The Hardscrabble Years, 1925-1942
by William L. McGee with Sandra V. McGee
BMC Publications, 2016
138 pp, 60 B&W photographs & illustrations
Paperback 6″ x 9″, $19.95; Kindle eBook $4.95
“An absolutely wonderful read. I can’t believe the experiences you were having at age sixteen… riding the rails around the West, being on your own. And I love that the Wilsall Mercantile, started by your Uncle Clyde Lyon in 1916 or ’17, is still in operation today!“
– Chase Reynolds Ewald, author of Cabin Style and American Rustic
About Montana Memoir
Montana Memoir follows Bill McGee’s life from 1925 to 1942 as the Depression-era son of a scoundrel father.
After being abandoned by his father in the early days of the Great Depression (his father went to Alaska, claiming Montana was getting too crowded), Bill tells how his mother and three siblings pulled together to barely make ends meet.
Written in his signature spare and straightforward style, Bill recaptures the hardscrabble years of growing up in Malta, a small cowtown on the Great Northern Railway line on the bleak and harsh Montana Hi-Line.
In the author’s words
“I was farmed out, as it was called, at age seven to a neighboring rancher to work for my room and board. It meant one less mouth to feed at home. My mother, three siblings and I didn’t know we were poor. We always had clothes on our backs, even if they didn’t fit, and something on the table to eat. To this day, I honestly believe those difficult years instilled in me the very qualities I would need later on to make it in business and life.”
(Photo: “The Ragamuffins” – Bill McGee [left] and his three siblings, Malta, Montana, 1930)
Other Memoirs by William L. McGee
Bluejacket Odyssey, 1942-1946
Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account,1946
The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, 1947-1949
How I Learned to Sell and Make Deals, 1950-1958: Memoir of a Merchant Man
The Broadcasting Years, 1958-1989: Memoir of a Television Pioneer
Author, Publisher, Marketing Man, 1990-2015 (In the chute)
On the Research Trail of My Montana Roots, 1991 (In the chute)
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What readers are saying …
“Bill had the reputation of being a straight shootin’ author, but I found some of his writing to be touching. For example, the photo captioned ‘The Ragamuffins’ of Bill and his brother and two sisters during the Depression. Bill writes, ‘We didn’t know we were poor. We always had clothes on our backs, even if they didn’t fit. My sisters, Doris and Betty, were wearing dresses made from decorated flour sacks as was common during the Depression. I was farmed out at age seven to live and work on the Carl Holm ranch because it meant one less mouth to feed at home.’ That’s what I mean by touching.
– William “Bill” T. Lyons, editor, The Lyon’s Tale
“I read MONTANA MEMOIR in a single sitting because I couldn’t put it down. Bill McGee’s firsthand account brought to such vivid life a world I had heard of, but had never experienced. Thank you for writing this book.”
– J. H., a “city boy”
“MONTANA MEMOIR will make everyone want to be a cowboy.”
– Murray Olderman, nationally syndicated columnist and sportswriter
“This poignant memoir – written by my father, a genuine Montana cowboy – is a treasure. As I read the book, I could hear his deep voice reading aloud to me.”
– K. McGee
– J. Nichols
– S. M.