Vol. 15


Fred’s Decision

c. 1937; St. Charles, Missouri, USA

“Mommy, why don’t we have any food?” a small child asked his mother outside Progress Mercantile, a local grocery store owned by Herman Frederick’s family. It was late December of 1937, when crisp winter air flooded down the streets of St. Charles, Missouri, causing citizens to shudder.

A hungry crowd had gathered outside the store’s windows. Gazing out through the glass, seventeen-year-old Herman Frederick, who went by “Fred,” hated seeing so many people without anything to eat.

“Whatcha thinking?” questioned Margaret, Fred’s twin sister.

“These people are so hungry. I can’t just watch them starve out there while I have all this food in here, right? We should give them something, but Pa would be furious,” he replied.

Margaret thought for a moment and finally told him, “Fred. You were voted ‘most likely to succeed,’ you have almost all of your necessary college funds, and you’re just going to give that up to these . . . beggars?”

Fred had never thought of the people as “beggars.” He simply considered them valued customers. He sighed, “But — ”

“No ‘buts,’ Frederick. Do you want to go to college or not?!” Margaret’s face turned redder as she spoke, her voice getting sterner.

“Yes! Yes, I want to go to college! But these people are going to starve if we don’t do anything!” Fred exclaimed, hostility in his words.

“If you do anything, I’m not part of this. And this ‘Great Depression’ people are talking about is affecting the entire country! How in the world do you plan to save everyone in the country?!” She turned her back dramatically, expressing that she was completely serious.

Knowing that Margaret needed space, Fred went to the back of the store and started pacing. “I can listen to Pa and Margaret by going to college, or I can save the lives of these people,” he thought out loud. “I guess it makes more sense to save these people, no matter the cost,” Fred decided after a while, still unsure if it was the right decision.

He quickly jotted down a letter to his dad, apologizing for not going to college. He grabbed a small basket from the floor next to him and stuffed an assortment of grains into it. To avoid his sister, Fred had to sneak out the back entrance and dash past the side windows. Four people immediately spotted him coming around the corner holding a basket of bread, and sprinted in his direction, a look of gratitude on their faces.

“Everyone, please make a line, and I will be giving whoever I can something to eat.”

The crowd did as he asked, and Fred slowly made his way down the line, giving people food along the way. After he was done, he looked back to the shop and saw Margaret glaring at him through the window. He shrugged and told himself, “Fred, you did the right thing.”

Allison Winkeler, great-great-granddaughter of Fred; Missouri, USA



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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