How the Federal Writers' Project helped so many of us, or is that just me?
Well it seems as though our class has come to the end of our journey in The Travel Habit. We’ve seen many pictures, read many stories, and voiced a lot of our opinions and angles on each. Never is it more fitting to look once further at the nostalgia end of things by reading the WPA guides in a world many of in our family can remember with near precision.
At home this weekend, I decided to bring my laptop over to my grandparents to show them what the roaming writers during the Depression thought about their summer home.
“When I first saw the place, I wouldn’t have described it any differently,” said Louis San George (my Grandad), 93, of the Ocean County Jersey Shore point, Long Beach Island, “thirty years later, it barely looked any different.”
Both my Grandad and my Grammy (Grandpa and Grandma to you!) were both lucky and successful enough to, in the early 1960’s, purchase a small cottage-type summer home on the sliver of sandbar off of the New Jersey mainland, known as Long Beach Island. L.B.I., as many now know it, is still one of the last bastions of non-uniformity along the Jersey Shore; only some
“It was the early 60’s when we first came down to look at places. We didn’t know what we wanted but we knew we wanted a place like this,” said my Grammy, 90, a mother of three boys including my Dad.
Like described in tours 35a and b in the New Jersey guide, Long Beach Island comes to life staged in all its sandy, Norse fishing village glory. Congruent with the times, the WPA guide for this little outcropping of civilization provided people like my grandparents with a jumping-off point from which to begin their search for a second, more sea-faring home.
“They would speak with such candor and eloquence, we couldn’t help but make some of the same trips. They embellished a little bit, but nevertheless, they were the ones that first pointed it out to us,” said the grandmother of her four well-vacationed grandkids.
There were still chicken coops and cottages in the 60’s when my grandparents made their purchase of little more than a plot of sand, and now, the island stands as a hub for both the wealthy and the middle class during the nice months, still complete with the meager ever-present landmarks from an island’s past not much older than the WPA guides themselves.
My grandparents were living the very American dream so vividly absent from 1930’s America and so clear in each of our readings this semester. And oddly enough, they only knew about the place that would be their new home and live out that dream because of the very depression that caused so much turmoil and destroyed so many families. Without the Federal Writers' Project, not only would many people been out of a much-needed job, but so many families might have been out of a future.
“Had we never seen those beautiful pictures, we might never have even heard of the place,” said my Grammy.
The W.P.A. guides were more than just a jobs for Americans when work was scarce, they were the modern mappings of the future golden years of America.