December 1933. The most publicized romance of its day officially came to an end as Mary Pickford filed for divorce from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Prohibition ended in the United States, legalizing the consumption of alcohol after being outlawed the previous 16 years. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire appear in their first film together, Flying Down to Rio. The Great Depression reached its lowest point with some 15 million Americans unemployed, and nearly half the country’s banks had failed.
Here in Meigs County though, according to headlines from December 1933 editions of The Democrat, “Christmas Business Shows Marked Increase” – “Higher Wages and CWA (Civil Works Administration) Money Bring December Business Almost Back to Normal”- “1,750 Men Now Employed on CWA Work in This County.” This week’s article is a fine example of how even in hard times, one large employer, or in this case various employments under President Roosevelt’s New Deal were beneficial, not only to Meigs County’s workers and laborers, but the businesses who received patronage from the funds these jobs created.
December 21, 1933, The Democrat
With Christmas rapidly approaching Meigs County merchants are welcome materially increased Christmas business over that of last year. In addition to the better wages paid the miners and local employees under the NRA [National Recovery Administration,] the Civil Works Administration last week paid Meigs County workers the sum of $22,044., according to an announcement by Robert Warner, disbursing agent for the CWA.
Up till the present time in Meigs County, CWA workers have received a total of $49,584.45 from the federal government for their services on the various CWA projects throughout the county. Gallia County workers have received $10,570.55 and Lawrence County $65,998.98, a total of $126,153.98 having been paid workers in the three counties by Robert Warner and his staff.
Meigs County, with 1,750 men unemployed has reached the quota of men to be employed but it has been announced that the quota will be extended this week to provide employment for the workers of this county who have not as yet received jobs. Meigs County has been allotted a total sum of $92,545 to carry on the work and of this amount about half still remains to be spent. It is expected that the allotment will also be increased if the quota of work is extended.
Until last week, CWA workers employed on road jobs were receiving $0.40 an hour for unskilled labor. Last Wednesday, in the western part of the county and Thursday in eastern Meigs, the wages were increased to a minimum of $0.50 per hour, and ranges to $1.20 per hour for foremen and skilled labor. This also means a decided increase in the payroll of the county this week.
It was explained Tuesday by J.H. Grate, of the Welfare office, that the change in wages was made by the Federal government and that the $0.40 per hour was paid on the government quota sent out for that amount. The wages were determined, Mr. Grate stated, by the wage formerly paid road workers in the section. Mr. Grate pointed out that the wages for road workers have now increased from $0.20 per hour before the adoption of the NRA to the minimum wage paid at the present time.
Several additional projects are now being presented for various sections and municipalities for local improvements. These projects must be approved by CWA officials before any men can be employed, however.
A complete list of county projects was as follows:
CWA Project No.1000: Clearing high school athletic field, and construction of a parking lot on the riverbank between Lynn and Sycamore Streets. Appropriation, $16,000.
No. 1003: Crushing stone for road work on the John Koester farm. $49,000; 58 men employed.
No. 1004: Crushing stone for use in road work on the Johnson farm, $58,792, 65 men employed for 240 days.
No. 1005: Surfacing road in Olive Township, $5,400; 34 men for 25 days.
No. 1006: Construction of one-eighth mile of highway with crushed sandstone base in Chester Township, $7,044; 42 men for 25 days.
No. 1007: Construction of one-fourth mile of highway with sandstone base in Lebanon Township, $7,166; 31 men for 125 days.
No. 1009: Building of four and five-tenths miles of highway in Olive Township, $13,243; 46 men for 150 days.
No. 1010: Four and two-tenths road construction in Lebanon Township, $19,102 48 men for 175 days.
No 1011: Base rocking two and seven-tenths miles of road in Bedford Township, $6,432; 25 men for 80 days.
No. 1012: Two and one-tenth miles of highway construction in Sutton Township, $9,503; 42 men for 80 days.
No. 1013: Construction of stone bridge in Sutton Township, $6,432; 25 men for 80 days.
No. 1014: Laying pipe line to Rocksprings fairgrounds for conservation camp water supply, $460; 35 men for four days.
No. 1015: Improvement of the Buffington Island State Memorial Park at Portland, $3281; six men for 48 days.
No. 1016: Painting ventilators on the Pomeroy High School building $28.80; one man for four days.
No. 1017: New locker room, storage house and garage at rear of Pomeroy High School, $2,876.70; 13 men for 21 days.
No. 1018: Digging fire cistern in the Village of Middleport, $3,786.40; 25 men for 31 days.
No. 1019: Three and one-tenth miles of highway work in Scipio Township, $16, 129.50; 49 men for 17 days.
No. 1020: Grading and widening grant Street in Middleport, $16,526; 48 men for 112 days, (approximate.)
No. 1022: Moving dirt and rock from hillside slip on Route 7 in lower Pomeroy and construction of a riverbank parking lot in Pomeroy, $20,756; 72 men for 90 days (approximate.)
No. 1023: Painting school buildings at Portland, $520; nine men for 20 days (approximate.)
No. 1025: Three and two-tenths miles of highway work in Olive Township, $12, 020; 40 men for total of 24,000 working hours.
No 1027: Widening sixth and seven-tenths of Portland road in Lebanon Township, $5, 619; 30 men for 11,000 working hours.
No. 1028: Construction of two and five-tenths miles of highway in Chester Township, $12,133.50; 49 men, 23,500 hours.
No. 1033: Repair of Letart Road in Letart Township, $3096; 22 men, 5,200 hours.
No 1035: Three miles of highway and construction of two bridges in Rutland Township, $15,057; 51 men 30,000 hours.
No. 1038: Construction of a Sutton Township road, $13, 400; 44 men, 41,000 hours.
No 1039: Survey of sanitary sewer system in Pomeroy, $2,540, seven men, 3,300 hours.
Despite these somewhat hard times, the people and organizations of Meigs County still took care of those less fortunate in the Meigs County Infirmary and the Meigs County Children’s Home.
According to the J. H Eastman Jr., Superintendent of the Children’s Home in 1933, the following made Christmas donations to the homeless and orphaned children of Meigs County in 1933:
Feeney-Bennett American Legion Post, candy; Mrs. Margaret Lallance, books; Mrs. H.E. Feiger, 40 handkerchiefs and beads; Mrs. Alpha Summerville, magazines and newspapers; Mrs. Thomas Young, box of toys; Theodore Reed, books; Junior Pond; games and books; Mrs. Helen Zeiher, toys and a bushel of oranges; Fred Guth, a stalk of bananas; E.S. Beegle, turkey; Margaret Isabel and Dorothy Stewart, books; Phillip H. Meier, 20 pounds of peanuts; Mrs. Freda Fauberm Victrola Records; Raymond Torrence, toys and books; Mrs. G.W. Keiser, books and toys; Mrs. C.E. Peoples, Oranges; Theodore Ebersbach, candy; Mr. and Mrs. Lowell Wingett, toys and jigsaw puzzles; Richard Canaday, toys; Miss Carrie Stansbury, Candy; Miss Lena Hines, a bushel of oranges; Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Eastman Jr., Candy and handkerchiefs; M.E. Sunday School (sunshine class) and Kiwanis Club of Middleport, Toys; Miss Emma Seitz, handkerchiefs; Clara Gillilian, jigsaw puzzles, Girl Scouts of Pomeroy, toys; Mrs. Blanche Goodwin, game board; Mrs. A.N. Schaefer, cakes; Mrs. Graber, toys; Young People’s Society of the Grace Episcopal Church, ping pong table.
Ohio Valley Commandery No. 24 of Knight Templars of Pomeroy (now of Middleport) accompanied by the German Band also came out on Christmas afternoon and entertained the children of the orphanage for over an hour and presented each child with a “fine” present. Research has shown that this was a common tradition of Ohio Valley Commandery from its existence and the Meigs County Children’s home to make an annual visit and Christmas gift presentation and continued until the dissolution of the Meigs County Children’s home.
I certainly can see the giving spirit alive and well in Meigs County this Christmas season, with many giving to local angel tree projects in our local schools as well as many nameless and thankless good deeds done for our fellow man. I wish all of the readers of this column a very Merry Meigs County Christmas.
As the old Ohio flows….
Jordan Pickens is a local historian and educator.