The Great Depression by then had caused 25 percent unemployment, bank closings and a nationwide crisis in confidence. In his inaugural address Roosevelt famously told the nation that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But what came next was anything but easy.
In a recent book, FDR: The First 100 Days, Historian Anthony Badger gives Roosevelt credit for “an exercise in exceptional political craftsmanship.”
THE NEW president sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. From legalizing the sale of beer to providing mortgage relief to millions of Americans, Roosevelt launched the New Deal that conservatives have been working to roll back ever since.
Some of what Roosevelt tried failed: “packing” the Supreme Court and the double-eagle-signed National Recovery Administration failed to pass constitutional muster. But many other efforts made a lasting contribution.
Young unemployed men were put to work in the Civillian Conservation Corps, which built many of the state parks we still enjoy, including the Daingerfield and Tyler State Parks.
Others were hired by the Works Progress Administration and the Public Works Admministration.
I’VE BEEN thinking especially of what the New Deal meant to this area since the City Council last week decided to do away with the swimming pool in Roosevelt Park.
This pool, built by the city in 1985 (according to Ann Stembridge Bates, who gave summer swimming lessons starting then), replaced the original pool that was built when the park was created as a New Deal project in the 1930s.
That large pool meant that Gilmer children for the first time didn’t have to find a lake to learn to swim in. (Fountain Lake, still located on the west side of U.S. 271 about four miles south of Gilmer, continued as a good public place to swim for some years after that.)
The late Buckeye coach, Truett Rattan, was the pool manager and swimming teacher in the 1960s when my children were the age to start swimming lessons, and his were top-notch.
THE PARK originally had a gazebo of native rock built next to the pool. And it was in the 1930s that the former pump house at the north end of Roosevelt Park became the County Library. It moved there from the courthouse, where it had been housed in the county superintendent’s office after the Twentieth Century Club got it organized.
I am one of many who thinks it a shame for Gilmer to no longer have a public swimming pool. I’ve heard that the Yamboree Park might be a good site if the City of Gilmer’s finances ever improve enough to build one.
Without doing the research I’m not sure whether Roosevelt Park was a CCC or a WPA project. I am sure that it was the WPA that built the County Rock Building on U.S. 271 in Gilmer, as well as a school building of native rock still in use on the Harmony campus and one that has been demolished to make way for a new building at the New Diana ISD campus.
SO GILMER benefitted greatly from the New Deal, but there were other significant improvements in that decade not connected with the federal government. Gilmer began its first big-scale street paving program, with Montgmomery and other streets being paid for by the city (the middle third) and property owners on each side (one third plus curbs).
This was a source of great pride at the time; those of us who can remember those early streets are especially saddened by their current condition.
The oil boom in the southern part of the county added to the tax base and made possible the construction of the current courthouse for cash in 1935-36.
MOST OF THE economists and others who write about the current economic crisis cite need for a spending stimulus through public works. Upgrading our infrastructure, mainly the nation’s highway systems, is often recommended.
Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman recently wrote:
“The point in all of this is to approach the current crisis in the spirit that we’ll do whatever it takes to turn things around; if what has been done so far isn’t enough, do more and do something different, until credit starts to flow and the real economy starts to recover.
“And once the recovery effort is well underway, it will be time to turn to prophylactic measures: reforming the [financial] system so that the crisis doesn’t happen again.”
SINCE 9/11 of 2001 the Federal Emergency Management Administration has passed out many millions of dollars that may have had some positive impact on the economy that is not readily apparent.
We note in the Rains County Leader of Emory that the City Council there has accepted a $1,097,720 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
Joined with a 25 percent match from the City of Emory, the grant will build a 6,000-square foot building characterized as a tornado shelter that will withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds. A large room can be used for community events and several small rooms can temporarily house evacuees, if ever needed.
Rains County is one of the state’s smallest — 258 square miles, compared to Upshur’s 592— but it makes three major claims, according to the Leader: Eagle capital of Texas, Western gateway to Lake Fork and Eastern gateway to Lake Tawakoni.
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