Cheap labor helped buildby
our economy continually slips, more talk about creating jobs for the unemployed
keeps popping up. This is not a new idea. In fact, each time a recession appears
creating jobs is placed on the front burner no matter which party is in power.|
year I was born, 1933, was the bottom of the Great Depression plus the start of
the Dust Bowl. Less than 10 inches of rain was recorded that year, eliminating
almost all crops. The government was buying starving cattle to help the drought-stricken
My father signed up to work for the WPA, which was building
Highway 83 from Perryton
He shared a car with Grant Westbrook, a neighbor, and both showed up promptly
at sunup each morning at the site. All freshly signed workers were handed a sledgehammer
and placed behind a rock plow pulled by a Caterpillar tractor. The orders were,
"bust every rock bigger than a baseball." As your seniority increased you could
move up to easier jobs.
As the pay was from $1 per day starting and up
to $3 a day top wages, there was a lot of turnover.
During the 1960s,
my family and I traveled to Mexico on vacation. While in Mexico City we hired
a guide with a car to tour the huge city.
He took us to an overlook where
workers were digging a subway route across the city by hand. About 3,000 men worked
with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows from sunup till sundown to earn money to
support their families.
Their names were not even recorded. They received
a wooden "chit" each morning and exchanged it for money that night. The job was
expected to last for 100 years so the guide stated.
Carlson wrote in the book, "Amarillo, The Story Of A Western Town," of
a project taking place in Amarillo
in 1930, the year after the stock market crash in 1929. |
Under the leadership
of Mayor Earnest O. Thompson, 700 acres on the north side of town which has been
used as a city dump ground for years, was cleaned and made into a park with a
City employees used city ditching equipment to dig huge trenches
12 feet deep and 1,000 feet long. The unemployed were put to work filling the
trenches with the dump trash.
| A lake
was dredged creating a dam to hold excess floodwaters. Today the site is known
as Thompson Park, and is absolutely beautiful in the summertime.|
the site was cleaned and leveled, the unemployed were hired to dig holes in the
soil in which to plant trees. Each hole digger was issued a card to carry. Each
hole dug earned a hole punched in his card.
When 10 holes were punched
he could go to city hall and collect 10 cents for each hole dug earning him $1.
By the way, 10,000 holes were dug.
Now, I ask you! Just how big and how
deep a hole would you dig today for 10 cents?
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" May 26, 2009 Column
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