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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Cheap labor helped build
Thompson Park

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
While 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.

The 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 livestock owners.

My father signed up to work for the WPA, which was building Highway 83 from Perryton to Canadian. 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.
Paul 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 lake.

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.
BOOK
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.

Once 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
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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