WPA Recreational Activities - 1938
WPA Recreational Activities Include Bowling (California), Handicrafts (Kansas), Boat Building (Kansas), Supervised Camping (West Virginia), Supervised Play (West Virginia), Handicrafts (Kansas), Community Center (Pennsylvania). Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 15255e9bba
More than 34,000 trained WPA recreation leaders are at work throughout the Nation aiding men, women, and children to spend their leisure time pleasurably and profitably. They have conducted, in whole or in part, more than 15,000 community centers.
Recreation—2 Percent of Total Program. Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 1525f98679
With widespread unemployment and steadily shorter working hours among those who have jobs, officials of many communities saw the necessity during recent years for organized recreational activities which would provide constructive uses for leisure time.
As a result, WPA recreation projects were sponsored by local officials in practically every county of 47 States, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. The recreation leaders employed on these projects, in the days before they lost their private jobs, were a cross section of the "white-collar" crafts—professional and technical workers, proprietors and managers, sales and office workers, or students without previous work experience.
Their education is well above average. More than 41 percent of them have gone to college, against a national average of 6.9 percent; more than 43 percent have gone to high school, as against a national average of 25.9 percent. Their average age is 32.8 years, and 57 percent of them are under 35.
They were chosen from the relief rolls because of their skills and education for leadership, and they have been trained for their WPA jobs in more than 45,000 instructional meetings held throughout the country during the past 2 years.
Colleges and universities have aided the training program with plant and personnel, and in many cases have given college credits for these courses. In 1935 there were only 2,606 recreation leaders employed full time by public agencies in the entire country.
Since that time over 2,000 WPA recreation workers are reported to have left the rolls to go into recreation work alone, while several thousand others have gone into allied fields by reason of their WPA training.
Example: In Decatur, 111., a tax levy for a permanent recreation program failed. Eighteen months later, after a successful WPA program, it carried every precinct.
Said Thomas Rickman, Jr., WPA's assistant State director for recreation, "It was a vote of approval for the program which has been carried on under the supervision and aid of the Works Progress Administration."
WPA recreation leaders have conducted programs, either alone or in cooperation with other agencies, in 15,288 community centers. In addition to operating these buildings, they have made use of other areas and buildings available in the communities, including playgrounds, schools, parks, picnic areas, camps, settlement houses, labor halls, swimming pools, outdoor theatres, band shells, athletic fields, auditoriums, gymnasiums, skating rinks, and ski trails.
In many communities, the WPA recreation program has complemented the WPA construction program, providing supervisory personnel for the operation of park facilities built by the WPA. Recreation activities include dramatics, swimming, dancing, baseball, music, puppetry, weaving, festivals, woodworking, pageants, metalcraft, camping, and hundreds of others specifically requested by the people of local communities.
As a part of the WPA's Nationwide inventory of its manifold activities, the extent to which the public participated in the emergency recreation program was checked, project by project, for one week. In that single week, the general public spent an aggregate of 16,320,211 hours participating in leisure time activities conducted by WPA recreation leaders.
Contrary to the idea that the program is merely one of play for children, it was found that 40 percent of the participation during this sample week was by adults. Twenty thousand citizens interested in recreation are working on 4,000 community councils which advise and represent the program in their local communities.
They have become active supporters of the program and have taken a large part in the promotion of permanent local public recreation programs. Often the council becomes the nucleus of a new Public Recreation Commission.
Evidence of the enlarged public interest and participation in organized recreation programs is contained in hundreds of letters from local officials to the WPA. Los Angeles' expanded program was "due in no small measure to the demonstration of well-organized recreation, largely made possible through the assistance rendered by WPA workers," according to Recreation Superintendent George Hjelte. Chicago "found the WPA recreation division of the greatest value," while Recreation Director Alfred Hughes of Tacoma said, "The WPA in this field of service has yielded 100 cents on the dollar."
The city of Cincinnati reports that the WPA recreation program "has rendered a magnificent service," while Supervisor George H. Bauer of the New Brunswick, N. J., Bureau of Recreation says, "As a result of the recreation division of the WPA, municipal recreation has made great strides forward, and has been introduced into practically every city of the State."
Additional WPA Recreational Activities Include Gym Class (Kansas), Games (Illinois), Boys' Camp (West Virginia), Community Center (Alabama), Athletic Instruction (Kansas), Supervised Games (California), Playground (District of Columbia). Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938. GGA Image ID # 152562716f
"Recreation," in Inventory: An Appraisal of Results of the Works Progress Administration, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1938, pp. 67-70.