A Look Back at our Towns

One of the most widespread of the Depression Era economic recovery programs was the Works Progress Administration.  It was also one of the highly criticized programs.  Here in Red River Parish there is evidence of many projects that were constructed during the WPA era.

Recently Joe Taylor of Coushatta did some research on the WPA and turned up some very interesting local information.  The Journal surfed the net to add some background on WPA.

Here is information from Encyclopedia Britannica:

Works Progress Administration (WPA), also called (1939–43) Work Projects Administration, work program for the unemployed that was created in 1935 under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Although critics called the WPA an extension of the dole or a device for creating a huge patronage army loyal to the Democratic Party, the stated purpose of the program was to provide useful work for millions of victims of the Great Depression and thus to preserve their skills and self-respect. The economy would in turn be stimulated by the increased purchasing power of the newly employed.

From Wikipedia comes this additional information:

Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge, or school that was constructed by the agency. The WPA’s initial appropriation in 1935 was for $4.9 billion (about 6.7 percent of the 1935 GDP). Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States, while developing infrastructure to support the current and future society. 

Above all, the WPA hired workers and craftsmen who were mainly employed in building streets. Thus, under the leadership of the WPA, more than 1 million km of streets and over 10,000 bridges were built, in addition to many airports and much housing.

The largest single project of the WPA was the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provided the impoverished Tennessee Valley with dams and waterworks to create an infrastructure for electrical power. Many famous structures were constructed with the help of WPA labor and funds, including Camp David, the presidential estate in Maryland often used for international meetings, and the on-ramp to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

It seems not everyone thought WPA was all roses.  Examine these examples:

Entry from The Apple of April 22, 2013 

We Piddle Around (Works Progress Administration or WPA nickname)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) gave jobs to the unemployed during the Depression. The WPA was nicknamed “We Piddle Around” by at least May 1936. 

From a book by Gid Graham of Collinsville, OK in 1938, Pg. 121: 
“Millions of office-holders and WPA (We Piddle Around) are costing the taxpayers one million dollars per hour and fostering hordes of “gimmes” who have lost the rugged spirit of independence of pioneer Americans and now depend upon the Government.”

The Journal’s unofficial Historian, Joe Taylor was digging through the archives at LSU Shreveport recently.  Taylor reported that the description of Red River parish communities was written in 1936 for a travel guide for the state of Louisiana, a WPA project. Taylor said it was headed by Lyle Saxon. Below are the scans of the report.


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