Before our energy for New Year’s Resolutions is totally depleted, how about the U.S. Congress resolving something simple like WELL PAID WORK FOR ALL?
There might not be such need for the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, now being debated in Washington, D. C., if our Congress had been able to learn something from the past and initiate a new Works Progress Administration – the WPA. Has anyone younger than me ever heard of it? Those WPA initials came to stand for lots of different programs; it was launched in 1935 when President Roosevelt acted during the Great Depression to bring work to the massive number of unemployed.
And it certainly did provide progressive works! In 1938 it was providing jobs for almost eight million people. They built needed Post Offices, roads, bridges, and train tracks. They were the labor source for major parts of our great US National Parks! Name your favorite park – Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier – and somewhere there you could find a plaque naming the date it was built – by the “Works Progress Administration.”
Jobs weren’t limited to builders and laborers – there were programs for historians, archeologists, writers, and artists. You don’t have to go to the great parks of the West to experience gifts of the WPA.
Many of us joined the Save Our Stadium effort to keep Knoxville’s athletic ventures safe in the now-restored beauty of the WPA- built Ken Lock Stadium out on Robinson Street. Even closer to Knoxville center – unfortunately not labeled yet – is the WPA mural in our Post Office depicting our ancestors ready to rush across the “Red Rock Line” in 1845. My great WPA discovery came during 4-H sheep competition at the Iowa State Fair. Right there on a north side exit of the Sheep Building – the famous WPA plaque.