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looking backward
forward looking solution to unemployment
by lucy lediaev
9.16.11
general

Sometimes history can give us insight into the solution of contemporary problems. During the recession of the 1930s, many people were unemployed. Roosevelt’s administration came up with many unique solutions to the problem of unemployment, including the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Project Administration (WPA).

As I drive around Southern California, which frankly has one of the younger infrastructures in the nation, I notice more and more potholes on local, state, and federal highways. I see schools, public buildings, and other parks that need renovation. Broken water mains are almost a daily occurrence in Los Angeles. Of course, there is no money to make needed repairs, to expand facilities to meet the needs of the clientele, and bring properties up to date. As I think about the needed work, I remember that my maternal grandfather worked for the WPA and my father was a member of the CCC.

My grandfather, Warner Lincoln Marsh , was a pioneering landscape architect, born in Sioux City, Iowa, and relocated with his extended family to Southern California in the early 1920s. He was responsible for planning many projects in the Los Angeles area, including the famous rose garden surrounding the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, a section of Griffith Park, called Ferndell; the original roads in Elysian Park, which were partially destroyed when Dodger Stadium was built; and numerous parks along the Pasadena Freeway in the Arroyo Seco . Most of these projects were completed through the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks with funding from the WPA. The WPA programs not only allowed my grandfather to be employed during the depression, but to add some beautiful and notable features to the Los Angeles landscape. For the most part, these features remain today. I spent much of my early childhood in the Arroyo Seco collecting pollywogs from a trickle of water in the Arroyo and playing on the playground equipment. I also spent time in the other parks and was proud to share the rose garden with my classmates on field trips to the Natural History Museum. My daughter shared the rose garden not too long ago with her daughter, Warner Lincoln’s great great granddaughter.

My father’s time in the CCC camp solved a number of problems for him. His father was an alcoholic; his older brother was psychologically unable to be of much help to the family, and from age 13 on, my father was the primary source of income for a family of five. His father constantly moved the family from place to place in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, making it difficult for my father to get a consistent education. At one time, my father worked on a rural ranch in Ventura County that was so far from a high school that he rode the rancher’s mule to high school. The CCC allowed my father to work and send money home to his mother, but, more importantly, it allowed him to finish high school. He worked in forestry as a fire fighter and tool shed manager at a camp near Lake Cachuma, California. After serving as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army during World War II, he put his high school education and Army technical training to work to become a maintenance engineer in a Wonder Bread bakery. Because he was inherently bright and had an unmatched work ethic, he worked his way up to senior management for Wonder Bread and Hostess, becoming the regional manager for sanitation for the western half of the United States.

The stories of my father and grandfather were replicated in many families whose members found employment in the CCC or in organizations receiving funding from the WPA. I would like to see organizations similar to these create employment for both skilled workers and for young people who need to complete their educations and gain work skills, making them more employable. Instead of bailing out financial institutions, which in many cases did not invest in programs to benefit individual workers, I would like to see the administration create jobs programs that employ many people and, at the same time, fix the aging and broken infrastructure in this country.


ABOUT LUCY LEDIAEV

A freelance writer and full-time grandma, Lucy Lediaev retired recently from a position as web master, tech writer, and copy writer in a biotech firm. She is enjoying retirment more than she ever dreamed and is now writing about topics that are, for the most part, interesting and fun. She also has time to pursue some of her long-time interests, such as crafts, reading, sewing, baking, cooking, and the like.

more about lucy lediaev

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COMMENTS

katherine (aka clevertitania)
9.16.11 @ 1:11p

It's unfortunate that there are sections of Congress who won't support modern day equivalents to the CCC and WPA. Our own I-74 bridge in IA/IL has been in need of replacement for 20+ years, and we were SUPPOSED to be moving forward, until they yanked all money for such major infrastructure improvements - now they say 2021 to START construction! Meanwhile a community our size is overloading the bridge weekly right now, much less in 10 years.

And elsewhere in Gotham... I've just applied for my 3RD part-time job.

If they really cared about long-term solutions for this country, they'd be putting money into exactly these kinds of programs. Sure, I'm not physically up for building bridges, but contrary to what some capitalist fundamentalists will tell you, good gov jobs DO beget more jobs.



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