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A Lasting Legacy in Oklahoma


Hefner is also a member of the Wunagisa Daughters of the American


Revolution chapter in Shawnee, Okla., and is a Pottawatomie County Museum and Historical Society board member. She first became interested in the WPA after hearing stories from her aunt who explained that many communities of the day would not have had paved roads and water systems without the WPA. The WPA legacy is carried on through the sturdy brick and native stone construction buildings in use to this day. Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City, with its red stone façade, now plays host to the OKC Energy Football Club and has hosted car races and concerts since its completion in 1938. The National Guard Armory in Chandler, Okla., completed in 1937 with more than 250 men employed on the project, is now a Route 66 landmark and currently houses an interpretive center, exhibition hall and conference center. Meeker, Okla., resident and 34-year public school educator Judy Fletcher, makes her home in the WPA-constructed Fairview school north of the town. The school was originally built of wood construction in 1894 but burned down in 1936. It was rebuilt in 1937 of native sandstone that was quarried nearby and was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998. “I always thought it was such a cool building and being in education it seemed like a good fit for me. It’s a historical building; not just a house that was built,” she says. “You realize how things have changed from how they were back then. I hated to think it would deteriorate or go to waste like so many other old buildings.” The WPA didn’t only build roads and public-use buildings. Funds and employment were provided for archeological digs at the Spiro Mounds that helped to reveal hundreds of ancient artifacts from Native Americans who once lived in the area. A WPA grant was useful in helping to preserve the cabin of Cherokee leader Sequoyah in Sallisaw, Okla. WPA projects were also funded in 26 Oklahoma counties in efforts to help control malaria. Perhaps the most successful and still practicing of the WPA efforts was the insertion of the hot school lunch program into public schools. Students were given hot lunches at school and during summer activities for the first time in history. State reports claim that up to 150,000 hot lunches were consumed daily in Oklahoma schools during the WPA’s eight-year existence in the state. In 1943, Roosevelt cut funding for the WPA and the program was dis- solved forever. It had been a success but its efforts were no longer needed. American unemployment was at 2 percent, an all time low, due to the vast number of jobs created nationwide by America’s involvement in World War II.


Roosevelt wasted no time during his first 100 days in office beginning in 1933. The enactment of his “New Deal” and its alphabet soup of agencies including the CCC, WPA, PWA and the CWA, did more than create jobs for the unemployed; it aimed to create hope. The tens of thousands of


Fairview School near Meeker, now a residential home, was constructed of native sandstone by the WPA in 1937.


Oklahomans left jobless, homeless and hungry during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl needed more than shovels and sewing rooms—they need- ed reasons to use those shovels and sewing rooms. The WPA gave them that opportunity. It gave them a chance to bring themselves and their families out of Depression and the opportunity to build something that would last and be useful and appreciated for years to come.


Did you know?


The WPA set up many sewing rooms across the state that gave women a chance to earn money for their families while sewing garments such as overalls, uni- forms, diapers and even military clothing.


It is estimated that 600 acres were planted in com-


munity gardens in Oklahoma during the WPA tenure. Up to 30 percent of the food for school lunch pro- grams came from these gardens.


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