest payments to cover their own losses on Wall Street, the results are inevitable. American banks pull their money out of Germany just when Germany needs it most. With the money gone, German businesses have to cut back, which leads to mass firings. In October, Germany has 650,000 unemployed. By the end of November, more than 2.5 million Germans are out of work.
In 1923, Germans had vast sums of worthless money. In 1930, money is unbelievably scarce. Banks offer 8.75 percent interest on three-month deposits. Corporations have to pay lending banks up to 15 percent interest. Private individuals face 25 percent payments on their loans. The banks start failing anyway.
The Crash pounds Germany. Already humiliated by defeat, battered by inflation and French occupation, divided by violent politics, the Great Depression is the sledgehammer that smashes Stresemann’s frail latticework. Laborers lose jobs. The middle class is shoved into poverty when their businesses close. Shopkeepers lose their stores.
Berlin’s unemployment rate skyrockets from 133,000 in 1929 to 600,000 in 1932. And not just laborers feel the pinch: half a million white-collar workers get pink slips, too. The world’s longest breadline shuffles down the Kürfurstendamm. Unemployed laborers wear placards around their necks that read: “Looking for work of any kind.” Other young men give up and simply spend their days playing cards, wandering through parks, or riding Berlin’s U-Bahn. Like their American and British cousins, Germans try selling goods on the streets, often offering house-cleaning services to those still with money. The next descent is begging, and after that, crime: Berlin’s theft rate jumps 24 percent between 1929 and 1932.
Farmers are blasted too…as in America, banks foreclose on mortgages, tossing agricultural workers out of jobs, sending them to cities to compete for jobs that aren’t there. Farmers cannot sell their crops for enough of a profit to make their mortgage payments.