Just Like Back in the Day
Wandering through a city the age of Worcester, Massachusetts is often a fascinating experience. Sometimes a bit depressing, true, but just as often uplifting. It can also, however, throw some history at you when you least expect it. Last week (September 16, 2012 to be specific) on a side street near the campus of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, I came across the following plaque, embedded out in the sidewalk.
I doubt that too many of you will understand the reference but the Work Projects Administration, or WPA for short, was an agency of the Federal Government of the United States, established in 1935 during the Great Depression. It was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939). You can read the Wikipedia background here if you’re interested, it’s fairly accurate I think (though it actually misspells the name of the agency, putting an S onto Work, which according to Federal records is not accurate). In essence, the WPA spent billions of dollars on public projects to put people back to work. It was enormously successful and lasted until 1943 when the War effectively ended the last vestiges of the depression. If you inquire of those who were adults during the Depression, they will most certainly know about the WPA and many will have been touched by the opportunities it created, for paid work to put it simply. In addition, roads, parks, libraries, and a range of other projects, like sidewalks, were also left in its wake. I am quite impressed that the work done back then still stands, or rather sits, apparently in decent shape. Seventy plus years is a long time for a sidewalk.
Back then, as now, it was seen by the majority as an effort to help, and by some, largely privileged, as creeping socialism. It is interesting that some people fear the process of a society taking care of its business in an organized fashion. Note, that when the threat dissipated, the program went away. But, some things don’t change. The fear persists in spite of the reality. Luckily, the majority still does in fact believe in society getting it’s act together as a group, and doing something during periods such as the one we are hopefully leaving. For that, and for those who want to help, I am very grateful.